Olivia Parrish, beloved Division of Administration staff member, dies

Olivia Parrish (seated) with her daughter, Alanda Thompson (submitted photo)
Olivia Parrish (seated) with her daughter, Alanda Thompson (Submitted photo)

Olivia Parrish, a custodian in the Vanderbilt University Maintenance and Operations department, died unexpectedly Oct. 23 during her shift at the Stevenson Center. She was 72.

Parrish was a Vanderbilt staff member for nearly 45 years. She began working at the university in February 1979, and in 2016, she joined the second shift custodial team for the Stevenson Center math area.

Parrish was born in Nashville on Sept. 15, 1951, to the late Lula Mae and Willie Crenshaw. She was educated in the Nashville-Davidson County school system, graduated from North High School, and attended Tennessee State University. She was married to the late Clayton Parrish.

She was a Christian and a member of Mt. Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. She enjoyed working on crafts, sewing, baking pies and was known for her “supreme” peanut butter cookies.

Parrish is being remembered for quickly forging impactful relationships with her coworkers. Many of these colleagues fondly recall stories of Parrish refusing her daughter’s frequent urgings to retire because she simply didn’t want to leave her friends at Vanderbilt.

“Olivia was a beloved, valued member of the Facilities team and will be greatly missed,” Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain said in a message to division staff.

She is survived by her devoted daughter, Alanda Thompson, and husband Anthony; granddaughter Shavonzia Parrish; grandson Larry Ridley Jr.; sister Brenda Crenshaw; brother James Crenshaw and wife Becky; great-aunt Essie Wright; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and coworkers, who cherish her memory, as well as her two loving pets, Bell and Mahogany.

A celebration of Parrish’s life was held Oct. 30 in Nashville under the direction of Smith Funeral Directors Inc.

Staff and faculty who are struggling with this loss are encouraged to contact the university’s employee wellness provider, Lyra, at 877-804-2856 for assistance. Students are encouraged to reach out to the University Counseling Center at 615-322-2571 for support.