|The 2005 Marlowe Sherwood
Memorial Service Award annually goes to a Park graduate who has provided
outstanding service to the University and the community. Sylvia Helms
Gault, ’60, received this year’s award for doing just that.
Her bent toward community
service emerged early at Park when she became an active member of
various organizations and committees, often serving as chair. She was a
member of Stephens Honor Dormitory, an all-star Parchevard-Calliopean
athlete and a member of the infamous Goon Squad. After graduating, she
was secretary to Park’s business manager until 1967, when her son,
Edwin, was born.
Beginning then and to this
day, she remains an eager volunteer and a major behind-the-scenes asset.
In 1970, in response to a lack of early childhood education facilities
in the area, Sylvia helped organize and operate a preschool for
3-year-olds. Five years later, she offered to fill in as church
secretary at the Parkville Presbyterian Church, where she is a member
and deacon. The temporary position lasted 14 years, after which she
volunteered as the unpaid church treasurer; 16 years later, she’s still
researched 100 years of church records and, in 1995, co-authored a book
for the church’s 150th anniversary. She works with the building
committee to ensure that church functions continue uninterrupted during
the construction of a wing.
also has donated time to the Walnut Grove Cemetery just north of
Parkville, which opened in 1882. The large graveyard, the burial place
of Park’s founders and many faculty and staff, was in need of an
accurate map and a registry of burials. Sylvia has spent hours compiling
information and even succeeded in learning the identity of many buried
there whose graves are unmarked. One of the most important results of
the project has been her ability to answer questions from relatives of
those buried in the cemetery.
Regardless of other involvements, Sylvia maintains an interest in her
alma mater. She contributes at University events, including Alumni
Weekend, and she leads tours of the University White House and has
become an expert on University history. She has been president of the
Park University Historical Society, participated in numerous workdays in
the archives and has spent considerable time there doing historical
research. Her husband, Paul Gault, ’65; Torchlighter Award, 2001;
Distinguished Alumni Award, 1979, noted that she was of great assistance
in coping with a multitude of projects during his tenure as Park’s vice
president for business and finance.
Sylvia’s major contributions to Park resulted from a two-year odyssey
that she and Paul undertook after the Missouri River flood of 1993. When
the University tried to sell the flood-damaged Power Plant, an obscure
requirement in the 1917 property deed prevented the sale. George Park’s
heirs needed to sign quit-claim deeds. There being no living direct
descendants, the task involved extensive genealogy research and travel
to identify those of Mr. Park’s sisters. Of the more than 250
descendants located, nearly 50 qualified as heirs — and virtually all
were more interested in the family information Sylvia had compiled than
they were in the property.
made during Sylvia’s and Paul’s quest yielded much information of
interest to the University, the Parkville Presbyterian Church and the
City of Parkville, whose histories are intricately intertwined. Sylvia
has become an expert on the history of all three areas, and from her
research emerged a detailed outline of George Park’s life, which had
been shrouded in myth and legend.
written several historical articles and shared information with other
writers and researchers. She served on the planning committee for
150th anniversary celebration, has written historical
articles for local newspapers and was asked to provide information on
Parkville’s early history for the 1997 city calendar. When Park staff
members need assistance with questions about the school, they turn to
service to her alma mater, her church and her community, the Park
University Alumni Association is proud to award the Marlowe Sherwood
Memorial Service Award to Sylvia Helms Gault, ’60.