By Tracy Courage
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ore than 160,000 students are currently attending one of Arkansas’ four-year colleges or universities, but thousands more can claim alumni status. Long after commencements are over, Arkansas college alumni are staying connected – or reconnecting – with the schools that shaped their lives. Many graduates have stayed in Arkansas and flourished in their careers while others have passions that have taken them around the world. Among their ranks are some of the best and brightest in their career fields. They are entrepreneurs, researchers, doctors, educators, political leaders, activists, authors, athletes and even a few celebrities. They have not only excelled in their fields, but have broken barriers, and in some cases – made history. They are leaders and philanthropists, who give back to their colleges and universities, which in turn are able to provide scholarship and expanded services for future generations of students. Here, we offer just a sampling of the many Arkansas alumni who are making a difference in their professions, their communities and the world.
Arkansas Baptist College
Special Projects: Working with the ABC Foundation to establish college endowment
Teresa Smith-Broady graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration, cum laude honors. She currently works at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as a Finance Manager, where she has been employed for 28 years. Her commitment to completing her education at Arkansas Baptist College makes her outstanding.
Bonita Nash graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree, summa cum laude and distinction in field honors. She currently works at the Arkansas School for the Blind as the Assistant Personnel Manager. Ms. Nash, a single mother of two sons desired to complete her degree before her oldest son graduated.
Reverend C. Dennis Edwards I is a current member of the Board of Trustees for Arkansas Baptist College. Reverend Edwards serves as the pastor of St John Baptist Church and President of the Consolidated Missionary Baptist Convention of Arkansas.
Dr. Doris Robinson Gardner is currently the Dean of the Graduate School at Jackson State University. Additionally, Dr. Gardner served as the Chair of the Arkansas Baptist College Trustees during 2011-2012.
Arkansas State University
Projects: The Association owns the Cooper Alumni Center constructed in 2008 with private gifts and houses a number of offices in University Advancement.
Contact: Beth Smith, Executive Director, Cooper Alumni Center;
email [email protected]
Phone: (870) 972-2586
John Woodside (Class of 1936) celebrated his 100th birthday this year. He has established scholarships of more than $1 million that have benefitted thousands of students. He lives in Lufkin, Texas, and makes the trip back to Jonesboro annually to meet personally with scholarship recipients.
Mike Beebe, Class of 1968, is the former governor of Arkansas. He was instrumental in establishing four biotechnology centers in the state using money from the national Tobacco Settlement lawsuit.
Chuck Bradbury, Class of 1975, and her husband, Curt, established the Bradbury Gallery at A-State and recently made an additional gift to upgrade the facility to the Bradbury Art Museum.
Kathy White Loyd, Class of 1977, of Greenville, South Carolina, established the Women’s Business Leadership Center at A-State which involves a “Step up, Reach back” mentoring program that will have an impact in multiple locations in Arkansas.
Brandon Morris of Pine Bluff (Class of 2008) served on the ASU Alumni Association board of directors for two years and has been part of the scholarship review committee for the very popular License2HOWL scholarships. He and the committee review more than 400 applications each year to award the five incoming freshmen scholarships. He is director of Public Affairs for the Union Pacific Railroad covering Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Arkansas TECH University
Membership: More than 40,000 (non dues paying association)
Special Projects: Alumni oversee the Hall of Distinction, which honors outstanding alumni or non-alumni (friends) of the university. They award scholarships funded from the Arkansas Tech license plate program and participate in the City of Russellville’s “Adopt a Road” trash pick-up program. During finals week, alumni return to campus, hand out snacks and encourage our students to do well on final exams. They also host activities during Homecoming weekend including Hall of Distinction Dinner, Ladies Bingo Luncheon, All Alumni and Friends Reception and reunions.
Contact: (479) 968-0242 or [email protected] Techties.atu.edu
Tamhra Hutchins-Frye, a 1983 graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education, is the first woman to attain the rank of Brigadier General in the Arkansas Air National Guard. She previously served in the 188th Fighter Wing and the 189th Airlift Wing. She deployed in 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as the Chief of Staff, NATO Afghanistan Transformation Task Force, Headquarters International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Luke Bradshaw, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in graphic design, established A.W. Bravis Retail Marketing in 2007. His team most recently re-imagined the trophy case at John E. Tucker Coliseum with a new look that celebrates the traditions of Arkansas Tech and connects multiple generations of the Tech family.
Central Baptist College
Founded: circa 1960s
Projects: Alumni fund the Kenneth Brown Scholarship, support the Student Alumni Association, plan Homecoming, support the Mustangs in the Making Legacy Program and facilitate events throughout the year.
