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The faculty and staff of WGU would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Bill Sparkman. We were saddened to learn of his death. Bill was an inspirational student and graduate, a single father who overcame illness to earn his teaching degree, even traveling to Salt Lake City from Kentucky to speak at WGU’s 2008 Commencement. He will be remembered as a special student at WGU.
Bill Sparkman's education story is one of thoughtful parental involvement for his
son and for himself, personal fortitude in the face of very difficult circumstances,
including very serious personal illness. He thought of it as volunteering in his
son's classroom. He never imagined it would lead to a career change. Bill began
his career path as a sports editor for the Mulberry Press and through various jobs
thereafter, it landed him in London, Kentucky, just as his son was entering elementary
His son could pass any test but was struggling with completing the required assignments,
so Bill thought by volunteering in the classroom that he could help his son's learning
situation. Eventually, he was offered the job of a paraeducator. Several years into
the job, he realized he was doing many of the same things that the teachers were
doing. Talking with several other paraeducators, he learned they were all going
to school, working on their teacher certifications.
"Being a single parent, I knew I couldn't quit my job and I would have limited nights
to go to school, so it could take a long time to finish," said Bill. "I checked
around and discovered Western Governors University. WGU offered everything that
I wanted. I didn't have to sit in class and I could go as fast or as slow as I needed
Bill was making great progress when a life-threatening brick wall popped up. A cyst
had formed on the right side of his neck and it was found to be non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Refusing to let that get in his way, he persevered. He began the necessary medical
treatment and continued to do his student teaching. "My mentor provided me great
support through this obstacle and continued leading me down the path to graduation,"
Bill said. "As more people discover WGU, I believe that more great teachers will
be there for more students and be able to provide the support everyone deserves."
Bill graduated from WGU in December 2007 with his bachelor's degree in mathematics
education. With warnings from his doctor about traveling by plane, Bill attended
the actual graduation ceremony in February 2008 in an alternative way—by driving
all the way across the country to Salt Lake City to attend in person to receive
the diploma he worked so hard to earn. While Bill is waiting for a math teacher
position to open, he is substitute teaching in various school districts in London,
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