Memorial – Gary Parker ’71 shared the fruits of his hard work with many

The founder of Center Oil Co. was proud of his connections to Wichita State

Gary Parker
Gary Parker

With a $4.8 billion energy company to run and a large family to enjoy, Gary Parker had to be selective about the activities that competed for his time.

    But when the WSU men’s basketball team was in St. Louis to play in the MVC Tournament, there was little question where he would be.

    “It was the one thing that would get him out of the office,” his son, Craig, said with a laugh. “He really enjoyed Shocker basketball and their recent success was something he greatly admired and liked to brag about.”

    Mr. Parker also was proud of his status as a Wichita State alumnus, graduating in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. “He knew that without his education at WSU, he couldn’t have achieved the success he did,” Craig Parker said.

    At the peak of that success and achievement, Mr. Parker died Feb. 8 while on a skiing vacation in Colorado. He was 64. He leaves behind his wife, Karman, six children and 16 grandchildren.

    In recent years, Mr. Parker had included Wichita State in his philanthropic contributions, giving generously to WSU athletics as well as to the W. Frank Barton School of Business.

    “Gary Parker had an enormous passion for life and a deep love for his family,” said Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation. “His business success was partially due to his not perceiving failure as an option. It was a true privilege to work with him to carry out his philanthropic goals at Wichita State.”

Gary Parker with WSU Athletic Director Eric Sexton
Gary Parker with WSU Athletic Director Eric Sexton while attending the NCAA Final Four Tournament in Atlanta in 2013.

    Mr. Parker grew up in Wichita and attended Butler County Community College before transferring to Wichita State. While attending WSU, Mr. Parker was married and had two children. Upon graduation, he began his career in accounting with Koch Industries.

    In 1976, Mr. Parker moved to St. Louis to join Apex Oil as executive vice president. Ten years later, he founded Center Oil Company, which distributes gasoline and other refined petroleum products throughout the United States. He also founded Center Ethanol Company LLC, located in Sauget, Ill. He was a founder of Reliance Bank and sat on the board of Reliance Bancshares Inc.

    Mr. Parker and his wife supported a variety of organizations and causes, most notably the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and other groups assisting underprivileged children. Most of their philanthropy was done anonymously.

    Mr. Parker enjoyed outdoor activities and sports and spent part of his free time golfing, playing squash and traveling.

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