Alumni Profiles     

Sylvia Helms Gault, ’60
Marlowe Sherwood Memorial Service Award, 2005

The 2005 Marlowe Sherwood Memorial Service Award annually goes to a Park graduate who has provided outstanding service to the University and the community. Sylvia Helms Gault, ’60, received this year’s award for doing just that.

Her bent toward community service emerged early at Park when she became an active member of various organizations and committees, often serving as chair. She was a member of Stephens Honor Dormitory, an all-star Parchevard-Calliopean athlete and a member of the infamous Goon Squad. After graduating, she was secretary to Park’s business manager until 1967, when her son, Edwin, was born.

Beginning then and to this day, she remains an eager volunteer and a major behind-the-scenes asset. In 1970, in response to a lack of early childhood education facilities in the area, Sylvia helped organize and operate a preschool for 3-year-olds. Five years later, she offered to fill in as church secretary at the Parkville Presbyterian Church, where she is a member and deacon. The temporary position lasted 14 years, after which she volunteered as the unpaid church treasurer; 16 years later, she’s still there.

 She researched 100 years of church records and, in 1995, co-authored a book for the church’s 150th anniversary. She works with the building committee to ensure that church functions continue uninterrupted during the construction of a wing.

 She also has donated time to the Walnut Grove Cemetery just north of Parkville, which opened in 1882. The large graveyard, the burial place of Park’s founders and many faculty and staff, was in need of an accurate map and a registry of burials. Sylvia has spent hours compiling information and even succeeded in learning the identity of many buried there whose graves are unmarked. One of the most important results of the project has been her ability to answer questions from relatives of those buried in the cemetery.

Regardless of other involvements, Sylvia maintains an interest in her alma mater. She contributes at University events, including Alumni Weekend, and she leads tours of the University White House and has become an expert on University history. She has been president of the Park University Historical Society, participated in numerous workdays in the archives and has spent considerable time there doing historical research. Her husband, Paul Gault, ’65; Torchlighter Award, 2001; Distinguished Alumni Award, 1979, noted that she was of great assistance in coping with a multitude of projects during his tenure as Park’s vice president for business and finance. 

One of Sylvia’s major contributions to Park resulted from a two-year odyssey that she and Paul undertook after the Missouri River flood of 1993. When the University tried to sell the flood-damaged Power Plant, an obscure requirement in the 1917 property deed prevented the sale. George Park’s heirs needed to sign quit-claim deeds. There being no living direct descendants, the task involved extensive genealogy research and travel to identify those of Mr. Park’s sisters. Of the more than 250 descendants located, nearly 50 qualified as heirs — and virtually all were more interested in the family information Sylvia had compiled than they were in the property.

Contacts made during Sylvia’s and Paul’s quest yielded much information of interest to the University, the Parkville Presbyterian Church and the City of Parkville, whose histories are intricately intertwined. Sylvia has become an expert on the history of all three areas, and from her research emerged a detailed outline of George Park’s life, which had been shrouded in myth and legend.

She has written several historical articles and shared information with other writers and researchers. She served on the planning committee for Parkville’s 150th anniversary celebration, has written historical articles for local newspapers and was asked to provide information on Parkville’s early history for the 1997 city calendar. When Park staff members need assistance with questions about the school, they turn to Sylvia.

For her service to her alma mater, her church and her community, the Park University Alumni Association is proud to award the Marlowe Sherwood Memorial Service Award to Sylvia Helms Gault, ’60.





Sylvia Helms Gault, '60