Last week, the University of Houston community lost three of its most irreplacable members.
Associate athletics director Roland Sparks passed away on Saturday July 8th after a long battle with colon cancer. Sparks was an employee of the UH athletics department for eighteen years, which is something of an accomplishment given the university's constant turnover of athletics directors.
On Tuesday, July 11th, after suffering a massive heart attack, UH sports photographer Pete Medrano died. With his Kangol cap and his camera in hand, Pete was an unmistakable presence on the sidelines of Cougar football games, basketball games and other athletics events. He was also a fixture at pre-game tailgates, laughing it up with fellow Cougar fans before kickoff.
That same day, reknowned political science professor Ross Lence lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Lence, who had been a member of the UH faculty since 1971, was one of the University's best-known professors and was so popular with students that in 2002 many of them joined together to create an endowed chair in his honor. One local blogger's particularly eloquent description of Dr. Lence explores his love of teaching and his fondness towards his students.
I can't say I knew any of these people well. I never met Mr. Sparks, I met Pete maybe once or twice, and my only interaction with Professor Lence was when he was a guest speaker in one of my architectural history classes (although my father, having served on many academic committees with Dr. Lence, knew him well and is especially saddened by his passing). But the fact that I did not know any of these people closely does not make me any less sad.
There are those who would like to perpetuate the myth that the University of Houston is some sort of soulless, second-rate commuter school, devoid of character and lacking any sense of community. People like Roland Sparks, Pete Medrano and Dr. Ross Lence are proof that that is not the case; that there are indeed people who care about the University and give themselves to it, its students, its athletes and its community. These three members of the UH family will be missed.