As we invest in the future of Sigma Nu at UCLA it is essential that we consider the legacies of those who defined what it means to be a Brother of Epsilon Pi. Today, we launch a feature series which profiles Brothers who have made significant contributions to the House and society in general since their graduation.
Launching the series is Al Sparlis (EP 255) who was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1946 NFL Draft. Elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 “Gunga” also had a career as a Hollywood actor and commercial real estate broker. Though he passed in 2005 he is remembered for his bravery during World War II where he flew 70 missions over the “Hump” from India to China, crashing twice and earning seven campaign ribbons.
Early in his life, Al Sparlis spent two years in an orphanage and four years in a tech school. As a Los Angeles Poly High student, he worked at odd jobs to support himself while leading his class scholastically. He graduated in 1939, entered UCLA, pledged Epsilon Pi and played on the football squad in 1941 and 1942 when he played a critical role in the Bruins 17-14 victory over USC. Though World War II interrupted his career with UCLA, he returned in 1945 for one more season and gained recognition as a fine blocker and an effective force on defense to be awarded team MVP. His gridiron success earned him Look magazine first team All-America honors, and subsequently he became the 246th pick in the 30th round of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He played pro football with the Packers for a season before rejoining the U.S. Air Force for Far East battle assignments.
Flying in over 200 total missions in his military career Sparlis moved from the Coast Guard to the Air Corps and piloted B-25s on 70 China-Burma-India missions. His military career also included tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam with many decorations and citations, including a Distinguished Flying Cross and over 19 clusters of other medals and ribbons.
After his military career, Sparlis returned to civilian life as a Hollywood actor having film credits in movies such as “Somewhere in the Night” (1946) and “The Foxes of Harrow” (1947) finally finishing out his career as a senior vice president and commercial real estate broker associated with Coldwell Banker now known as CBRE. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and became a charter member of the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984 before leaving behind a daughter and three grandchildren in 2005.