Frog Family Ties

Relatives follow each other to TCU as one generation inspires the next.

TCU 150 Gradient Logo

The extended Ayala family counts 20 Horned Frog members, including, front row from left: Luis Flores ’74 (holding a photo of his mother Guadalupe Flores ’77), JoAnn Flores ’80, Gilbert Anguiano ’77, Dolores Ayala Rios ’75 and Meghan Ruelas ’07. Back row: Rocco Williams (current PhD student), Natalie Ayala Williams ’07, Marissa Carrera (current undergraduate), Teresa Ayala ’89 (MLA ’92), Carlos P. Ayala ’74, Kenneth Ruelas Sr. (attended 1980-81) and Kenneth Ruelas Jr. ’07 (MBA ’22). Photo by Rodger Mallison

Frog Family Ties

Relatives follow each other to TCU as one generation inspires the next.

Lindsay Ray Davis ’10 recalled filling out her application to TCU and coming across the box that asks the applicant to list other family members who have attended the university.

“I had to attach additional pages,” she said with a laugh.

For many, TCU is a family tradition. Of the 2,491 students who enrolled as first-years in the class of 2026, more than 20 percent had family members who attended TCU.

We caught up with three Horned Frog families — each with more than a dozen members who are proud to bleed purple.

Connecting Generations

“I chose TCU because it was a family thing,” said Jon Sparks ’72, who grew up dreaming of wearing an official TCU uniform, just like his father — and did.

Sparks’ parents — John “Connie” Sparks, a football recruit from a Texas Panhandle farming family, and Florrie Buckingham Sparks, a coed from Sulphur Springs — met at TCU and graduated together in 1941.

Jon Sparks and Marsha Beck Sparks, right, with son Cameron and daughter-in-law Melissa, hope that grandchildren Conlee, 9 months, and Cooper, 4, continue the family’s TCU legacy.

Jon Sparks met his wife, Marsha Beck Sparks, at TCU, too; they graduated in 1972, both with degrees in journalism.  Jon enjoyed a career as a pilot with Delta Air Lines and as an instructor at Flight Safety International.

Marsha, a freelance communicator, credits TCU for inspiring her interest in leadership and service, and for the lessons learned as a mentee of Douglas Ann Newsom, professor emerita of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication.

Jon and Marsha Sparks enjoyed chairing their 50th class reunion at TCU in May 2022 and look forward to celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in 2024. They discuss the milestones with equal amounts of pride.

“That one decision to go to TCU impacted so much of our lives,” Marsha said. “It’s an important decision, one that has blessed us.”

Celebrating TCU Football’s ascent to the national championship game in January, Marsha Sparks took to Facebook to share her pride in her family’s legacy. Her father-in-law was TCU’s starting fullback in the 1939 Sugar Bowl, and her husband also played Frog football.

“The purple blood in our family’s veins originated with Connie and has fueled four generations of Sparks Horned Frogs, none more fervent than Connie’s grandsons and great-grandsons!” she wrote.

The Sparkses’ TCU legacy continued with sons Collin Sparks ’02 and Cameron Sparks ’07. All told, the Sparks family counts 14 Horned Frogs and hopes future generations will follow.

“It’s connectedness,” Marsha said when asked what TCU has added to her life. “It’s a big family tapestry.”

Extended Family

Marissa Carrera, coordinator of alumni programs at TCU and an undergraduate student, said her coworkers assume she is joking when she greets a familiar person on campus and introduces them as family.

“I say, ‘Oh, that’s my cousin!’ They laugh because they think, ‘How can it be possible that you have so much family here?’ But it’s true!” Carrera said. She is one of 20 in her extended family who are Horned Frogs.

Carlos Ayala ’74 and Natalie Ayala Williams ’07 are two of 20 family members who went to TCU. Photo by Rodger Mallison

Some of Carrera’s earliest memories are from 1984 to 1986, when she was a child enjoying the playground of Starpoint School, an elementary school run by the university. A resident of the Diamond Hill area of Fort Worth, Carrera grew up with the knowledge that TCU was part of her family well before she became a student herself.

