Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes

1730 East Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI


Harvey V. Sparks Jr.

22 June , 193818 October , 2019

Harvey V. Sparks, M. D., aged 81, died on Friday, October 18th. He was Barbara’s husband for 50 years. He leaves four children, Matthew (Peggy Stephens), Catherine, Wendy (James Weber), Harvey III (Lou Wehrly), and Laura Sparks, who remained family to Harvey and Barbara; seven grandchildren, Julia, Hannah, Michael, Betsy, Annika, Alexandra, and Aleah (Chase Miles); and one great-grandchild, Beau Harvey.

Harvey received his M.D. from the University of Michigan, where the medical school accepted him before he completed his baccalaureate studies, and then completed post-doctoral studies at both Harvard and Gothenberg (Sweden). He returned to U of M to continue teaching and research and in 1974 he was appointed a full professor there. In 1979, he came to Michigan State University to chair its physiology department, where he recruited leading scholars to join him in the joy of research and teaching that made it so difficult for Harvey to retire.

Harvey was the 60th President of the American Physiological Society; met the presidents of this and other nations; and traveled widely while serving as an accrediting visitor for medical schools all over the world. Over the course of 10 years, he and Barbara lived and worked in Zimbabwe, where he helped the University of Harare strengthen its physiology program, mentored its budding faculty, and conducted research. He published extensive research into cardiac and renal function, and in his laboratory trained scores of physiologists, who have, in turn, trained scores more at leading universities throughout the United States. He served as MSU’s Vice-Provost for Health, was honored as a University Distinguished Professor, taught physiology to two generations of students, and pioneered in the use of remote learning technology.

Harvey was a scientist who loved poetry and opera, and who, at 50, discovered a love of riding that remained one of his passions until the end of his life. He spent many happy hours at Fox Brush Farm enjoying his horses and friends there and became a member of the Metamora hunt. Though Harvey was devoted to his work and proud of his accomplishments, he wisely saved some of his life for himself and Barbara, their beloved close friends, family and dogs.

Harvey’s was a life well-lived; we were proud to know and love him. Friends may join us for a celebration of his life on Saturday, November 16th at 10 o’clock in the morning at the Michigan State University Club (3435 Forest Rd, Lansing, MI 48910).

In lieu of flowers, we invite you to honor Harvey with a contribution to the Nature Conservancy or the charity of your choice.

Arrangements by Gorsline-Runciman. Share memories at www.greastlansing.com.


  • Celebration of Life Saturday, 16 November , 2019


Harvey V. Sparks Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Betty Holmer

16 November 2019

It was easy to converse with Harvey and I enjoyed talking with him while he was a resident at Robinwood Landing, where my father also lived for a while. Since Harvey and I both retired from MSU, we mostly talked about experiences there. He shared how difficult it was for him to retire. I am sorry for the frustration and sadness he felt. At the same time, I feel blessed that he shared his feelings. You will be in my thoughts today as you remember Harvey together. I hope you find comfort in the fact that Harvey lived such a full life and offered so much to others. By the way, Harvey was still teaching and I was still learning during our moments at Robinwood. I know Harvey lives on.

Bridget Pearce

11 November 2019

Harvey was a pivotal role model in my academic and professional life. He was my major professor in Physiology and the respect he showed everyone was inspiring. The Monday morning meetings we had were creative brainstorming sessions and were the best classroom to learn how to tackle a scientific problem. I have modeled my speaking style after his - he always started with the basics and built a story that was understandable, even to the novice. He was brilliant and a very kind and considerate man.
Bridget Whelton Pearce

Laura Schulyz

30 October 2019

I was a student way back in the 70's at U of M and remember Dr. Sparks fondly as a teacher full of energy and fun. So cool to learn that he also was a horse lover!!!! So sorry to hear of his passing.


28 October 2019

I got to know Harvey at Robinwood Landing. He was a resident there when my Mom moved in. I could tell right away he was something special. I learned about the background of this amazing fellow and spending a few moments with him was always a highlight of my visits. His enthusiasm and inquisitiveness were always apparent and I will miss him on my visits. My condolences to Harvey's loved ones.

Carol Rathbun-Fites

25 October 2019

I was so sorry to hear of Harvey's passing. I have many
wonderful memories of our school days at Longfellow Junior High and Flint Central High School. I'm glad we connected at our 50th Class reunion in 2006. He said Barbara couldn't attend because she was riding horses in France! I thought "What a wonderful life they must be living!" And sure enough, after watching his interview on You Tube, and reading about his and Barbara's adventures around the world, I consider it an honor to have known -- if only during his younger days--this truly extraordinary human being. I look forward to attending his Celebration of Life gathering on November 16. In the meantime, I send sincere condolences to Barbara and their family.

Sincerely, Carol Rathbun Fites

Frederick Baker

24 October 2019

This photo of Harvey is so perfect, because if you look closely you can see his motto: “Always make new mistakes.” He said more than once that one of the wonderful things about science is that we learn as much from our mistakes as we do from our successes.

Denise Davenport

24 October 2019

It was a pleasure and a privilege to know Dr. Sparks. I enjoyed taking breaks from gardening to sit and chat with him in the shade of the large evergreen.