It’s always the Year of the Tiger for U of M alumni, but 2010 also marks the Year
of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac. Under that theme, the University of Memphis Alumni
Association will bestow its highest honors in a gala at the Memphis Zoo on April 23.
Call 901/678-2333 for ticket information and other details.
Ronald Hart and Theopolis Holeman will be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award;
Tre Hargett will be named Outstanding Young Alumnus; Rita Sparks will be recognized
as Distinguished Friend of the University; and Bobby Wharton will receive the J. Millard
Smith Illustrious Service to the Association award.
Hart (BBA ’81, MBA ’83), a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, based
in Atlanta, has been named one of the nation’s top financial advisers by two publications.
He is a syndicated columnist, whose work appears in 30 newspapers with a weekly circulation
of 1 million readers. His columns have been described as “Lewis Grizzard meets P.J.
O’Rourke with a dash of Will Rogers’ horse sense.” Hart appears on CNN and has been
quoted in numerous publications.
Holeman (BSET ’71) was named the 2008 Outstanding Alumnus of the U of M’s Herff
College of Engineering. He is group vice president of U.S. operations for Spectra
Energy, one of North America’s leading natural gas infrastructure companies serving
three key links in the natural gas value chain: gathering and processing, transmission
and storage and distribution. Holeman formerly served as senior vice president of
power delivery for Duke Energy, one of the largest electrical power companies in the
United States. Holeman has also been recognized as one of the “Top 75 Most Powerful
Black Executives in the U.S.” by Black Enterprise magazine.
Hargett (BBA ’91, MBA ’92) is secretary of state for Tennessee. He was a member
of the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1996-2008. Hargett served as the Republican
leader of the Tennessee House from 2003-05. During his tenure in the House, Hargett
co-sponsored a constitutional amendment designed to facilitate property tax relief
for senior citizens. The amendment was approved by 83 percent of Tennessee voters.
In 2007, he was nominated to the position of director of the Tennessee Regulatory
Authority, which sets the rates and service standards of privately owned telephone,
natural gas, electric and water utilities. He is a life member of the Alumni Association.
Sparks has been a licensed commodity broker since 1980. She was a member of a seven-person
team that in 1977 formed Sparks Companies Inc., an agricultural research information
and consulting firm. Sparks has also held several key accounting positions in the
retail business and in the commodities field. She is a life member of the U of M Alumni
Association and a member of the U of M’s Board of Visitors and the U of M Foundation
Board of Trustees. Sparks is also an Athletics Ambassador and is involved in a variety
of community projects. She serves on the boards of Memphis Development Foundation,
the Baddour Center, president of the Memphis Redbirds Foundation and the Campbell
Foundation. She is the widow of Willard R. Sparks.
Wharton (BSET ’75), president and owner of G & W Diesel Inc. and co-owner of Pro-Fire
Equipment, defines what it means to be a True Blue Tiger. He has donated to professorships
in the Herff College of Engineering for almost 10 years. His generosity provides critical
support for an outstanding professor annually. Wharton is a lifetime member of the
Alumni Association and has served as president of the University of Memphis National
Alumni Association. Wharton currently serves on the Herff College’s Alumni Board.
His commitment to the University’s Athletics Department is equally impressive. Wharton
has served as president of the Highland Hundred.