The Carlson Leadership Academy in Atlanta had a special meaning for our long-time AVC president Mark Sparkman ’92. Mark was honored with the “Distinguished Alumnus” award for his long and active service on the Alumni and Volunteer Corporation (AVC).

Mark and Paula Sparkman. Mark accepted the Distinguished Alumnus" award at the 2019 Atlanta Carlson.
Mark and Paula Sparkman. Mark accepted the Distinguished Alumnus” award at the 2019 Atlanta Carlson.

The presentation, made by SigEp District Governor and fellow TN Alpha Distinguished Alumnus Kelly Williams, stated:

“This brother has been an active alumni volunteer since the day he graduated over 25 years ago. His seamless transition from chapter leader to alumni volunteer is a shining example of the lifetime responsibility of brotherhood.

He’s the brother who is always there when help is needed. He’s the brother that always attends every function. He’s the brother that sacrifices for his fraternity.

No one wants to follow a legend, but this brother didn’t think twice about it when he accepted the reins of, arguably, the best SigEp alumni program in the nation. Not only did he fill the shoes of the legend he succeeded, he took the alumni programming to a whole new level.

While others where content with the status quo, he asked the tough questions, made his brothers look at things from a different perspective, and always asked, “How can we be better?”

Under his leadership, the chapter newsletter – which was already known as one of, if not the best – went from black and white to full color and other communication outlets were added including a functional website, frequent email blasts, and a strong social media presence. Even the most distant alumnus can stay abreast of what’s happening with his fraternity.

Undergraduate support and mentoring remained a high priority for our brother and he has led the chapter and AVC through some difficult times over the years. But he has never swayed from his vision and the chapter now boasts a fully functioning mentoring committee complete with SigEps, non-SigEps, ladies, and a faculty fellow, who provide excellent support and guidance to our undergraduate members The chapter facility underwent a $2.5 million upgrade with subsequent projects to keep it one of the best facilities in the nation. But he didn’t stop there, the chapter is currently on their way to becoming a Residential Learning Community and has engaged SENH to help manage the facility to ensure a safe living and learning environment for our young men.

The scholarship fund of this chapter has grown to over $2 million and provides chapter scholarships, leadership grants, and Balanced Man Scholarships for the chapter in excess of $50,000 per year. The chapter’s scholarship foundation recently endowed leadership grants for their undergraduates to attend SigEp leadership events. Thanks to his leadership, seven chapter leaders will attend Carlson each year along with six Rising Leaders. Seven brothers will attend Grand Chapter Conclave every two years, and one young man will attend the Ruck Leadership Academy each year. His chapter is the first to endow leadership grants at that level – talk about visionary!

Only time will tell what will come next from our brother’s efforts at the Tennessee Alpha Chapter, but you can rest assured he will be there asking the tough questions, and pushing everyone to be better. For your vision, diligence, and love of Sigma Phi Epsilon, we recognize you, Mark Sparkman, with the Distinguished Alumnus Award!

Mark joins Kelly Williams ’92, Bryce Giesler ’82, and Earl Rainwater as active volunteers who have earned this Honor. Other TN Alpha members with this award are Craig Diller and Jim Daniel.
Earl Rainwater was also honored in 2017 as an “Exemplary Alumnus” for his lifetime of service to SigEp and Tennessee Alpha.