Rhodes College to Award Honorary Degrees to Veteran Stax Records Executive and GRAMMY Award Winner Deanie Parker and AutoZone Executive William C. Rhodes III


 Deanie Parker and William C. Rhodes III will receive honorary degrees at the 175th Commencement of Rhodes College on May 11. Rhodes is former president and chief executive officer of AutoZone, where he continues to serve as executive chairman of the board. Parker, who received two Grammy Awards this year, was publicist of legendary Stax Records and the first president and CEO of the Soulsville Foundation, which is the parent organization for the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School.

Each will receive the honorary Doctor of Humanities. President Jennifer Collins will preside over the ceremony that will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Hubert F. Fisher Memorial Garden on campus.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to honor two of the most distinguished members of the Memphis community. Their contributions to their respective industries and to this great city are truly extraordinary, and we are looking forward to celebrating Deanie Parker and Bill Rhodes on May 11,” said Collins.

More about the honorees:

While a teenager, Parker began writing and recording songs for Stax Records, which was founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart and co-owned with his sibling Estelle Axton. Its roster of talented performers boasted Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, and the Staple Singers, among others.

Later after graduating from high school, Parker was hired as Stax Records’ director of publicity and artist relations. In addition, she continued to write music for artists.


The 2024 Grammy Awards she received are for “Best Historical Album” and “Best Album Notes” for “Written in Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos,” a boxed-set collection of timeless works, including never released tracks.

Although Stax Records produced major hits in the 1960s and 1970s, the company closed in 1975 because of reported financial struggles. Parker continued a career in communications and marketing at various Memphis organizations, and in the late 1990s, she joined a group of individuals interested in promoting the history of Stax Records and revitalizing the community around its former site location, 926 E. McLemore.

Parker went on to become the first president and CEO of Soulsville Foundation, helping to procure funding from national and international sources to make sure the history of Stax Records and its legacy would live on and to further the dreams and aspirations of Memphis youth.


In 1994 after working for Ernst & Young, William C. Rhodes III joined AutoZone, which is the leading retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories in the Americas.

He has worked in various executive roles and was named president and CEO of AutoZone in 2005 and chairman of the Board in 2007. Under Rhodes’ leadership, the company grew its workforce, roughly doubled its number of auto parts stores, and increased revenues by more than three times.

In January 2024, Rhodes concluded his tenure as president and CEO, and now serves as executive chairman of the board. He recently began serving on the boards of Regions Financial Corp. and its subsidiary, Regions Bank.

Rhodes has had a seat on many boards in the community including the National Civil Rights Museum, the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, the J.R. Hyde III Family Foundation Board of Trustees, and the Rhodes College Board of Trustees. He also is the parent of a 2018 Rhodes College graduate.

The above press release was originally posted by Rhodes College.