Photos By Hillary Ehlen & NDSU Athletics
The Bison homecoming for Brent Parmer, 2017 Hall of Fame Inductee
Few things have remained unchanged in Brent Parmer’s life since he set the indoor long jump school record in 1995. In the two decades since the young Bison made his unprecedented leap measuring just more than 25 feet, Parmer has gone back to school to get his master’s degree, worked as an assistant coach and associate director of the Wallman Wellness Center at NDSU and, more recently, moved out-of-state for a job at Eastern Kentucky University.
With his wife Marissa and two boys, Bryce and Broc, Parmer traveled back to Fargo this fall to spend a nostalgia-filled homecoming weekend enjoying the parade, football game and connecting with fellow alum at his induction into the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame. As proof of how much has truly changed since his time as a student-athlete, Parmer explored the changed NDSU landscape and discovered new structures sprawled out across campus.
But even inside the shining new track and field facility, fragments of his past victories and time as a Bison remain, like the all-time record board where his name can still be found.
“It’s almost hard to put into words because that was a long time ago,” said Parmer. “I joked with Coach [Don] Larson when I was back about the fact that I’m still the indoor record-holder saying, ‘That’s just bad coaching. There has to have been people better than me since then,’ and we had a laugh about that.”
Another indisputably unchanged aspect of the Bison track and field program is the leadership and family environment cultivated by Coach Larson. As a cornerstone experience that has influenced countless athletes to compete for NDSU, Parmer cited Larson’s comfortable approach to recruiting as a defining factor when deciding to compete for NDSU. A visit from Don and his wife Desire’e, the jumps coach at the time, to Parmer’s hometown of Watertown, South Dakota, solidified his decision.
“You hear people talk about NDSU being a family atmosphere, and when I went to school there, it truly was like a family,” said Parmer. “Don and Des [Desire’e] were the parents of the Bison track family, so it was fun to be a part of. I was very fortunate to have the career that I had, and the opportunities that I was given by Larson and NDSU. That will stay with me even if my name got bumped down or even off the (record) list.”
Parmer’s connection to the now Division I track program doesn’t stop with Coach Larson, though. Parmer roomed with Ryun Godfrey, the coach who guided the women’s team through the D-I transition before leaving for Kansas State, for three years while in college.
After graduating, Parmer started his professional career as an exercise physiologist at Meritcare Sports Medicine (now Sanford Health) while also serving as an assistant coach under Coach Godfrey.
“From the time we came to college to the time I left Fargo, Ryun and I had either lived together, ran together or worked together for 15 years,” said Parmer.
After three years of working for Meritcare, an opportunity opened up for Parmer to put his Bachelor’s degree in Corporate/Community Fitness from NDSU and Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Wisconsin-La Crosse to use closer to his Bison roots.
“When the wellness center opened, I got asked if I would be interested in working there,” said Parmer. “I thought it would be a good way to be on campus all the time because I still wanted to coach. Honestly, I didn’t really know what a wellness center was at the time. There wasn’t a rec center or a wellness center for students to work out in when I was in school.”
From his position as an associate director of the NDSU Wallman Wellness Center, Parmer made the thousand-mile leap from Fargo to Eastern Kentucky University, where he worked as associate director of wellness and then director of campus recreation. In 2017, Parmer was promoted again to executive director of campus life, overseeing campus recreation, student life, Greek life and the office of multicultural student affairs.
As his own position changes, Parmer must also keep up with the demands of a changing university system in order to remain appealing to incoming students, such as offering expansive wellness facilities.
“They’re recruiting tools now,” said Parmer about facilities like wellness and recreation centers. “Universities need to do everything they can to entice a student to want to come to their school. To a student, they know they’re going to get a degree no matter where they go. Now for students, it’s, ‘When I’m not in class, what am I going to do? Where am I going to go? Where am I going to eat? What’s my social life going to look like?’ That’s what I think a lot of students look at, so universities are amping up residence halls, student centers, recreation and wellness centers to appeal to students.”
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