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Supporting research, equity and the prospects of Utah

A substantial gift from Thomas N. Parks and Patricia Legant establishes a new chair, scholarship and other initiatives.

Thomas N. Parks

Thomas N. Parks, former University of Utah vice president for research, and his wife, Patricia Legant, have made a substantial gift to the U to establish and support the new Thomas N. Parks Chair in the Department of Neurobiology and other initiatives.

Parks joined the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine Department of Neurobiology in 1978. He was chair of the department from 1992-2007, and the vice president for research from 2008-2016.

“The university has an outsized influence on the prospects of the state,” Parks said. “I have a lot of gratitude to the U, and believe the money will be well spent.”

Megan Williams, associate professor of neurobiology and head of the Williams Lab in the Department of Neurobiology, will be the first to hold the Thomas N. Parks Chair. Williams’ research lab focuses on the process of wiring the brain during development.

“To be recognized in Tom Parks’ name is special since he helped set the U on course to be a leader in neuroscience research,” said Williams, who has worked at the U since 2011. “Tom was involved with my initial interview at Utah even though he was already the vice president for research, which showed how connected he still was with the neurobiology department.”

In addition to funding the chair, the gift will also support the Underrepresented Scholarship Fund in the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine. Parks chose to support the Underrepresented Scholarship Fund because he shares University of Utah Health’s commitment to increased equity in medicine. The fund provides 12 four-year scholarships for Utah students who have demonstrated financial need and a commitment to advancing the interests of underrepresented communities in medicine.

“Physicians need to be able to relate to their patients,” Parks said. “Having in medicine people from a variety of backgrounds provides a workforce that can serve more diverse patients in rural and urban settings.”

Finally, the gift also establishes a scholarship within the Honors College to help top Utah students of all backgrounds stay in the state. Parks taught in the Honors College and has served on its advisory board.