It’s hard to miss Fr. Dan Parrish walking around campus. You might’ve seen him dressed in priestly black, wearing sunglasses or his black hat. At six foot, six inches tall, Parrish towers above just about everyone. For many UP students, Parrish is an inspiration, spiritual guide or simply just a friend.
Parrish, originally from Salem, OR, is a UP alum of the class of ’96. He initially came to UP because he wanted to go to a small Catholic school where he could play basketball. But, he said that he let freshman fear get the best of him and decided not to play. Today, however, he’s a regular on the courtside of men’s basketball games, serving as the team’s chaplain.
“Interestingly, 25 years later I was sitting on the bench because I was chaplain,” Parrish said. “I had to sort of chuckle. I said, ‘I finally made it.’ It just took twenty-five years longer than I thought.”
Even though he didn’t play basketball while he was a student here, he was still involved on campus. He was an RA in both Shipstad and Christie Halls, president of the honors program and president of ASUP. He also sang tenor in Chapel Choir and University Singers.
“We had the world’s tallest tenor section at the time,” Parrish said. “We only had one person under six feet tall. We had two or three 6’3, I was 6’6 and (another friend) was 6’9. So, we towered over the altos, just this big group of guys.”
Parrish graduated in 1996 with a degree in business administration. At the time of graduation, he was unsure of the direction he wanted to go in his life. He had been debating the idea of becoming a priest or pursuing graduate studies.
“By the time it came time for senior year, I was getting ready for graduation, and I wasn’t sure about these masters programs,” Parrish said. “They wanted two years. But if I joined Holy Cross, it’s a one-year commitment and I really like these guys and they all seem happy and normal. Maybe I could just do that for a year. And that’s what I decided.”
After graduating from UP, Parrish moved back to Salem and worked as a concrete finisher, a job that he picked up in high school. After two years being home, he decided to pursue priesthood in the Congregation of Holy Cross and entered the seminary at Notre Dame. He was ordained a priest in April of 2004.
Reflecting on his vocation as a priest, Parrish said he doesn’t think the sacrifices of the priesthood are greater than sacrifices you make when you pursue romantic relationships or careers.
“We’re all walking the same path here,” Parrish said. “When I first left Salem to go to Holy Cross, to go to Moreau Seminary back at Notre Dame, my friends said, ‘how can you make such a sacrifice?’ I said, ‘I don’t know it just seems like that’s where I’ll be joyful.’ After they all started having kids and getting jobs and doing adult things, they stopped asking me about sacrifice.”
Since coming to UP in 2015, Parrish has enjoyed his roles as a business professor and pastoral resident of Lund Family Hall.
“I think my favorite part of being on campus is simply being in meaningful relationships with so many amazing people,” Parrish said. “I live in a dorm full of teenagers and young twenty somethings. On the one hand, if you ask the average forty-five-year-old ‘what kind of life did you have planned for yourself,’ very few would say this. At the same time, I’m surrounded by people who are crazy talented, energetic, zealous to make a change in the world, asking huge questions in their life, so stinkin’ smart. What a life-giving place to be.”
When he’s not teaching, grading or being there for students, Parrish retreats to the woodshop behind Holy Cross Court to decompress. He started the woodshop not long after he came to UP. Although he had learned some basic woodworking skills as a concrete construction worker earlier in life, it was his dad who taught him finer woodworking.
“He came out to the shop, and he showed me here’s how you’re safe with the tools, here’s how you set them up, here’s how you use them,” Parrish said. “And then after that he goes, ‘Alright, have fun.’”
On a few evenings each week, Parrish and other priests enjoy smoking cigars and hanging out in the woodshop, taking a break from their normal day-to-day routines.
“I like to smoke cigars,” Parrish said. “And I like to have a place to be where I can just be working like crazy here and take like two hours off and go be somewhere and clear my head and then come back.”
Parrish has made several things including his wooden barbershop fixture—complete with a mirror and wood mosaic—that he uses to occasionally cut students’ hair. Parrish needs time away from his normal work, he said, because of his personality.
“One of the problems with academic work is it’s all mind, and I’m a very concrete thinker, and I’m not theoretical,” Parrish said. “So to be stuck in a world of theory is tons of work for me. I need to be able to go somewhere and get my hands dirty. Well, now we have that place.”
Parrish joked that after mounting a TV in the woodshop, some of his other Holy Cross brothers began to have new ideas for the space.
“Well, that was both really cool and kind of a mistake because now what we have is a mancave that’s cluttered up by tools,” Parrish said. “And so the guys come in there and they say ‘you know this would be really nice if you would get rid of that stupid saw, put in a couch, and stop making so much noise.’”
Parrish is currently preparing to apply for tenure and said that it’s extremely stressful. He’d like to eventually end up in university administration, but he’s learned that his plans are always subject to change.
“We have some idea of where we might want to end up and that gives us a direction,” Parrish said. “But along the way, there’s just milestones and that’s what we work towards. So, who knows whatever position or service I will end up doing in the university.”
For now, Parrish is looking forward to the end of the school year when he can spend time in the place that satisfies him most: nature. He enjoys both fishing and hunting and looks forward to the summer when he has time to be outdoors.
“I love being with my students, but I’m really happiest when I’m in nature,” Parrish said. “I look forward to the end of the school year for a number of reasons, but for one of them, because the week leading up to Memorial Day, I go camping with my friends in the Cascades. You can see the stars at night, you don’t hear any cars. It’s that connection with nature.”
Wes Cruse is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.