A Tribute to David Parry
Dave Parry, a born educator, had a career in academics before acquiring Academic Travel Abroad in 1972. An eternal student, he was driven by an intense intellectual curiosity and thirst for knowledge, and devoured books to seemingly no end. Once at ATA, the teacher within continued to emerge as Dave reliably instilled solid values of respect, integrity, loyalty, and strength in all he hired and trained. But the teaching didn’t end there. Those of us who were lucky enough to travel with him quickly discovered Dave’s “inner study leader”—we became diligent students as he lectured on World War II, the Czars of Russia, the Cold War, East Berlin, the economic principles of John Maynard Keynes, and so much more—all while hiking a mountain or hopping on a train. And so it is fitting that Dave Parry holds a place in ATA’s history that is as great and venerable as the larger-than-life historical figures he knew so much about. He was a “lion of a man,” in every respect.
Dave was also a natural diplomat, always masterfully communicating (even through interpreters!) and managing to find common ground during the most difficult of meetings. His ability to navigate a cultural divide was a testament to his respect and appreciation of humanity and all its diversity. Whether it was downing a glass of vodka at 10am to celebrate a Russian ship captain’s birthday or urging a Chinese Vice Premier to lower prices post-Tiananmen Square, Dave charmed and persuaded with a keen sense of humor that translated into every language.
Hiking mountains with Dave was when you would see his inner child emerge, full of wonder and mischief! His eyes sparkled and his pace quickened as he embarked on a hike, eager for adventure. All his worries melted away as he stood in awe before vistas of sparkling mountain lakes, verdant rolling pastures and meadows of wildflowers against brilliant blue skies. While most hikes were official R&D for the business, these adventures into nature were also how Dave re-charged and was able to power through the stresses of leading a travel company.
Dave possessed a warmth and caring that everyone who has worked for him had the chance to witness. He often went above and beyond what any employer is expected to do to help someone in need—allowing telecommuting after the death of a parent (at a time well before telecommuting was permitted or even acknowledged by most companies), offering to share his 65th birthday with a free hike for a few lucky lottery winners, providing personalized travel guidance to an employee embarking on a honeymoon, allowing all staff to leave work to attend the funeral for a colleague’s father, and more.
And then there is his resilient legacy at Academic Travel Abroad. With his brilliant wife, Susan, Dave built an organization that has thrived for 70 years through thick and thin. Since the early days of faculty-led student trips and Pan Am charters to Europe, ATA has now become a powerhouse of educational travel programs that span the globe and serve a variety of organizations and demographics. Dave led the company through many ups and downs, from OPEC and Chernobyl to Tiananmen Square and the Gulf Wars, from 9/11 to the Great Recession. A few weeks before his passing, Dave called Kate Simpson and noted “I was born in 1933, and this is the WORST I have ever seen!” referring to the current pandemic. But even then, he knew ATA would prevail and thrive again.
Like Dave himself, ATA is a versatile, nimble organism that thrives on change and challenges. 2020 is Dave’s 87th year and ATA’s 70th. Through our work, we celebrate him. The legacy continues.