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A Feeling of Welcome Does Wonders
OSU alumnus leads architectural efforts for new Wesley Foundation
To be welcomed is to find a sense of foundation, easement and openness. A genuine welcome is a profound experience.
For more than 60 years, the Wesley Foundation at Oklahoma State University has welcomed countless students and their families, from all backgrounds and faiths.
“I think the most important impact we have is that we’re going to share who we are, and you’re going to share who you are, and we’re both going to be changed through this experience,” says the Reverend Michael Bartley, Wesley Foundation executive director.
On October 8, 2016, the Wesley held a groundbreaking for a new facility on the corner of University Avenue and Washington Street.
The need for a new facility was crucial as the original building posed immense challenges for staff, students and the community in the face of an ever-evolving campus and modern needs.
Something had to be done. And why not involve people who called the Wesley “home” at one point or another?
Enter Gary Sparks, OSU and Wesley alumnus, as well as principal architect for the new facility. He is co-founder of Sparks Reed Architecture and Interiors.
“I’ve always felt indebted to the Wesley because they helped me continue my education,” Sparks says. “I have a strong desire to make this really special. I want people to see what's going on and want to be a part of it.”
In the early ’60s, Sparks was entering his junior year studying architecture at OSU.
Unfortunately, even after working a summer construction job, he didn’t have enough money for housing. He thought he’d continue as long as he could, but he was worried he eventually might have to drop out.
Through a friend, he heard about the Wesley as a potential housing option. He spoke with the ministry staff and ended up staying in the facility’s basement for the rest of the year. In return, he served as a custodian of sorts for the building.
“I jumped at this opportunity and lived in a small room in the basement with a student from China,” Sparks says.
After graduating and spending time in the army, Sparks returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his wife, Jerri, and they became members of the First United Methodist Church there.
Sparks also served as principal architect for the renovations of OSU’s Gallagher-Iba Arena and Boone Pickens Stadium.
“The projects I’ve worked on for OSU have been very personal to me, especially Gallagher- Iba Arena and Boone Pickens Stadium — both were very special,” he says. “I feel the same way about the Wesley Foundation. Anytime I can be involved in designing a facility that enhances people’s lives spiritually, mentally or physically, I get excited.”
To learn more about the Wesley’s Imagine Campaign, a two-phase plan for a new facility including a third-floor shared-living community, visit wesleyosu.com/imagine.
More stories like this are available for members of the OSU Alumni Association. STATE magazine is a benefit of membership in the OSU Alumni Association. To join or update your membership go to orangeconnection.org/join or call 405-744-5368.
Published by STATE Magazine Editor Elizabeth Keys, Winter 2016, Volume 12, Number 2
Uploaded on December 1, 2016