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Bell Tower

spring/summer 2015

The Alumni Magazine of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith


Beautiful Ordinary

 Traveling 460 miles on this coast-to-coast ribbon of lives 

7 Lions on the Move / 15 For Love and Green Beans / 24 Wide Open / 28 Class Notes

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Graphic design students show off their Pantone colors while celebrating their 2014 graduation. On May 9, 2015, several hundred more Lions will journey across the stage in the Stubblefield Center as they join the ranks of alumni.


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by Jennifer Sicking

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volume 6, number 1


FROM THE CHANCELLOR Accomplishing Our Mission


GRAND + WALDRON one of the top | lions on the move | making pallets | ‘a beautiful mosiac’ | humans of uafs


5Q Where do you like to travel?


KNOWLEDGE BASE Going to Extremes


EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY Jennifer Jamison, scientist/educator


SENSE OF PLACE Athletic Training Room


LIONS LOWDOWN super moments | for love and green beans

6 Ragupathy Kannan

features 16

ROAD TO HOME: THE BEAUTIFUL ORDINARY These are the stories of a few who craft the beautiful ordinary along the 460-mile road from Memphis to Oklahoma City. by Jennifer Sicking


WIDE OPEN The first time cleaning a person’s teeth can be nerve wracking, even if it is a dream job. by Jennifer Sicking


ALUMNI + FRIENDS a perfect fit | welcome | class notes | finding his vision | ‘better things ahead’ | taking time to return



Megan Jordan

Jessie Woerpel UAFS BELL TOWER

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From the Chancellor

Bell Tower

Spring/Summer 2015 Volume 6, Number 1 The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

CHANCELLOR Paul B. Beran, Ph.D.


CONTRIBUTORS Jennifer Sicking, John Post

PHOTOGRAPHERS Rachel Putman, Kat Wilson, ’96, Trenton Thompson, Jennifer Sicking





BELL TOWER fall/winter 2014

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live in towns and cities along the Interstate 40 corridor. In these pages, they share their journeys since their time at UAFS came to an end. They have found their careers and created beautiful, ordinary lives. Indeed, our alumni have settled across the United States and world as they have travelled north, south, east and west. Turn to the map on page 7 to see where our alumni live. In this issue, you’ll also read about changes to our already high-quality dental hygiene program. It’s just an example of how our programs continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of industries and to better meet the needs in our communities. In the near future, we’ll have even more exciting news to announce regarding changes to the university as it expands to better position itself to meet the demands of a dynamic workforce. With Lion Pride,


BELL TOWER is published semi-annually by the University of Arkansas


Smith Alumni

Association, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913, for alumni, friends, and faculty of the University.


PROVIDING AN EXCELLENT education has always been the focus of this institution, regardless of whether you attended here when we were a junior college or a university. We always enjoy hearing about your successes. Not only are we proud of you, but that means we are accomplishing our mission and vision. Our mission and vision set the standard that we aspire to achieve every day. Our vision states, “UAFS will be a premier regional university, connecting education with careers.” Our mission states, “UAFS prepares students to succeed in an everchanging global world while advancing economic development and quality of place.” For us, as educators, it comes down to educating students who are ready to succeed in the work place and in the world. As you read though the pages of this issue, you will see evidence of your fellow alumni’s success. You — our alumni — make up the very fabric of society, working as doctors, nurses, lawyers, graphic artists, educators and so much more. In our story, “The Road to Home: The Beautiful Ordinary,” you’ll meet a few of our alumni who


Dear Alumni

Dr. Paul B. Beran, Chancellor Dr. Georgia Hale, Provost Dr. Mary Bane Lackie, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Dr. Lee Krehbiel, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Dustin Smith, Athletic Director Rick Goins, Director of the Alumni Association

Tel: (877) 303-8237. Email: Web:

SEND ADDRESS CHANGES, requests to receive Bell Tower, and requests to be removed from the

mailing list to or UAFS Alumni Association, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913.

LETTERS ARE WELCOME, but the Publisher reserves the right to edit letters for length and

content. Space constraints may prevent publication

of all letters. Anonymous letters will not be published.

Send letters to or Bell Tower Magazine, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913.

Views and opinions expressed in Bell Tower do not

necessarily reflect those of the magazine staff or advisory board nor of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.

Contents ©2015 by the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.

