Established in 1875 by a group of Presbyterian church leaders, Parsons operated in relative obscurity for its first 80 years. That changed in 1955 when the flamboyant Millard Roberts assumed the presidency with the goal of establishing a national reputation for the college.
Roberts installed what became known as the "Parsons Plan," a team-teaching concept that attracted one of the nation's highest paid faculties to teach students who had either been tossed out of other schools or were unable to meet admissions requirements elsewhere.
"We brought them along slowly, like a meal, so they could digest it intellectually," recalled Harold Eastman, 87, who served as head of the sociology department from 1963 to 1971.
Roberts succeeded in raising the college's profile. In 1966, Life magazine tagged Parsons as a magnet for flunk-outs and "rich dumb kids" intent on avoiding the military draft and, by extension, Vietnam .
Bankrupt and with its admissions hampered by the end of the draft and the emergence of community colleges for students academically unfit for four-year schools, Parsons passed into history on June 2, 1973.