Contact: Meagan Lowry,
(501) 205-8870 or [email protected]
Rachel Steele graduated in 2011 and now works at her alma mater as Director of Student Services. She is active in the Conway community and serves on the Conway Noon Rotary Board of Directors as the New Generations Director, and the Steering Committee as the Membership Director for the Conway Regional Women’s Council.
Nick Jacobsen a 2005 graduate from Tacoma, Wash., is a production engineer for the BMA of America. He also works part-time as a case manager at Bethlehem House, a transitional homeless shelter in Conway.
Luis Ortega, who earned a B.A. in Bible/ Pastoral Emphasis, is director of programming at Lifeword Media Ministries and pastors the Latino/ Hispanic congregation at Antioch Baptist Church. He is pursuing a Master of Divinity.
Chris Ramsey has pursued a life of service and leadership since graduating in 2001 with a BA in pastoral studies. He is the chief learning officer at The Center for Children and Families, a statewide non-profit agency in Monroe, La., and volunteers in his local church as a teaching pastor and elder. He and his wife, Dr. Valerie Ramsey, operate a Christian counseling and coaching business offering guidance to leaders, ministers, groups and individuals.
Henderson State University
Membership: More than 24,000
SPECIAL Projects: The alumni association selects distinguished alumni annually, hosts events and receptions to bring alumni together and connect them to Henderson State University. Examples of our programs from the past year are a Reddie Day at Oaklawn, Reddie Day at Dickey-Stephens Park, the gala for the university’s 125th anniversary and receptions in a number of areas throughout Arkansas.
HSU Box 7703, Arkadelphia, AR 71999
Phone: 870-230-5401 [email protected]
Ken Duke, Class of 1994, is a U.S. professional golfer who plays on the PGA Tour. He won the Traveler’s Championship in 2013 and has helped HSU build the best indoor golf practice facility in all of D-II athletics.
Bobby Bones, Class of 2002, is host of the nationally syndicated weekday radio program “The Bobby Bones Show.” This year, Bones was named a Distinguished Alumnus and served as speaker for the university’s spring 2016 commencement.
Shannon Curtin, Class of 1999, is senior vice president of the Consumer Beauty Division for COTY North America.
Richard Jacobs, M.D., Class of 1973, is the Horace C. Cabe Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine and the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
Paul Leopolous, Classes of 1968, 1972, 1974, co-founded the THEA Foundation, which has awarded over $1.5 million in scholarships to 169 Arkansas high school seniors in the visual, performing arts and film fields of study.
Membership: 16,885 (All alumni are members)
Special Projects: Alumni Association Awards Ceremony
Contact: [email protected]
Toll-free at 877-208-8777 or (501) 450-1491
(Hendrix College Alumni Association)
Douglas Blackmon is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. He is a former Atlanta bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, and currently is the host and executive producer of American Forum, a weekly public affairs program produced in conjunction with the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs and broadcast on more than 100 PBS stations.
Linda Pondexter Chesterfield, an Arkansas senator, was the first African-American graduate of Hendrix College. She received the first Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship from Hendrix for promoting understanding among the races and was named Distinguished Alumna of Hendrix in 2000.
Derek Lowe, a medicinal chemist, has worked for several major pharmaceutical companies on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases.
Jo Luck served as Heifer International’s president and CEO, and was responsible for a global sustainable development program that helped more than 4 million families in 125 countries. In 2010, she was awarded the World Food Prize for advancing human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
P. Allen Smith is an author, television host, entrepreneur and conservationist. In 2009, he founded the Heritage Poultry Conservancy to preserve and support threatened breeds and strains of domestic poultry. His work is featured in AY magazine and national publications plus bestsellers, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home and P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes from the Garden.
John Brown University
Membership: More than 4,000
Special Projects: None
[email protected], 479-549-7268
Scott Key, class of 2009, created a unique flooring solution called Emergency Floor, which is a modular flooring system made of recyclable plastic pieces that fit together like a puzzle. He recently installed Emergency Floors in a refugee camp in Lebanon.
Carolyn Pollan, Class of 1959, served as a JBU trustee from 1981 to 2008. She is the longest-serving Republican and woman in the Arkansas state legislature, serving 12 consecutive terms from 1975 to 1999. She is also the first woman to be named House Associate Speaker Pro Tempore.
John Spenst, a 2004 graduate from JBU and Board of Trustee member, is the franchise owner of Chick-Fil-A in Little Rock.
