Joe Sparks graduated from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1958. For the remainder of his life, Joe, whose engineering and business expertise resulted in his promotion from chief engineer to vice president to executive vice president and eventually majority owner of The Harper Company, credited the UK College of Engineering with giving him the foundation for a successful career and life. When he passed away in 1998, Alice, his wife of 38 years, wanted to do something for the college that reflected his appreciation for it. The result is that since 1994, a D. Joseph Sparks Memorial Scholarship has been awarded each year to a student pursuing civil engineering studies at UK.
“His memory lives on in the students who receive the scholarship,” she says.
Since founding the scholarship, Alice has attended nearly all of the annual David K. Blythe Society Recognition Luncheons—the annual event that connects donors with their scholarship recipients. She says it is an event not to be missed.
“Attending the luncheon always renews my faith that creating this scholarship was by far the best thing I could do to with our funds. Getting to know the parents of some of the recipients is icing on the cake.”
This year’s scholarship recipient is Desiree Staton. At this year’s luncheon, Alice spent time getting to know her—something that deeply impressed Desiree.
“She wanted to know who I was as a person and shared personal experiences of her life. I felt honored to be selected for a scholarship from such a prestigious woman,” Desiree reflects.
A non-traditional student finishing her senior year in civil engineering, Desiree says the scholarship provided much-needed help to her and her seven year-old son.
“Every semester I struggle to provide for my son in order for us to have a better way of life and it’s thanks to people like Alice who help people like me change our situations. Her contributions have made our lives a little easier.”
Stories like Desiree’s are perpetual reminders of not just the power of philanthropy to change lives, but the touching bond that forms through the years between the scholarship founder and grateful recipients.
“Not only is she a generous lady, she is sincere in her cause,” Desiree affirms. “I love her and will never forget her.”
Joe Sparks’ memory lives on, indeed.