YWCA 30th Anniversary Leader: BLANCHE PARKS


Blanche Parks
District Governor Elect
District Rotary 5710

District Governor Elect, Blanche Parks, joined the Downtown Topeka Rotary in 1999 and served as president in 2012. While President, the club raised $35,000 in 30 days for Every Rotarian Every Year and Polio Plus fundraisers and won all awards, including the Presidential Citation. She is a Paul Harris Fellow.

Blanche is retired from the State of Kansas with extensive experience as a manager and director in a variety of state agencies. She developed and implemented the Kansas Learning Quest 529 College Savings Plan in the Office of the Kansas State Treasurer. While Director, the program held $480 million in assets and was ranked in the top five college savings programs in the nation by CNN/Money Magazine.  

Blanche has actively worked on the District level for eight years where she has served as Assistant Governor and District Trainer. As RLI Coordinator, she developed and implemented the 1st Rotary Leadership Institute (RLI) in District #5710 and coordinated all training for the RLI Certified Facilitators.   

She has attended three Rotary International Conventions in Bangkok, Thailand; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Atlanta, Georgia.

In her community, she represents the 19th Kansas Senatorial District on the Board of Regents of Washburn University and has served as Chairman of the Board. She was the “first Kansan” on the YWCA of the USA National Board of Directors in New York City.  She is a graduate of Leadership Kansas, Leadership Greater Topeka and Dental Champions Leadership Programs, was named “Outstanding Woman of the Year” by the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), Topeka Junior League Sustainer and recipient of the “Gold Rose for Community Service” award, among other awards and recognition for community service on local, state and national levels.   

Blanche is a graduate of Washburn University of Topeka with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. She has also earned the Kansas Certified Public Manager (CPM) designation from the University of Kansas. She was married 30 years to the (late) Attorney Sherman A. Parks Jr. and has two grown children.


Who is a person that you considered as a role model early in your life?
I have always been fortunate to have great role models in my life. I would probably say my parents were my first role models and provided the greatest influence on my life. They were loving, supportive and honest.       

How and why does this person impact your life?
Your greatest assets in life are the people with whom you have relationships. The many mentors (men and women) along my life journey have offered open and honest advice, helped me to avoid land mines, and have helped me to see alternative views I hadn’t considered. My philosophy has been if it appears a person has my best interest at heart and offers constructive advice, I will always listen, consider the advice and then make the best decision.  

How do you maintain you and your team’s daily motivation and inspiration despite obstacles, pushback or setbacks?
Many times people fail because when they fall down, they don’t get back up. My philosophy is if you fall down, get back up, determine what went wrong and KEEP IT MOVING!  Be positive and do your best! It is important to work as a team. Ensure the team knows the vision and goals of what you working to achieve that day. Positive reinforcement of workers is important. I believe it is important to praise an employee in front of others and provide constructive criticism in private. I found if I respect the employee, he or she will respect me.  Clear expectations are of utmost importance to employees. It is important to celebrate successes to keep employees motivated. Set a standard for your team!

How do you foster creative and innovative thinking within your organization?
I view myself as a “cautious risk taker” and I encourage risk-taking and thinking outside of the box.  I like to search for ways to make tasks, and the end product better. Keep the quality of the project when creative changes are made.  

What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Do your homework!  Learn as much about the company or organization as possible. Take advantage of training opportunities. Be loyal, positive and honest. Invest in yourself! Work on how to make the right decisions. Determine which decisions should take priority. Learn how to constructively handle employee conflicts and disagreements. Form an action plan. Get buy-in on the plan from your employees.

What is the most important characteristic that every leader should possess?
Every leader should have a vision of what they want to accomplish. He or she should possess honesty, good communication skills, the ability to motivate others and have common sense. Leaders should have open communication with workers. It is important to know how to resolve conflicts among workers. Proper preparation and planning prevents poor performance. A good strategic plan is important.  

What are the most pressing challenges that leaders are facing today?
Training and maintaining loyal and productive employees is one of the most pressing challenges leaders face today. Learning to work with persons of different generations and how they are alike and different is important. Keeping up with the latest in technology trends is a must. Another challenge is the ability to motivate employees in the midst of all the distractions of our society.  

What traits are you seeking in a mentor and why?
I have many mentors. I look for persons who are credible, smart and have common sense. I like to get opinions from various mentors. My mentors have their feet on the ground, provide sound advice, are honest and can provide options.

What are you doing daily to ensure your growth and development continues as a leader?
I love to learn as much as possible and hear new ideas. The best way to ensure your growth and development is through training. I try to expose myself to future trends in certain areas that would benefit the work environment.  

ywca logoCheck out the other YWCA 30th Anniversary Leaders: 
Martha Bartlett Piland
Michelle De La Isla
Liz Steffen