Arts & Life, Features

Retired CSULB College of the Arts Dean reflects on her career

Against her father’s wishes, Cyrus Parker-Jeannette spent her youth with a passion for dance and theater.

She started playing piano at the age of 6 when she taught her friend’s different choreographed sets. Her father, who worked in the electrical field at a naval shipyard, reluctantly helped out by hanging up a curtain in the garage so that her daughter could charge neighbors 2 cents to watch her perform.

“Don’t give up your dreams,” Parker-Jeannette said.

 It’s a simple bit of advice, but it’s one that the former dean of the university’s College of the Arts holds true. Looking back at her professional career, Parker-Jeannette credits her persistence and dedication for her success at Long Beach State University.

 “[CSULB] has been a central touchstone and culmination of my adult life,” she said. “It’s a really, really special place…all of the faculty and administration all the way up to the president care about the students.”

A Long Beach native, Parker-Jeannette had always dreamed of teaching dance at CSULB, but her journey to earning the deanship position wasn’t easy. 

Parker-Jeannette’s parents didn’t initially support her decision to study dance and theater when she was an undergraduate student at California State University, Fullerton. She relented and eventually made her parents proud enough to help with the expenses for her master’s program at the University of California, Irvine.

 “I really believe we are given talents…and various kinds of intelligence,” Parker-Jeannette said. “If we stay in tune with that, we kind of take a certain path.”

 Like many with a love for theater, Parker-Jeannette moved to New York upon graduation. There, she made connections and eventually moved back to California.

 “Sometimes, when dreams get crushed, it’s really important to pay attention to open doors,” Parker-Jeannette said.

 It was at San Bernardino Community College where teaching became a passion for Parker-Jeannette. As a dance instructor at a minority-dominated school in the inner city, she sparked confidence in many students.

 “[Learning] gave them hope,” Parker-Jeannette said.

 Parker-Jeannette was hired as the head of the dance department at Chapman University in 1995. During the span of 11 years, she was able to move up to the chair of the theater and dance department before moving on to CSULB.

 “There’s never a challenge that she’s not willing to take,” her husband, Patrick Jeanette, said. “We’re always living our lives taking things to the edge, so to speak.”

 In 2003, Parker-Jeannette received the California Dance Educator of the Year award. The following year, she earned the Director’s Award for outstanding contribution in dance education from California Dance and Movement.

 “Those were the years I was really starting to get acknowledged as a dance educator,” Parker-Jeannette said.

 Around that time, Parker-Jeannette got invited to teach high school students at Taipei American School in Taiwan. She spent many of her summers teaching at different schools around the world, and also participated in the annual summer intensive at Backhausdance in Orange County.

Parker-Jeannette was initially an associate dean for the COTA. She got a professional learning experience to prepare for a higher role while participating in the campus’ Leadership Fellows Program. In 2014, she was named dean and became the first female to hold a full-time dean position since the 1970s.

 “I’ve been fortunate to have an amazing academic career,” Parker-Jeannette said. “I’m really grateful to have been apart of this community.

Parker-Jeannette was responsible for securing the campus museum’s $10 million donation from Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld. 

She emphasized that the challenges she has faced her entire career have only made her passion grow.

“It was a lovely renaissance and a great fresh start for the school,” Parker-Jeannette said.

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