When she was seven years old, Hilary Parker ’01, the current assistant vice president and chief of staff in the Office of the President, knew that she wanted to attend Princeton University. And now, on July 1, 2019, she will become the University’s next vice president and secretary.
She will succeed Bob Durkee ’69, who will retire after serving the University for nearly 50 years. Parker’s current position will be merged with that of the vice president and secretary — which Durkee has held since 2004 — due to the overlapping nature of both jobs’ responsibilities.
“When I first saw Princeton, and even after that, I just always had this sense that this was an extraordinary place where I hoped to go if I could be so lucky as to go there,” Parker said. “I never really wavered from that."
Her passion for Princeton was so strong that her only concern when she was admitted was about attending a school so close to home. But she quickly forgot about that worry once she matriculated.
“To be surrounded by students, faculty, staff, [and] people who were so interested in engaging on all different topics and exploring new things was just wonderful,” Parker said.
As an undergraduate, Parker majored in ecology and evolutionary biology and was involved in activities such as singing, playing the guitar, and team penning — an equestrian sport that involves herding cattle at a fast pace.
“I’d come back from the barn, and I’d be dressed in wrangler jeans and cowboy boots, which isn’t the typical image of a Princeton student or someone who grew up in New Jersey,” Parker said. “But that was fun. That was a nice counterbalance to my academic life.”
One of her fondest memories was having her room in Blair Hall become the gathering spot for many friends to hold engrossing conversations late into the night.
Even after she graduated, Parker chose to spend most of her career with the University. In 2006, she returned as a writer for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Later, she worked in the Office of the Dean for Research and in the Executive Vice President’s office. She joined the Office of the President in January 2015.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate in all of those roles to work with tremendous people and to have supervisors and managers from whom I could learn tremendous amounts, so I consider myself very fortunate,” Parker said. “It’s also nice that they’re all still in positions at the University that I continue to intersect with, so it’s fun.”
In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Durkee called his successor “exceptionally smart and insightful.”
“She is a gifted writer; she has an enormous capacity for getting things done and doing them extremely well; and she is deeply committed to this University’s core values and its mission,” Durkee wrote. “She has played a central role in helping to identify and articulate the University’s strategic priorities, and her increased responsibilities in this role will provide her with even greater opportunities going forward to help achieve them.”
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ ecology and evolutionary biology professor Daniel Rubenstein, who advised Parker in her senior thesis research in the social relationships among horses, said that Parker is well-suited for the position.
“Her passion and inquisitiveness,” he continued, ”along with her interactive nature have served her well upon her return to Princeton and will doubtlessly help her guide the board and serve the administration as Secretary of the University.”
In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 also agreed that Parker will “do an outstanding job” and emphasized that she is “a talented and effective administrator who has made significant contributions to the University’s strategic planning process and the initiatives that emerged out of it.”
Parker is excited to use this role as another avenue to help the University and the community progress.
“To me, [this role] represents an opportunity to contribute to an institution that I believe is making a tremendous difference in the world and has the potential to make an even greater difference in the world for the better,” Parker said.
While Parker plans to transition into her new position this upcoming summer, she knows that one aspect of the community will remain the same.
“Here, the concentration of talent, intelligence, commitment, passion, desire to make the world a better place is truly inspirational, but that’s always been a thread throughout,” she said.