Plant and Soil Sciences
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University of Delaware Environmental Soil Chemistry Members In The News

Cooperative Extension

University of Delaware

College of Agricultural Sciences


Fall 2002

Volume 10 Issue 3



On Sept. 1, Dr. Donald L. Sparks was named the S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware. Sparks, a resident of Newark, has been the chair of the department of plant and soil sciences since 1989. The new endowed chair position, funded by a $1 million gift from the Unidel Foundation, recognizes Sparks for contributing “to the university through his research, teaching and professional achievements.” The endowed chair is named in honor of S. Hallock du Pont, who was a frequent benefactor of what was then known as the Agriculture Department at UD.

Although Sparks has received what many would consider the greatest tribute, thus far, in his distinguished career, one learns much about Spark’s priorities when he discloses that another recent award also is very meaningful to him. The award to which he is referring is UD’s Outstanding Doctoral Student Mentoring and Advising Award. In June, Sparks was the first recipient of this honor, which recognizes faculty members whose dedication and commitment to excellence have made a significant contribution to the quality of life and professional development of doctoral students.

Sparks is a highly prolific writer and lecturer and his research, focusing on the kinetics of soil chemistry processes, has brought him national and international acclaim. But the students are, ultimately, the reason Sparks is here, and the reason he has such zest and enthusiasm for what he does. Sitting in his book-lined office on a summer morning, Sparks reminds one of a proud parent as he ticks off the accomplishments of

his current and past doctoral students. In his 23 years at UD, Sparks has worked with 36 graduate students who have gone on to make their mark in soil sciences through research and teaching positions in academia, industry and government.

“Without question, there is nothing more satisfying to me than working with my graduate students,” says Sparks. “It’s very rewarding to be able to cultivate others as they prepare for and set out on their careers. And I’m always excited to learn of their successes,” adds Sparks. “I get more of a kick out of their accomplishments than I do from the honors and awards I personally receive.”

The S. Hallock du Pont Endowed Chair and the Outstanding Doctoral Student Mentoring and Advising Award are just two of a host of awards and honors that Sparks has received during his tenure at UD. He was named Distinguished Professor in 1994 and T. A. Baker Professor in 2001. He received the Francis Alison Award in 1996. He is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Spark’s research grants total nearly $4 million.

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