Kathleen Sparks Retires After 26 Years of Service
Kathleen Sparks recently retired after 26 years of service with the university. She was senior administrative associate to chemical engineering Professor Grant Willson for 18 of those 26 years.
“She’s a highly organized, hard working person,” Willson said. “We were a darn good team-she knew how to do everything and anything. The students and I were very thankful to have her around every day.”
Sparks began her career at the university as a senior office assistant at Applied Research Laboratories in 1976 and accepted a position assisting Professors Ziegler and Kodadek in the Department of Chemistry in 1991. In 1993 she became administrative associate to Willson, a professor of both chemical engineering and chemistry, and a National Medal of Technology and Innovation Laureate.
Sparks received every staff honor offered by the university, including the Chemical Engineering Department’s Ruth Crawford Award (’98), the Cockrell School of Engineering Staff Excellence Award (’99) and The University of Texas at Austin Excellence Award (’99).
“Not only was she extremely efficient as an administrative associate, she also acted as a second mother for all our Ph.D. students,” Willson said. “She helped counsel them all. When they had trouble they would call on her and she took time to hear them out no matter what. We all trusted her completely.”
Current students joined faculty and staff to honor Sparks at an afternoon reception, and former students and faculty hosted a gala dinner at the UT Club to celebrate the occasion.
“There were many people at both events-many travelled long distances to attend the dinner,” Willson added. “The department is grateful for her service and she will truly be missed.”
Sparks and her husband currently live in Euless, Texas where she cares for their infant grandson. She plans to return to Austin in a year to travel and seek out new adventures.