Doug Jacobson, a 1976 graduate, is the executive vice president of Chesapeake Energy.
Matt Aspegren, a 2007 graduate, moved to the Philippines in 2009 to work on Project Lantern, an International Justice Mission initiative sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2010, he co-founded 10 Thousand Windows, which help survivors of violence and exploitation live safe, free and hopeful lives.
Special Projects: N/A
Shea Hembrey, Class of 1996, is an artist whose work was selected for New American Paintings: Volume 70, an exhibition in print curated by Charlotta Kotik, curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum. In 2013, Hembrey presented a TED Talk titled “How I Became 100 Artists.”
Stephanie (Davis) Thompson, Class of 2006, is senior marketing manager for the Amazon Prime Acquisition division of Amazon.com. She serves as co-president of the Lyon College Nashville Alumnae Association.
Brooks Blevins, Class of 1992, is a leading authority on the history of the Ozark region. He created the country’s first Ozarks Studies minor at Missouri State University, where he is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozark studies. He has written or edited seven books, including Hill Folks, Arkansas/Arkansaw, and Ghost of the Ozarks.
Eric Wilson, class of 2006, has worked as assistant to the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and as director of development. In 2014, he became the CEO of the K-12 entrepreneurship program at Noble Impact, an education initiative working to establish public service and entrepreneurship as a core curriculum in public schools.
Dr. Leticia (Wright) Jones (Class of 2001) is an OB-GYN at the Grace Clinic for Women in Little Rock and volunteers her medical services at health fairs for the Derek Lewis Foundation of North Little Rock.
Ouachita Baptist College
Chapters: all alumni and former students are considered a part of Alumni Association
Founded: 1886 (college founding)
Special Projects: The Ouachita Alumni office hosts events to connect alumni throughout the year like Homecoming, Gold Tiger Day, Young Alumni Meetups, Summer Baseball Outings, Reunions and more. The office also coordinates the Tiger Network Leadership Award application and selection process for incoming students nominated by alumni. The office also seeks to highlight and honor alumni making a difference in their communities on social media and through awards like the Ouachita Alumni Milestone Awards.
Contact: [email protected] 870-245-5506 www.ouachitaalumni.org
Judge Bobby E. Shepherd, Class of 1973, serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in El Dorado. President George W. Bush nominated him and he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and began serving in 2006. While at Ouachita, he was a member of Student Senate, the Carl Goodson Honors Program, and the Ouachita Cadet Corps.
Dr. Jane Chu, Class of 1979, is chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, having been nominated by President Barack Obama. Chu earned a Bachelor of Music in piano performance and a Bachelor of Music Education degree. Prior to her nomination and confirmation as NEA chair, Chu was president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City.
Steve Bowman, Class of 1986, was the outdoor editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where he wrote a column focused on hunting, fishing and the outdoors of Arkansas. In 2001, Bowman was hired to create ESPNOutdoors.com. He has helped to produce numerous Emmy-award winning television shows for ESPN and the Outdoor Network.
Bonnie Montgomery, Class of 2002, is a singer, composer and songwriter. Montgomery created “Billy Blythe,” a folk opera based on the life of young Billy Blythe, President Bill Clinton’s birth name, portraying his life growing up in Hot Springs during the late 1950s. The opera debuted in New York in 2011. Montgomery has released two EPs and has toured the country extensively.
Jessica (Gartman) Bubbus, Class of 2005, worked in public accounting before moving into not-for-profit accounting with the Arkansas Baptist Foundation. In 2010, she and her husband, Alan, started a restaurant, David’s Burgers in Conway, which now includes several locations in Central Arkansas. She is a passionate advocate for adoption and foster care and adopted two boys in 2013. She and her husband live in Little Rock with their four sons.
Philander Smith College
Founded: more than 60 years ago
Special Projects: N/A
Contact: National President, Herman L. Davis, [email protected]
(708) 288-7588. philander.edu for more info
Dr. Tionna Jenkins, Class of 2001, is a regional director for the Clinton Foundation, where she works to improve global health and wellness. She has worked to expand six domestic health care initiatives sites in the U.S. under the leadership of President Bill Clinton.
Dr. John W. McAllister, Class of 1994, has been on faculty at the University of Arkansas Little Rock since 2015. Prior to that he taught Orientation and Mobility at the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for 14 years. He is co-founder of the Gentleman’s Etiquette Club and the “I Am Human Project”.
