By Sarah Block
Special to UM News
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 15, 2016) — Historian Arva Moore Parks’ path to her latest work, George Merrick, Son of the South Winds, seems as cemented to destiny as the coral rock and oak lined streets Merrick laid out more than 90 years ago. As Parks, a University of Miami trustee and author of several notable Florida, Miami, and UM histories, explained at the Otto G. Richter Library on Thursday the visionary founder of Coral Gables shaped her own life.
“It began in the 1970s while I was still working as a teacher and was asked to join the National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose mission at that time was saving the Merrick House,” Parks said in presenting her book, which explores the city’s foundation starting from its first family’s passage from their northern base to a new South Florida frontier.
Parks’ prolific career as an author/historian has generated many of the region’s most cherished nonfiction works including The Forgotten Frontier: Florida through the Lens of Ralph Middleton Munroe, Miami, The Magic City, and George Merrick’s Coral Gables. She is also the author of the University’s 75th anniversary tribute Pathway to Greatness, Building the University of Miami: 1926-2001.
She explains that her latest book, which was released in 2015, is a culmination of more than 20 years’ work that was jumpstarted with a phone call from the late Mildred Merrick, a UM Librarian, who had ended up with many of the family records in 1989. “Had they not fallen into the hands of a librarian’s, this book would likely not exist.”
The presentation was followed by a book signing and viewing of Pan American University: The Original Spirit of the U Lives On, an immersive exhibition of archival materials highlighting the University’s rich multicultural history. “It’s a history that began with George Merrick’s incredible vision when he began building the City Beautiful and founded the University of Miami,” said Dean of UM Libraries Charles Eckman. “There is no one more fitting than the author of his story, Arva Moore Parks, to kick off our 90-year celebrations and march to the centennial.”
Pan American University includes original photographs and records from UM’s Cuban Heritage Collection, Special Collections, and University Archives alongside a large-scale wall installation created by Miami-based Cushy Gigs Creative, together documenting the University’s enduring connection to Latin America and the Caribbean. Lead artist was UM alumnus Alex Vahan, B.F.A. ’06. The exhibition will remain on view at Richter Library through Summer 2016 and is free and open to the public.