Funeral arrangements for Sister Clarice Sparkman are as follows.
Sister’s body will be welcomed at St. Dominic Villa on Thursday, January 14, at 4:00 p.m. Evening Prayer is at 6:30 Thursday. Mass of Christian Burial is Friday at 10:30 a.m. In lieu of the usual remembrances, donations may be made to Dominican Sisters Retirement Fund, 6501 Almeda Road, Houston, TX 77021.
Sr. Clarice Sparkman entered eternal life on January 10, 2016. The eldest of 3 children of the late Hazel Andrew and Joseph Sparkman, Sister was born on October 5, 1917, in San Augustine, FL. She is predeceased by her sister Dolores and is survived by her brother Joseph and by nieces and nephews. The Sparkman Family moved to Houston when she was in elementary school. Following her graduation from Reagan High School, she entered the Dominican Sisters of Houston on June 15, 1934. Majoring in mathematics, she received a B.A. from Mt. St. Mary in Los Angeles, an M.A. from the University of Texas, and a PhD from the University of Texas. Her teaching career covered a wide spectrum—from first grade to university, the latter extending over 39 years in Dominican College (Houston), U. of San Francisco, U. of Santa Clara, and San Jose City College. From 2005—2009 she served as Consultant at San Jose City College. Sister was very active in the California Mathematics Council and one of the founders of the American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges and served as its second president sponsoring the second annual convention in San Francisco. Her desire to help students was evidenced in her development of innovative instruction techniques and by her own words, “I wanted to work with students, not sit in a corner somewhere and write.”
In addition to her love of teaching, Sister found delight in travelling. A van served her well as she and her Dominican companions and friends visited national parks and historical sites, especially in California.
Sister retired to St. Dominic Villa in Houston in 2010; in 2014-15 she was a resident at Spring Branch Transitional Care where everyone recognized and loved her. At nearby St. Jerome parish she found a host of friends through Sr. Eleanor Dickmann, OSB. Her heartfelt gratitude to all in the parish was expressed many times.
Sr. Clarice Sparkman, O.P.
October 5, 1017-January 10, 2016
“To praise, to bless, to preach.” How do we do that? How did Sr. Clarice do that? The Gospel of John spoke of the Eucharist, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” Many did not believe; many did not have faith in the Son of God, but those who accepted his word in faith did receive life and remained in Jesus and Jesus remained in them. Sister received the gift of faith on November 18, 1917, the day she was baptized. She was born in St. Augustine, FL, on October 5, 1917, the eldest of 3 children. I chose the reading on the Eucharist because Sister Clarice was devoted to the Eucharistic Liturgy. Daily Mass was extremely important for her. So, how did she praise? She lived on the Body and Blood of Christ. Her faith in Jesus was her praise of God. She was a conscientious teacher; she passed on not only her knowledge of mathematics to her students, but went the extra mile to help them grasp the subject and even enjoy it. She blessed her students with the gift that God had given her and that she had developed. She had a PhD in Math. The combination of her faith and the blessing of her teaching was her preaching.
The family moved to Houston when Sister was in elementary school. She attended Travis Elementary and Reagan High School. They belonged to Christ the King Parish, and that is where she encountered the Dominican Sisters and joined the community on June 15, 1934. After profession she was sent out to teach, earning a B.A. and an M.A. in mathematics along the way. By 1961 she had her PhD in mathematics in hand. She taught at our college here in Houston and then returned to California where some of her earlier teaching years had been. Around 1960 she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a disease of the nervous system which weakens muscular response and makes ordinary physical exercise exhausting. The disease is controlled by rest and a good deal of medication, so when she taught at the University of San Francisco, she moved around in a motorized wheelchair. There were not a lot of ramps in those days, and the steps into and out of buildings were a problem. Usually there were young people (usually boys) to help her navigate the steps. She recalled once when she was tired of waiting for help, she started down the library steps in her chair, bouncing along. She commented that those who saw her probably came near heart failure.
Sister also taught at the University of Santa Clara where she was part of a special fellows program in education; the fellows had started their internship so her 3 classes were in the evening. She said, “I found myself with a lot of time. I wanted more to do.” She reasoned that since mathematics programs are slanted toward preparation of students for college professorships—and not all math students wanted to be teachers—she began looking for positions for mathematicians in industry. She worked at G.E. in the Nuclear Energy Division’s computation and data processing section. Later she worked for Philco-Ford’s Western Development Laboratories where satellite antennas were designed and produced. Her own words regarding this work: “I came to industry for experience. I feel so helpless when my students ask me for advice. They want to know what the real world of business is like, what they have to know to succeed, and what to expect when they get there. If I’m going to be any good as a teacher, I should be able to give them some answers.” A typically Clarice comment about the work—which shows her humor and personal touch—“The men I work with have accepted me beautifully, and treat me like a person. They say if the project we’re doing now turns out, they’ll all wear habits to work.”
Not only did Sr. Clarice participate in the business world to help her students, she also worked on remedial programs and was a speaker at conventions and conferences. While at San Jose City College, where she stayed for 30 years, she was on the founding board of the American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges and served as its second president. One of the purposes of the association is to provide a national forum for the exchange of ideas to further develop and improve the mathematics education of students in two-year colleges. This purpose was close to Sister Clarice’s heart and her development and publication of remedial programs put it into practice.
Sister Clarice not only practiced her “preaching” in the teaching arena, she prepared a booklet for her parish, St. Leo the Great in San Jose. It described the parish church in detail with commentary on the stained glass windows, the altar, the crucifix, the stations of the cross, and the statues. Her closing note gives us insight into her faith and her love for the Church. “St. Leo the Great truly presents the great riches of Catholic traditions through the centuries. The Church is a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit Who gives us the Sacraments, The Sacrifice, and the year-round life of the liturgy. Our Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic church gives a beautiful home and honor to our Eucharistic Lord, Jesus Christ. It gives the immeasurable riches of our faith and brings the love of the Son of God into our hearts.
I only came to know Sr. Clarice in these last few years that she lived at the Villa and at Spring Branch Transitional Care. She was a kind and gentle person who loved people, and this love must have been obvious. At the nursing home she was always greeted with a smile when I would be with her in the hall. This was by anyone—nurses, doctors, administrative staff, hair dresser, housekeepers. They all knew Sister Sparkman. I think it is correct to say that she gave each of them a “spark” for the day. I am grateful to have known her and have only shared a small part of her life, so you are now invited to share your “sparks” from Sister Sparkman.