Chirie Bazelle, Class of 1996, has worked in the behavioral health field since 1994. In 2010, Bazelle became the CEO and Owner of New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services in Little Rock, which provides behavioral health services to students in the Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski County school districts. Ms. Bazzelle also works for Integrity, Inc. in Little Rock, where she has been the caregiver for mentally disabled individuals for more than14 years.
Nakia Gonder-Williams, Class of 1996, has worked at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock for 19 years. In 2008, she was hired as program manager for the Transition and Care Management Program. She also teaches part-time at Philander Smith College in the Division of Social Sciences and owns her own consulting business, Creating Opportunities for Advancement.
University of Arkansas
Membership: More than 22,300 members
Founded: UA founded in 1871 as land grant institution; Arkansas Alumni Association, Inc. was incorporated in 1960.
Special Projects: Arkansas Everywhere is the Alumni Associations membership drive that kicked off in September 2016 in conjunction with the launch of Campaign Arkansas for the University of Arkansas. Alumni and friends can share their Arkansas story through social media with photo and videos using #ArkansasEverywhere.
Contact: Brandy Cox, Associate Vice Chancellor and Executive Director
(708) 288-7588. philander.edu for more info
Dr. Donna Graham, Class of 1970, Professor, Agricultural Extension & Education, Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food & Life Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Agricultural Extension Cooperative Training and Honors Program. Graham is the co-author of Education Through Cooperative Extension.
Morril Hilton Harriman Jr., Class of 1972, Prior to joining the law firm of Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C., Harriman served as the Chief of Staff Office of Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. Harriman is currently a board member for the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees.
Frank Fletcher, Class of 1963, Chairman, CEO & Owner, Frank Fletcher & Associates, Inc. Taking the lesson from Sam Walton of staying divers, Fletcher’s business interests range from manufacturing to automotive to restaurants. Fletcher has been honored by the University of Arkansas with his induction into the Walton Business Hall of Fame.
Connie Lewis Lensing, Class of 1974, Senior Vice President, Litigation & Employment at FedEx Express. Lensing is admitted to the bars of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas. She currently sits on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform.
Doug McMillon, Class of 1989, president & chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. He is also on Walmart’s board of directors. McMillion was selected as the world’s largest retailer’s fifth CEO in 2014.
University of Arkansas – Fort Smith
Chapters: UAFS alumni includes all graduates of Fort Smith Junior College, Westark Junior College, Westark Community College, Westark College, and University of Arkansas Fort Smith
Special Projects: networking events, regional receptions, offers discounted travel
Contact: 479-788-7920 or
1-877-303-8237 or email [email protected]
Jesse Core, who attended the former Westark Community College, is the founder of Core Brewing Company, which has become one of the largest breweries in the state and has expanded into regional markets across the southern United States.
Sandy Dixon, a graduate of Westark Community College founded Turn Key Construction Management, which has completed hundreds of projects, including banks, public schools and medical clinics.
Chester Koprovic, Class of 1975, at Westark Community College, started Kopco Steel Fabrication. He established the Beth Koprovic Professorship in Nursing at UFS in honor of his wife and to support nursing education in the Fort Smith community. Additionally, he created the Koprovic Family Professorship in- Engineering. Koprovic also serves on the UAFS Foundation Board and is a past member of the inaugural class of the UAFS Alumni Advisory Council.
Brandon and Jessica Parker are the founders and owners of Carrot Dirt, the first organic juice and smoothie business in Fort Smith.
Jeremy May, Class of 2007, works as the lead marketing analyst at ArcBest Corporation and is also an entrepreneur, who recently opened ClueMasters in Fort Smith.
University of Arkansas – Little Rock
Special Projects: Annual fundraiser: Taste of Little Rock to benefit student scholarships
Contact: (501)-683-7208 or
email [email protected]
Dr. Patti Martin, is director of Audiology at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and has worked to raise awareness of importance of early detection when it comes to hearing loss, particularly in children.
Troy Wells is the chief executive officer of Baptist Health, the largest health system in Arkansas. He earned a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration at UALR.
Jessica DeLoach Sabin, Class of 2013, was a W.K. Kellogg Foundation NextGen Scholar and a Friday Sturgis Scholar at UALR, where she earned a triple major in political science, theater arts and liberal studies. She has served as president of Young Democrats of Arkansas and was named the 2013 Jeffrey Ledbetter “Young Democrat of the Year” by the Pulaski County Democratic Committee and Democratic Party of Arkansas.
