James D. Parsons

James D. Parsons, 1974

B.A., Denison University
J.D., University of Chicago

The Brinson Foundation

Citation awarded June, 2010

Jim had an outstanding 26-year career with Gardner Carton Douglas where his legal practice was focused in the areas of corporate finance and securities law. In 1984, less than seven years after joining the firm out of law school, he became a partner. By 1991, he was managing partner, functioning as the firm’s COO. When his term as managing partner ended in 2004, he opted not to return to the full time practice of law, but rather to explore an entirely new professional opportunity.

His new career has proven to be equally interesting and challenging. In November of 2004, he moved into the non-profit world, assuming the presidency of The Brinson Foundation. Brinson’s mission is to support educational, public health and scientific research programs. The foundation currently funds more than 100 grantees across the country. Jim has led the foundation through a challenging period of significant growth as well as contraction as the foundation has strived to sustain the work of its grantee partners through the recent economic downturn.

In a serendipitous connection to Denison that reflects Jim’s own interests, Brinson is a loyal supporter of the Chicago branch of the Posse Program—a multi-city organization that serves as facilitator and liaison to connect outstanding inner-city high-school students with outstanding colleges and universities. Each participating institution takes a group, or “posse”, of ten students with each incoming class. Denison enjoys a long and successful association with Posse Chicago, which began during Jim’s tenure on Denison’s Board of Trustees.

Jim has been active in volunteer service since leaving Denison. Jim currently serves on the boards of the Donors Forum, an association of Illinois grantmakers and non-profits based in Chicago, and King Bruwaert House, a continuous care retirement community located in suburban Chicago. He is a life trustee and former board chair of The Community House, a social service agency serving eight communities in west suburban Chicago. Jim also serves as the Chair of the Client Protection Program Review Panel of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

For Denison, Jim has been one of the college’s most committed volunteers, actively involved since the day he graduated. He has served in virtually every capacity: career advisor, admissions volunteer, fundraising lieutenant for annual and capital efforts, reunion rabble-rouser, national Annual Fund chair, and member of the Alumni Council, the President’s Leadership Council and the Board of Trustees. In each post, Jim’s boundless enthusiasm for Denison has proved inspirational. Boards, committees, even alumni parties, simply work better when he’s around. His ever-wise counsel is an effective blend of attention to detail and a confident grasp of big-picture issues.