University of Memphis Magazine
University of Memphis Photo
Spring 2010 Features


Saving Green
The right stride
Hall of enlightenment
Something to bank on
Soul power
Pools of courage

The Columns: Alumni Review
In the Green Zone

Alumni Association bestows highest honors in "Year of the Tiger"

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 bestowed its highest honors in a gala at the Memphis Zoo in April.

Ron Hart and Theopolis Holeman were honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award; Tre Hargett was named Outstanding Young Alumnus; Rita Sparks was recognized as the Distinguished Friend of the University; and Bobby Wharton received the J. Millard Smith Illustrious Service to the Association Award.

Ronald Hart
Ronald Hart
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.

In September 2008, Registered Rep magazine and its Web site,, named him the No. 4 financial adviser in the country, based on assets under management. Last year, Barron’s named Hart the 54th top financial adviser in the country based on its scoring system. 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, including the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of the book There is No Such Thing as a Pretty Good Alligator Wrestler, published last November.

Hart attended the Institute for Political and Economic Systems at Georgetown University. After earning his MBA, he went to work for Goldman Sachs. Hart also has served on the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Theopolis Holeman
Theopolis Holeman
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 country. Holeman has also been recognized as one of the “Top 75 Most Powerful Black Executives in the U.S.” by Black Enterprise magazine. He earned a bachelor’s degree in construction technology from the U of M in 1971 and later a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Houston. He has also completed the Stanford Executive Program.

Tre Hargett
Tre Hargett
Hargett (BBA ’91, MBA ’92) is secretary of state of 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 served from February 2008 through January 2009.

Rita Sparks
Rita Sparks
Sparks has been a licensed commodity broker since 1980. In 1977, she and her late husband, Willard, formed Sparks Companies Inc., an agricultural research information and consulting firm. After Willard’s death in 2005, she formed her own investment company, Sparks Enterprises Inc. Sparks has also held several key accounting positions in the retail business and in the commodities field. She serves on the board of Metropolitan Bank, the University of Memphis Board of Visitors, the U of M Foundation Board of Trustees, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, and is an ambassador for the U of M’s Athletic Department. Sparks is involved in a variety of community projects. She has served on the boards of the Memphis Development Foundation, the Baddour Center, the Memphis Redbirds Foundation and the Campbell Foundation. She is a past president of the Ronald McDonald House and was instrumental in securing the funds to build the first Ronald McDonald House in Memphis.

Sparks received the 2010 Tennessee Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy for her support of higher education. She was the Memphis recipient of the 1999 Outstanding Volunteer Fund Raiser from the National Society for Fund Raising Executives and a member of the 1996 Leadership Memphis class.

Bobby Wharton
Bobby Wharton
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 past president of the University of Memphis National Alumni Association and currently serves on the Herff College’s Alumni Board. In 2006, he received the True Blue Tradition Award, which is given annually by the Alumni Association to those who have made significant contributions to creating and continuing traditions at the U of M.

His commitment to the University’s Athletic Department is equally impressive. Wharton was the “godfather” and care provider for mascot TOM II, he served as president of the Highland Hundred and he can be seen at every football game driving the Tiger football helmet. When asked why he does so much for the University of Memphis, Wharton’s response is, “I would not be where I am today without my University education and for that I owe it a debt of gratitude.”

All five recipients are Life Members of the Alumni Association.

Text Only | Print | Got a Question? Ask TOM | Contact Us | Memphis, TN 38152 | 901/678-2000 | Copyright 2015 University of Memphis | Important Notice | Last Updated: 
Last Updated: 1/23/12