Distinguished Service Award

Marianna Giovannini (’64, ’67)

Marianna Giovannini

Marianna Giovannini-Sparks is a native of Kirksville, Mo. After graduating from Kirksville High School in 1960, she attended Northeast Missouri State Teachers College, earning a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Education – Art Education in 1964. In the spring of 1964, while “practice teaching” at the Lower Division of Moberly Junior College, she met George W. Sparks III, with whom she shared her married life. She taught for two years in the public schools of Mexico, Mo., and for one year in Green City, Mo., while earning a Master of Arts Degree in Counseling in 1967. On September 1, 1967, she joined the staff of Freshmen Counseling.

Over the last 56 years, she has served with 11 presidents and gone through four school name changes in several roles, seeing many changes over time. The 1980s brought the greatest change when Truman changed to a competitive liberal arts program under the leadership of President Charles McClain and Dean of Instruction Darrell Krueger.

Through the years she has connected over 11,000 students to the transformation of higher education by listening, encouraging, informing and challenging them to develop with the school’s mission. She has held a variety of roles such as developer of the High School Honors Program in early 1970s, under the guidance of Dean Darrell Kruger, which is now known as the Joseph Baldwin Academy; Instructor of the Truman Experience and Skills for Academic Success; Director of the Commuter College for the Residential College Program; Director of the Summer Orientation Program; and currently Head Academic Advisor. In 1998 she received the William O’Donnell Lee Advising Award.

Marianna has served on various university committees: Staff Development Committee, Employee Recognition Awards Committee, Truman Week Committee, Long Range Planning Committee, Kohlenberg Lyceum Series Committee and Truman Campus United Way Campaign. Additionally, she has served on the advisory committee of the Academic Professional Development Center and for many years assisted with the Faculty/Staff Development Campaign. She is currently serving on the Honors Scholars Program Committee, Foundation Loan Committee and Truman’s Board of Directors for Northeast Missouri Area Alumni Chapter, chairing the Scholarship Committee.

National organizations that she has been a member of throughout the years are Phi Delta Kappa, the American College Personnel Association, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, National Clearinghouse for Commuter Programs, the First Year Experience and the National Orientation Directors Association. She has held leadership roles as Chair of the National Conference Site Selection, a Regional Coordinator and as a faculty member of the Orientation Professionals Institute. She has received several awards both at the national and local level over the years. She is in her 57th year at Truman State University, having the distinction of being the longest serving employee.

She relishes being able to continue connecting with the lives of so many young people and to work with the caring faculty and staff of Truman State University.  When not in the office, she spends a lot of time driving up and down highway 63 between Kirksville and Moberly. She enjoys cooking, and you may find her enjoying the seasons working out in her yard, which to her is a form of exercise and relaxation. She also enjoys traveling and visiting with family and friends.


Bertha Thomas

Bertha Thomas

In 1992, Bertha Thomas was hired as the first Program Coordinator for Truman’s Ronald E. McNair Program, a federally-funded TRIO program that provides academic and social support to qualifying Truman students in preparation for graduate study toward doctoral degrees.

In 1999, she assumed the role of Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs and Scholastic Enhancement Experience Program where she supported students by providing academic and personal advisement and coordinated programs focused on diversity, inclusion and equity issues. She continued in those roles until her retirement in 2014. She returned as Truman’s Diversity and Inclusion Consultant for a year in 2020.

Currently she is a member of the ATSU Board of Trustees, a member and former President of the United Way of Northeast Missouri Board and a longstanding member of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. State Celebration Commission. She founded the Kirksville Martin Luther King Jr. Citywide Committee that raises funds for local non profits committed to promoting equity.


About the Award

Alumni, faculty, staff, families, and friends of the University directly impact the future of Truman State University through outstanding volunteer and philanthropic service. Our Distinguished Service Award is one of the ways the University recognizes their generous commitment to Truman and its students.


2022: Amanda Gioia (’93)
2022: Floyd Simpson III (’02)
2021: Donna (Tague) Bailey (’76, ’84)
2021: Dennis Hohn (’67, ’73)
2021: Dr. Fontaine Piper (’70, ’78)
2019: Keith Epperson (’82)
2018: Vid Vidyasagara (’92)
2018: Doug Villhard (’94)
2017:  Sharon (Hogan) Husmann (’83)
2017:  John Thompson Jr. (’92)
2016:  Angela “Ann” Leone Patterson (’72, ’73)
2016:  Colleen Ritchie (’84)
2015:  Gail B. Crump (’64)
2014:  Cynthia M. Spiker (’93)
2013:  Jeffrey Romine (’74) & Marilyn (Casteel) Romine (’78)
2013:  Mike Schwend (’83, ’90) & Mary Jo (Fitzpatrick) Schwend (’81, ’83)
2012:  Jim Bergman (’90)
2011:  Jim Cherrington (’85)
2010:  Jeannette (Toth) Harris (’71, ’78)
2010:  David Nichols & Debra (Fortenberry) Nichols (’80, ’01)
2009:  Kathy Rieck (’73, ’76, ’81)
2008:  Ron Gaber (’82) & Elsie (Kins) Gaber (’87)
2008:  G. Ruth (Black) Mach
2008:  Wilma (Rayfield) Maddox (’79)
2007:  Tom Ballard (’69)
2007:  Major General John V. Cox (’52)
2006:  Geraldine (Toth) Ready (’70)
2006:  Dwyane Smith (’84, ’91)
2006:  Chuck Woods (’86)
2005:  Bill Cable & Dianthe (Truitt) Cable (’60, ’77)
2005:  Kevin Kuebler (’90) & Bonnie (Neuner) Kuebler (’87)
2004:  Steven Barger (’67)
2004:  Doris (Pickens) Bohon (’43)
2004:  Victor Childers (’55)
2004:  John Lundgren (’64, ’65)
2003:  Maria Evans (’81)
2003:  Larry Lunsford (’81,’83)
2003:  Steve Rose (’69)
2003:  Mary (Rhodes) Russell (’80)
2002:  Kay (Dewey) Baird (’62)
2002:  Steve Justice (’70, ’81)