John Burgess, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, is president and founder of Mainstream Technologies. He has designed, developed, and implemented supply chain management solutions used worldwide. He served as Chairman of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and on the Board of Directors of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
University of Arkansas – Monticello
Membership: Alumni Association includes all graduates and former students of Arkansas A&M and the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
Special Projects: Raising funds for additional student scholarships
Contact: UAM Office of Advancement
Dr. Sean Rochelle, Class of 1989, became executive director of the Razorback Foundation in 2013. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UAM, where he was a two-time academic All-American football player. He was inducted into the UAM Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, and recognized with the UAM Alumni Award for Achievement and Merit in 2010.
Lionel Maten, Class of 1992, is Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs & Director of Student Housing at the University of Mississippi.
John Lipton, Class of 1959, of Warren was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1969 to 1992, served as Speaker of the House for two terms and is a former chairman of the Arkansas Highway Commission.
Donnie D. King is president of North American Operations for Tyson Foods, Inc.
University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff
Special Projects: UAPB/AM&N Alumni Association is one of the largest financiers of scholarships for UAPB students
Dr. Stephen Broughton, Sr., is a staff psychiatrist for the Southeast Arkansas Behavioral Health System and a member of the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees.
Dr. Samuel Kountz, Jr. was a physician and pioneer in organ transplantation, particularly renal transplant research and surgery, performing more than 500 kidney transplants. In 1965, he performed the first renal transplant in Egypt as a visiting Fulbright professor in the United Arab Republic.
Smokie Norful is a Grammy award winning musician, composer, and singer whose 2002 debut release “I Need You Now” propelled him to worldwide recognition. Since then, he has had three number 1 Billboard albums. Norful was named Billboard’s Gospel Artist of the Year in 2003 and 2004. He earned a second Grammy in 2015 for Best Song/Performance of the Year.
Danyelle Walker has practiced consumer bankruptcy law for more than 19 years and is recognized as a top legal mind in central Arkansas. For her pro bono service, she has received Attorney of the Year awards from Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership, VOCALS and the Bar Association’s Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award.
Chris Racey received his master’s degree from UAPB’s Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence and is now Chief of Fisheries at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. He manages a team of 97 full-time professionals who work to conserve, protect, manage and enhance Arkansas’ fish and other aquatic species and their habitats.
University of Central Arkansas
Special Projects: Most notably, 15 endowed student scholarships, our Half-Century Club, the Alumni Service Award which is presented each spring at Night of Distinction, the Association of Future Alumni (our student organization), the Alumni Legacy Walk.
Contact: uca.edu/alumni, [email protected], 501-450-3197
Charlie Strong, a 1982 graduate from Batesville, is the head football coach at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to coaching the Longhorns, he was head coach at the University of Louisville, where he led the Cardinals to a victory in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. He has held numerous assistant coaching positions at Florida, Ole Miss and Notre Dame.
Terry Pillow, a 1976 graduate from Corning, is currently an advisor to Oxford Industries, Inc. He has held top leadership posts for international companies, including jobs as CEO of Tommy Bahama Group, Inc.; president and CEO of Ralph Lauren Footwear Co., Inc.;
Johnelle Hunt and her husband J.B. co-founded J.B. Hunt Transport Services, one of the largest transportation companies in the country. She held the position of credit manager and the board position of Corporate Secretary until she retired in 2008.
Scottie Pippen, a 2001 graduate from Hamburg, won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history. Pippen was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Dr. Gene Sloan, a 1981 graduate from Hot Springs, began private practice as a plastic surgeon in Little Rock in 1993. He has won numerous awards, including most recently, a Patient’s Choice Award.
University of the Ozarks
Chapters: one association
Membership: More than 7,600 (includes all alumni, non dues-paying)
Contact: Office of Alumni Relations
(479) 979-1234 or toll-free 1-800-264-8636
David Ray, Class of 2007, has managed three political campaigns for U.S. Congress, a campaign for Attorney General, and served as communications director for a U.S. Senate campaign. He is now state director for Americans for Prosperity Arkansas.
Ian Bryan, Class of 2013, is now an administrative assistant at Arvest Bank Management.
Lauren Ray, Class of 2013, learned to love conservation, education, and outdoor recreation while in college. She is now a park interpreter for the Buffalo National River – National Park Service.
Matthew Friant is Recreational Use Manager for The Nature Conservancy
Mindy Choo is Director of Marketing at Trekker.
Williams Baptist College
Chapters: one association
Special Projects: Alumni association supports the annual scholarship fund.
Contact: Aaron Andrews, Director of Alumni Relations, [email protected] or 870-759-4105
James Moore is a 2001 alum from Huntsville, AR. He created a multi-platform lifestyle brand that focused on food, sustainable farming, home improvement, travel and parenting.