While many people are eagerly following the Tour de France on television this month, a Southwestern graduate is getting a firsthand view of it.

Ryan Parks, who graduated from Southwestern in 2001 with degrees in accounting and Latin, is the chief financial officer for the Astana cycling team, which is led by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador.

Parks has been CFO for Astana since January 2008. He previously worked as the accounting manager for the Discovery cycling team, which Armstrong used to ride for. Parks was in Paris with the Discovery team when Armstrong won his last Tour de France in 2005.

At the time Parks became CFO for Astana, no one knew Armstrong would be riding the tour this year. “We only started hearing rumors of his comeback in the fall of 2008,” Parks said.

As the CFO of a major cycling team, Parks is responsible for overseeing a budget of between $10 million and $15 million. His job includes forecasting, day-to-day payments and receivables, as well as helping out with other things like registering the team with the UCI, cycling’s regulatory organization. Because the team has a small management staff, Parks also helps out with hospitality programs that Astana puts on for its sponsors, including those held during the Tour de France.  

Parks explains that the Astana team is sponsored by various companies in Kazakstan that wanted to increase the exposure of their country (Astana is the capital of Kazakstan) by sponsoring a cycling team. “In addition, cycling is a popular sport in Kazakstan and they wanted a team to help promote talented young Kazak cyclists,” he said.

Parks is heading to France this week and will be in Paris July 26 for the final stage of this year’s tour. His wife, Celeste, who is also a Southwestern graduate, will be accompanying him on the trip. She works as a project coordinator for Goodwill in their Job Source division in Austin. The couple plans to spend a few days a few days in Paris after the tour to visit some of their friends and enjoy the city.

Parks said his unusual double major at Southwestern turned out to be great preparation for his current job. “My accounting degree was an amazing foundation for my career,” he said. “I owe a lot to Dr. Delaney and Dr. Sellers, as well as the rest of the Economics and Business Department. Until I started working for a cycling team the Latin was a little less obvious, but now I have to communicate with native French, Italian and Spanish speakers all the time. Knowing the structure of romantic (i.e., Latin-based) languages helps immensely, even when they are speaking to me in English. At the time I took Latin from Dr. Haskell, I was just enjoying reading ancient Latin texts with him − I certainly didn’t know how useful it would be later on.”  

Although he was not an avid cyclist at the time he started working for the Discovery Team, Parks has taken up the sport himself. He won’t do any cycling in France this year, but he does plan to do the Wurst Ride from Austin to New Braunfels later this year.

Ryan’s story is cited in the Chronicle of Higer Education as an example of how a liberal arts major translates to success in the business world.


More Alumni stories »