Dale Paul Parnell was educated at Willamette University (B.A., 1951) and at the University of Oregon (M.Ed., 1956, D.Ed., 1964). He served as principal of Springfield High School, superintendent of Lane Intermediate Education District, and was instrumental in founding Lane Community College, serving as the College's first president from 1965 to 1968. When he left in 1968, Governor Tom McCall appointed Parnell to the position of Oregon Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 1974, he became the chancellor for San Diego Community College; two years later, in 1976, he became president of San Joaquin Delta Community College. He was president of the American Association of Community Colleges from 1981to 1991, followed by a year as Oregon's community college commissioner.
He served on the faculty for Oregon State University's School of Education from 1992 through 1996, where he helped establish the Western Center for Community College Development. The Center was established at Oregon State University in 1991 to provide professional development, opportunities for partnerships, and assistance with curriculum to community colleges in the western United States.
Retiring from OSU in 1996, Parnell was named Professor Emeritus of Education. After retiring, he was a visiting professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Parnell was a prolific writer; his many publications include the book The Neglected Majority, which was published in 1985.
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