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Le ave Yo u r Legacy The Donald W. Reynolds Plaza, Tower and Campus Green changed the face of our campus forever. Alumni and friends have continued this legacy for two decades, placing their own names at the heart of the Campus Green inside Lion Pride Square. Engraved bricks and granite tiles are one way to support the UAFS Alumni Association while leaving your own legacy on campus—an investment that will be honored by generations of Lions to come. We invite you to leave your own legacy or to honor and memorialize those who have played a significant role in your life. The $125 engraved bricks make ideal graduation, anniversary or holiday gifts. The $1,600 granite tiles are ideal for area businesses or individuals who want to show their commitment to UAFS and the community at a higher level. For more information call the Office of Annual Giving at 479-788-7180, drop by the Alumni Affairs office or visit

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Jerry West garners high

Royal Couple

praise from his students.


Students elected Annsley Garner of Greenwood, Arkansas, as the 2014 Homecoming Queen and Tony Jones of Fort Smith as the 2014 Homecoming King. The king and queen were crowned Nov. 1 during the Lady Lions volleyball game against St. Edward’s University. Garner is a senior biology major, who represented Delta Gamma sorority. Jones is a junior media communications major, who represented Sigma Nu fraternity.

One of the Top UAFS professor 10th best professor in land JERRY WEST, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS, has been named the 10th best professor in RateMyProfessor’s 2013-14 list of the 25 highest-rated higher education professors. West has a 5.0 out of 5 rating on the website based on reviews from 41 students. The website allows students to submit scores for their professors based on qualities including helpfulness and clarity. Students’ comments on West said he “loves for his students to be successful in math,” that he was “the nicest and most caring professor I’ve ever had,” and that he was a “very smart man with the skills to pass on that knowledge.” And to West, the words of students are the ones that matter the most. “Those mean more than any other evaluation. The students are the ones I serve, and to get a good review from them, that’s the best,” he said.


“My dad would constantly sit me down and tell me how serious school was, because if I did my absolute best I could be somebody when I got older. From then on, I realized that my future was in my own hands.” —KERBI KEY, senior secondary education mathematics major from Fort Smith,

who is the recipient of the Mona Fuller Alonzo Scholarship.


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Homecoming King Tony Jones and Homecoming Queen Annsley Garner.

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points of pride Garnering 11 awards and nominations during the local Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival in November, Theatre@UAFS received acclaim for its student-written show “Delta-v.” The show won the Respondent’s Choice Award. UAFS students and faculty receiving awards are: Tony Corbell, Excellence in Honor Crew Award; Jennifer Bradley, Irene Ryan Nomination in Acting; Kendra Carter, Excellence in Honor Crew Award; Jacob Lensing, L.J. Luthringer and Jacob Webb, Excellence in Sound Design Award; Bob Stevenson, Excellence in Directing Awards; Leah Wineland, Irene Ryan Nomination in Acting; Alexander Zacarias, Irene Ryan Nomination in Acting and Excellence in Writing Award.

Dalen Surls works to help Amerigreen develop documentation and safety recommendation for its cardboard pallet machine.


Making Pallets

Selected for second place during the American Society for Engineering Education Midwest Section Conference, Osman Martinez presented his poster entitled “Motor Drive Design for a Battery Electric Vehicle.”


Students intern with Amerigreen

Asked to serve on the Arkansas Early Learning Standards/Kindergarten Entry Assessment task force, Shelli Henehan, director of early childhood pre-school for the School of Education, is working with national early childhood education specialists in revising the Early Learning Standards, ensuring that they are research-based and cover the ages of birth to 5. The task force will review a kindergarten entry assessment.

MIKE KINDELLAN HIRED University of Arkansas - Fort Smith students to help him change the world one cardboard pallet at a time. Kindellan, the managing partner of the Missouri-based environmental company Amerigreen Worldwide, created a machine that manufactures cardboard pallets. With 30 years working for Tyson Foods, Kindellan found his biggest problem to be pallets. The wooden pallets weigh about 80 pounds versus a cardboard pallet that weighs 10 pounds. “They weighed too much, they hurt people and they also damaged products,” he said. The concept has the potential to transform the logistics industry, with cost-savings in the millions for companies. There was only one problem. The machine that created the pallets wasn’t functional and it didn’t have any drawings or documentation. Enter UAFS. The university’s leaders met with Amerigreen Worldwide and convinced company officials that UAFS had the resources to assist with the project, including several faculty members with industry experience. “They were a little leery at first. But we convinced them that we have the expertise and we have the background,” said Kerrie Taber, project manager for the venture and interim department head of the applied science and organizational leadership programs. Four students worked internships to create documentation and safety recommendations for the machine, which is currently housed in Fort Smith. Dalen Surls, ’11, and sophomore computer graphic technology major from Cedarville, values the chance to work in a real-world environment. “I will be doing a lot of things with the software that will help me in not only this experience but with future jobs too,” Surls said. “Machines like this are normally put on paper first then built, but this is the other way around. I’m doing something that not many people get to do and something that I enjoy at the same time.” —John Post

