Playing football for the University of Maine, Rod Sparrow ’71 loved the sport but received his share of sprains, strains and bruises. Now, he has given a generous gift that supports both the athletic program and a state-of-the-art facility that helps students learn how to treat sports injuries.
Sparrow and his wife Deborah ‘72, residents of Bolton, Mass., have contributed $40,000 to the UMaine football program and $90,000 to the new athletic training education facility dedicated to the memory of Wes Jordan, the legendary trainer who treated thousands of UMaine athletes. Considered one of the top trainers in the country, Jordan died in 2002 after more than three decades at UMaine.
The Harold Alfond Foundation will match Sparrow’s gift dollar for dollar, so his contribution effectively has generated $80,000 for the UMaine football program, providing invaluable support for the Black Bears. His gift, combined with others, is supporting facility upgrades, technology, recruiting, scholarships and equipment.
Knowing that his contribution would be enhanced through the Alfond Foundation was great motivation, he says.
“It was a tremendous incentive. I couldn’t pass it up. Football was a big part of my life at UMaine.”
Meanwhile, Sparrow’s gift to the Wes Jordan Athletic Training Education Complex in Lengyel Gym has enhanced the quality of UMaine’s new, curriculum-based athletic training education program which earned national accreditation in 2005 and has become one of the most prestigious such programs on the east coast. It was Jordan’s dream to establish an accredited athletic training program and he had been working with UMaine on that endeavor.
For Sparrow, it seemed only right to contribute to the facility named after Wes Jordan who had been a friend and mentor to so many student athletes. “He could really relate to the kids. You always had a good feeling when you saw him – you knew he was going to take good care of you. Once, during football practice when I had heat prostration, he was a tremendous help. He did all the right things to bring my body temperature back to normal. I really have to tip my hat to the professional way he handled my condition.”
Sparrow solicited other alumni for contributions to the facility, which officially opened in 2007, and says that although Jordan never got to see the project completed, his family was “very proud of the University” for creating the complex.
For his part, Sparrow is pleased that his gift has given a boost to Campaign Maine, the University’s six-year, $150 million comprehensive capital campaign. “I hope I can set an example for others to think about also donating.”
His contribution also has bolstered the athletic training program which has become tremendously popular, according to O.J. Logue, associate dean for academic services in the College of Education and Human Development, where the curriculum is offered.
“Rod’s gift is not only significant monetarily, but is one of the most endearing gifts in terms of paying tribute to a man who not only profoundly impacted his life, but so many others for years to come.”
Athletics aren’t the only reason Sparrow feels passionately about giving to his alma mater. A business major, he says the education he received at UMaine went a long way in giving him the knowledge and expertise to run Leaktite Corporation, his family’s successful fourth generation business in Leominster, Mass. With 70 employees, Leaktite produces utility pails and paint trays and liners that are used in a wide variety of industrial, commercial and consumer-product applications.
Thanks to UMaine’s “nuts and bolts type classes” and tough but caring professors, he says he came away with “the basics of running a company so that I could develop Leaktite Corporation to where it is today.”
A former member of Sigma Chi, Sparrow says his classmates made him and other students from out of state feel right at home. “The kids we knew from Maine were great. My first roommate was from Bethel. He’d go home weekends to work at the local Western Auto Hardware Store and come back every Sunday night with two apple pies that his mother would bake for us.”
Sparrow, who keeps in touch with a number of friends from UMaine, says his alma mater comes up often even with business acquaintances to whom he happily proclaims his Black Bear status.
“It’s been 35 years since I’ve graduated, but I’m proud that UMaine’s reputation has been maintained and I’m proud to be an alumnus.”
Image Description: Rod Sparrow '71