The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning named University of Mississippi Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Larry D. Sparks as Interim Chancellor, effective January 4, 2019. He will remain in the position until a permanent chancellor is named.
“Larry Sparks’ extensive knowledge of university finance, coupled with his decades of experience at the University of Mississippi, make him ideally suited to serve as Interim Chancellor,” said Shane Hooper, President of the Board of Trustees. “He has a deep understanding of the issues facing public universities today and an even deeper understanding of Ole Miss. I have no doubt that the university will continue to excel under his leadership.”
The appointment comes after UM Chancellor Jeffery Vitter announced his intention to resign from the position. While Vitter did not give a specific reason for his resignation, he did state that he is proud of the University’s growth during his time as Chancellor.
“Larry Sparks is an outstanding administrator and a lifelong Rebel who has been a leader at the University of Mississippi for more than two decades,” said Chancellor Jeff Vitter. “He knows the Oxford, regional and Medical Center campuses as well as anyone, and his perspective, talent and leadership ability will serve the university well during this period. I am committed to supporting Larry in any way that I can.”
Vitter will remain on staff as a faculty member at Ole Miss, and he’ll serve as a tenured Professor in the School of Engineering’s Department of Computer and Information Science.
The Oxford native joined the University of Mississippi in 1997 and has served in his current role as the university’s chief financial officer since 2006. His areas of responsibility include budget, contractual services, facilities planning, fiscal affairs, health and safety, human resources, landscape services, facilities management, procurement services, campus mail, the golf course, and airport operations.
“It is an honor to serve the University during this time of transition,” said Sparks. “I have had the privilege of spending the majority of my career at the University of Mississippi and look forward to serving with a strong team of leaders that will continue moving the university forward.”
Sparks also serves as President of the University of Mississippi Educational Building Corporation and as the university representative on the Joint Committee on Investments, which oversees the endowments for the University of Mississippi, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the UM Foundation. He is also a member of the IHL-UMMC Partnership and Affiliation Review Committee and the UM Foundation Audit Committee.
“Our UM Foundation team looks forward to working with Mr. Sparks in the months ahead as we enhance private support,” said Wendell Weakley, President/CEO, University of Mississippi Foundation. “This recognition is well deserved, and we look to build on the strong relationship we already enjoy with him in his financial roles.”
Sparks holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi and an MBA from Mississippi College. He is a certified public accountant and is currently licensed in Mississippi.
“Larry Sparks’ knowledge, experience, and demonstrated leadership skills as the university’s Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance make him well-qualified and an outstanding choice as the interim chancellor for the university,” said alumnus David Brevard of Tupelo, a member of the Executive Committee of the University of Mississippi Alumni Association. “Larry’s positive work as a member of the university’s senior leadership team has contributed to Ole Miss’ recognition as a great public university. I believe that Larry will work effectively with all of the university’s constituent groups and provide stability as the interim chancellor during a time of transition.”
While at Ole Miss, he has served as the Director of Internal Audit, Director of Project DISCOVER, a comprehensive administrative re-engineering project, Interim Director of Procurement Services, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Finance, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance.
Prior to joining the Ole Miss staff, Sparks served in several positions with the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, including Assistant Commissioner for Audit and Budget and Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Finance and Administration. He also has several years of experience auditing colleges and universities, serving as a practicing CPA, and owning a business. Early in his career, he worked in the accounting office at Ole Miss.
“Larry Sparks has considerable experience managing areas that touch every facet of the campus,” said Dr. Alfred Rankins, Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. “I look forward to our continued work together to advance the University of Mississippi and the university system.”
Currently a member of the Executive Council Board of Trustees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), he has previously served as a member of on-site and off-site evaluation committees for SACSCOC.
“Larry Sparks has done an outstanding job as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration,” said Dean Mark Wilder, Dean and KPMG Chair of Accountancy in the Patterson School of Accountancy at the University of Mississippi. “As a result of his efforts, the University of Mississippi is in sound financial condition. I am very pleased that Larry has been chosen as Interim Chancellor and I have the utmost confidence in his abilities to lead our University in this time of transition.”
He has also been actively involved with the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers (SACUBO), having served as a Board Member and as Vice Chair of the Professional Development Committee and Chair of the Research and Doctoral Constituency Committee. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Mississippi Society of Mississippi Public Accountants.
Sparks has been involved in various professional, church and community activities for many years. He and his wife, Jacky Hedgepeth Sparks, are the parents of three children, Jessi, Laura, and Tyler.