Lucille "Lu" Sparks receives award from CUA Alumni Association President John Looney
When Lucille "Lu" Sparks began working at Catholic University 38 years ago, the current president was five years old.
She reminded the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., of this when he congratulated her on receiving the Frank A. Kuntz '07 Award at Homecoming. "He is so delightful. He came by my office a few days after the ceremony to look at my flowers and congratulate me again," she said of the sixth President she has worked with.
Established in 1977 by the Alumni Association, the award is named for the president of the first undergraduate class in 1907 and honors employees who have rendered outstanding and dedicated service to the university.
Lu Sparks received a standing ovation when Homecoming Chairman Euene F. Morrill announced the honor. "Through many changes in the payroll department one thing remains constant," he said. "That is her familiar and friendly face. [Her] wealth of knowledge has made her a vital project leader in the conversion to our current human resources payroll system."
All checks were typed by hand when Mrs. Sparks reported for work in the payroll office from Emmetsburg, Iowa.
"I was 27 and very excited to be working in Washington," she said explaining that a friend who was a master's degree candidate here had given her resume to former auditor Theodore Rupp.
It was 1960 and Bishop William J. McDonald was the university's ninth President. Monsignor James A. Magner was the chief financial office. In her office in the Administration Building, she was at the hub of campus life. "I used to get a kick out of seeing Monsignor Magner drive his Cadillac the short distance from Curley Hall, to the garage [now a bank] next to our building," she said.
The 92-year-old red brick and stucco Administration Building was her home on campus until two years ago when employees moved to Leahy and the building was demolished. Lu Sparks cried when she realized she would never again get stuck in the building's rickety elevator or toss pencils at the sociable mice that sometimes frolicked in front of her desk. And there would never be another meeting in the "dungeon," a basement office where a committee worked on the university's human resources system.
While working at the university, Lu Sparks married a retired marine who began a second career in the university's Department of Public Safety. "Sparkey," as he was fondly known, worked 17 years on campus before he retired in 1987. He died in 1994.
A member of St. Marks Parish in Hyattsville, Lu Sparks plans to retire from her supervisors position at Catholic University in 2000 and move to Florida. Wherever she goes, one thing will no doubt remain constant: her friendly face.
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