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Grad dad will continue UI tradition

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | May 21, 2020 1:00 AM

Father, daughters, brothers, nephews share academic spark for science, math

He's a dad, and a grad.

Doug Park, of Rathdrum, earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho more than 30 years ago. Now he's almost to the finish line and will have his master’s in computer science through the University of Idaho-Coeur d’Alene program at the end of this semester.

On top of expanding his own academic accomplishments, Park's daughters Ruth Park, 32, and Sarah Mitchell, 35, also both received bachelor's degrees in computer science from the same school. So in a way, he's following in their footsteps while adding a new path to his educational journey.

"I'm happy that both of them got degrees," Doug said. "Their decisions to pursue computer science isn't that important, nor is their decision to go to college. As long as they are doing something that they like, I'm happy."

Park said his daughters were exposed to computing at an early age.

"I was programming as part of my various employment before that," he said. "Their skills overlap mine to some extent, but they know things I don't and vice versa. I would like to think that I taught them one or two things along the way."

Ruth was effectively done with her computer science degree before he started the master’s program, Doug said, but in her last semester they were in school at the same time.

"I worked with Sarah for a while after she received her degree. Also, her husband, Frank, who graduated from UI with a BS in computer science," he said. "That was interesting. I think I probably enjoyed it more than she did."

As far as his daughters’ computer science know-how, "neither one needed much help from me," Doug said.

"I don't know if their work ethic, determination, etc. comes from me," he said. "Their mother — my wife — is probably more responsible for that than I. I tried to set a good example so maybe some of that rubbed off. I'm just happy that they are in a position to take care of themselves."

Mitchell, who graduated from Lakeland High school in 2003, now works in technical documentation for Alpha Software in Burlington, Mass. She was one of the top students in her program when she graduated from the UI in 2007.

"I just know my name’s on a plaque in a hall somewhere," she said with a laugh during a phone interview with the Press.

Mitchell said her dad's work in computer science is what influenced her at a young age to pursue the field, along with being among the first Lakeland High students to take computer science the year it was introduced.

"I think his interests influenced me, even though I didn't recognize it at the time," she said.

But the computers and the keyboards aren't all they have in common.

"It’s not what we bond over," Mitchell said. "We bond more over our hobbies and interests. With my dad, it's bicycling."

She said the two of them have shared many a memorable journey on weeklong bicycle tours such as Ride Idaho, which takes adventurers throughout the Gem State.

"Bicycling was our big thing," Mitchell said.

As well as his daughters, Doug's family seems to be wired for mechanics, mathematics and computing. His great-nephew, Gavin Whitesitt, is graduating with his master's from UI in a math-related field this semester, too.

"We had agreed to walk together, assuming all went well," Doug said. "He was helping to teach a class this semester so I expect he has been nose to the grindstone as much as me. He did play football down there when he was an undergraduate."

Doug also has two other nephews who graduated with bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering from the UI in the past few years, and his own twin brother received his BS in mechanical engineering at the same time he did around 1980.

"And my older brother got his master's in chemistry at UI when I was still in high school," Doug said.

Doug's accomplishments are one more mortar board on this scholarly family tree.

"I’m super proud of him, that’s for sure," Mitchell said.

photo

Lakeland High School grad Sarah Mitchell and her dad, Doug Park, of Rathdrum, both have a penchant for computer science, but they bond over bicycling. They're seen here on one of their Idaho adventures. (Courtesy photo)