Altoona couple creates Trustee Scholarship at Penn State Altoona

Jack L. and Carolyn A. Sparks, of Altoona, Pennsylvania, have made a gift commitment to Penn State Altoona to create the Jack and Carolyn Sparks Trustee Scholarship, honoring the lives of their late sons, Scott and Todd.

“On behalf of our entire Penn State Altoona family, I express our deep appreciation to Jack and Carolyn Sparks for choosing to honor the lives of their sons in a manner that will benefit our students in perpetuity,” said Penn State Altoona Chancellor and Dean Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry. “As educators, Jack and Carolyn possess an enduring appreciation of the value of higher education. The spirit of philanthropy that inspired the creation of this Trustee Scholarship is a testament to the values and principles that have defined their lives and those of their beloved sons. Jack and Carolyn will be enlightened examples of benefactors who sought to enrich the lives of Penn State Altoona undergraduates.”

In recognition of the gift, the couple will be inducted into the campus’ Ivyside Society. The society was established in 1987 to honor those who, through their philanthropic support and leadership, share a commitment to the continuing excellence of Penn State Altoona. The Sparks will also be recognized at the annual Student and Benefactor Dinner in the fall.

“The light of a distant star continues to reach the earth long after the star itself is gone from earthly view,” said Carolyn Sparks. “Like many parents traveling the unwanted path of the loss of their children, we found ourselves attempting to rebuild a life around our loss. Not having the opportunity to share with our sons their hopes, dreams, goals, successes and failures in life, we have been dedicated to finding avenues in which to provide educational opportunities for students to grow and succeed as they enter this multidimensional world.”

Jack and Carolyn Sparks both enjoyed distinguished careers as educators. A native of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, Carolyn earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and first taught at Bedford South Elementary School in Bedford, Pennsylvania. She retired from the Altoona Area School District in 1991 with 27 years of service at Juniata Gap Elementary School.

A native of Everett, Pennsylvania, Jack Sparks earned his bachelor’s degree from Slippery Rock University and master’s degree in physical education from Penn State in 1963. He completed postgraduate studies at Montana State University, where he was awarded a National Science Foundation grant, and at Penn State. His teaching and coaching career — at the high school and collegiate levels — spanned three decades. Sparks taught biology at the Altoona Area High School for nearly 20 years before retiring in 1987. From 1964 to 1970, he taught physical education classes and coached a variety of sports at Penn State Altoona. Sparks also served as director of the Logan Township Recreation Department from 1968 to 1990.

Jack Sparks served with the U.S. Army’s 24th Infantry Division in Korea. His numerous honors include the Bronze Service Star and Korean War Service Medal, awarded by South Korea.

The Sparks have offered volunteer leadership to numerous nonprofit and charitable organizations in their community. They created the Scott D. Sparks and Todd G. Sparks Scholarship that is administered by the Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation.

Jack Sparks said, “It is our honor to establish this Trustee Scholarship. Our professional careers have been centered on education. With that in mind, we have established the Scott D. Sparks and Todd G. Sparks Trustee Scholarship in honor of our sons. In doing so, we hope to build a bridge for other young people to travel spiritually, intellectually and physically as they develop into honest and caring individuals with a strong work ethic entering a free enterprise society.”

The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program maximizes the impact of private giving while directing funds to students as quickly as possible, meeting the urgent need for scholarship support. For Trustee Scholarships created through the end of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students on June 30, 2014, Penn State will provide an annual 10 percent match of the total pledge or gift. This level is an increase from the program’s original match of 5 percent, and it is available only for new endowments of $50,000 or more. The University match, which is approximately double the endowment’s annual spendable income, continues in perpetuity, multiplying the support available for students with financial need.

The gift from Jack and Carolyn Sparks supports the goals of For the Future. This University-wide effort is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality. The campaign’s top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families.

Last Updated July 08, 2014