“We’ve always bled purple,” Carrera said of her family. “I’ve known that since I was little.”

Carrera said her grandparents were not college graduates but insisted that their three children earn degrees. Carrera’s mother, Dolores Ayala Rios ’75; uncle, Carlos Ayala ’74; and aunt, Teresa Ayala ’89 (MLA ’92), have dedicated their careers to education.

Teresa Ayala emphasized how important relationship-building is to Latino culture. “We try to foster those relationships and work with folks in our network to bring opportunities to those who may want to pursue college. We talk about the barriers and work to eliminate them.”

Carrera brings her family’s culture and commitment to higher education to her role overseeing the Hispanic Alumni Alliance at TCU. In addition to hosting meetings, service initiatives and social events, the alliance provides mentorship to students. Carrera shares her family’s legacy as a model of success found through a degree earned at the university.

“Any time I hear the alma mater, I get choked up just because of the words,” Carrera said. “I think about the sense of pride in TCU and the gift that it gives to our family and to our community, too.”

Lindsay Ray Davis and members of her family gather in front of Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena. Twenty-one family members have earned degrees from TCU, including: back row, from left: Kyle Cochran ’13, Ally Cochran ’19 MBA, Kimberly Bowen ’98, Katie Price ’09, Curtis Cochran ’75 and Tyler Cochran ’07. Middle row, from left: Lindsay Ray Davis ’10, Courtney Ray ’81 and Mary Ashley Ray ’14. Front row, from left: Alan Teichelman ’77, Shelley Cochran ’76 and Diana Karol ’75. Photo by Rodger Mallison.

More Than a Degree

Lindsay Davis has vivid memories of going to games at TCU as a child — vivid because of the terror that SuperFrog inspired in her.

“My dad was a basketball letterman and manager when he went to TCU and a hard-core TCU fan throughout his life — and here I was, running away from SuperFrog!”

Davis is one of 21 members of her family who earned degrees from TCU, a legacy that started with her maternal grandfather, Charles “Charlie” Floyd ’48, attending TCU through the GI Bill after World War II. He went on to serve as president of the TCU Alumni Association in 1967.

Today, Davis works in leadership for the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Immediately after graduating from TCU, she worked in the university’s admissions office, where she kept photos of her family members who are TCU alumni on her desk. Sharing TCU with those new to the university was rewarding for Davis.

Lindsay Ray Davis ’10, left, followed her mother, Courtney Ray ’81, to TCU, and younger sister, Mary Ashley Ray ’14, right, followed her. Photo by Rodger Mallison

Courtney Floyd Ray ’81, Davis’ mom, understands the excitement of sharing TCU with others. She has fond memories of attending homecoming with her parents, mums adorning their purple and white outfits. After her two older sisters chose TCU, Ray followed.

“There wasn’t even a thought in my head that I would want to go anywhere else,” she said.  “We all had great experiences.”

She met her husband, Donald “Donny” Ray ’78, through mutual friends at a TCU basketball game. He played on the team and served as president of the Lettermen’s Association (now Block T Association).

When Donny Ray passed away in 2019, University Christian Church was packed with TCU friends who Courtney Ray said are like family. Davis remembered church bells ringing out the alma mater. In that moment, celebrating the life of her father, an even deeper meaning was ascribed to the words of the alma mater than she had felt before.

“TCU is really a part of the cloth of our family,” Davis said. “It’s something that transcends a university degree.”

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1 Comment

  1. Nice to meet the families that have attended TCU.. I am very proud of what my Great grandfather Addison Clark and his Brother Randolph Clark brought to the students of TCU. Down through the generations in Addison Clark’s family there have always been teachers and and still are. The fun of learning does not stop with earning your degrees you will always learn more in the path you take. That’s the reason I like the statues of Addison and Randolph they are always going somewhere. Marybeth Mooney Wells

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