Larry Sparks will be the interim chancellor of the University of Mississippi, according to a press release from the state College Board.
“It is an honor to serve the University during this time of transition,” Sparks said in a statement. “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, currently the university’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, will replace Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter in office as interim chancellor on Jan. 4, 2019.
Sparks’ designation as interim chancellor comes after Vitter’s resignation as the shortest-tenured Ole Miss chancellor since George Holmes retired from his position as the first head of school in 1849, a year after the university’s founding.
“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,” Vitter said in the press release. “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 (Sparks) in any way that I can.”
A native of Oxford, Sparks earned his bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the University of Mississippi and a master’s degree in business administration from Mississippi College. He has worked for the university since 1997 and has been the director of the university’s finances since 2006.
Shane Hooper, president of the board of trustees for the state College Board, said Sparks’ knowledge of finance makes him suited to serve as interim chancellor.
“He has a deep understanding of the issues facing public universities today and an even deeper understanding of Ole Miss,” Hooper said. “I have no doubt that the university will continue to excel under his leadership.”
Brice Noonan, chair of the faculty senate, said he has worked with Sparks on many committees and has “great respect” for his understanding of the inner workings of campus.
“I have no doubt that he will provide the stability in the Lyceum that our campus needs as we make this transition and look forward to working with him and the IHL as we search for the next Chancellor of the University of Mississippi,” Noonan said.
Associated Student Body President Elam Miller said he is excited to work with Sparks.
“He has been at the university for more than 20 years, and it is my hope that he will continue to be an advocate for students in his new role,” Miller said.
Graduate Student Council president Christopher Bright-Ramons said Vitter’s resignation left uncertainty on campus, but Sparks being announced as the interim chancellor assured him that “operations will continue unabated.”
“As we search for the new individual to take over the top university post, (Sparks) will avoid any drastic or unexpected changes of course that could cause second thoughts for potential students and faculty,” Bright-Ramos said. “We are very fortunate that he will guide us through the transition process.”
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