Awarded with the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education’s Outstanding Paper Award, Susan Simkowski and Bradley Wiggins, assistant professors of communications, presented the paper, “Convergence and Divergence: Accommodating Online Cross-Culture Communication Styles.” The research explored the cross-cultural collaboration of an online radio station. Students in separate locations used social media and online tools for the purposes of design, implementation, analysis and evaluation of an online radio station while in a mediated environment.

Elected to the BEST Robotics board of directors, Gail Fulenwider, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, will serve as a District One representative.

Selected as one of eight to attend the Faculty Policy Intensive, Patsy Cornelius, assistant professor of nursing, received the fully-funded national fellowship from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to explore issues of healthcare policy and nursing advocacy.


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S F A U f o mans




nts tude s e h t t mee w of t a fe You can e s e . an M AFS he Hum at U t n e on eo mor AFS pag . of U book Face

Megan Jordan, Rogers, Arkansas senior psychology major

After swinging in a friend’s hammock, Megan wanted one. Not being able to afford to buy one, she decided to make her own. In a thrift store, she found a heat-sealed window scarf, so she didn’t have to hem it. She watched Youtube videos to learn to tie knots. “It’s really relaxing. It gives you a different perspective to lay back and watch the sky, the squirrels and the trees.”


Chris Jeong, South Korea senior IT programming major



“What is the happiest moment of your life so far?” “It was yesterday. In South Korea you always count the number of days that you have dated your girlfriend, and yesterday was 1,000 for me.”

Cassandra Reed, Roland, Oklahoma sophomore applied science major


“I graduated third in my class. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of people being mad that I got better grades than them. The best part, though, was looking up at the stands and seeing my mom and how proud she was. I was the first one out of my family to graduate with honors and the first to stay in college for more than a few months. I’m the first generation to go to school and stay in school.”


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Lions On the Move While the majority of our alumni live in Arkansas, Lions may be found across the United States…and increasingly, the world. Remember to update your address with the Alumni Office when you move:























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Construction continues on the Windgate Art & Design building. While nine rooms have been named, opportunities still exist to help reach the $2.5 million fundraising goal. The endowment will fund art department programs. “It’s sensational that the VAB is the first facility on campus designed specifically for creating and exhibiting art and design,” said Don Lee, art department chair. “All the studios, workspaces and galleries will provide art students with the opportunity to create and exhibit quality work and prepare portfolios for a career and/or advanced study. The VAB is a major addition to UAFS in all ways.” To learn how you can participate in the campaign, contact the UAFS Foundation RACHEL PUTMAN

Rapert Receives Award

’81 Alumnus recognized for supporting university WARREN RAPERT RECEIVED the 2014 Diligence to Victory Award presented during the alumni reunion dinner as part of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith’s homecoming celebrations. Rapert, chief financial officer of Trans-Trade, a logistics company based in Dallas, was recognized for his work as an active alumnus. He graduated from Westark Community College with an Associate of Applied Science degree in 1981. He served as one of the eight original members of the Alumni Advisory 8

Council, created in 2011, and has helped develop the bylaws, guidelines and mission of the council. He also helped plan the first UAFS Dallas-Fort Worth alumni event in 2010. Rapert’s appreciation of UAFS and the importance of education was hard-learned, as he initially struggled with his classwork, not realizing the professors held high expectations of their students. “Unprepared, he floundered early on, quickly learning his professors were serious about providing a quality education. With new respect for the school and faculty, he repeated some courses, finishing the second time with As,” said his wife Shannon, ’82.

or visit The building will open in the fall.

All of Rapert’s immediate family members attended UAFS when it was Westark College, and he said, “They all got their start and intellectual curiosity beginnings at UAFS.” “I attribute the involvement of my church youth pastor, many prayers from family and friends and the availability of a good educational institution — now UAFS — in getting me off to the right start.” Rapert is a certified professional accountant and earned his master’s degree in business administration from Southern Methodist University, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Texas at Dallas. He began his career with the international accounting firm Ernst and Young before serving as an assistant vice president at American Airlines. Following that, he worked as a director of financial services at Nokia before joining Trans-Trade.

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Q 5 We asked five professors at UAFS the following ...

“Where do you like to travel and why?” Ragupathy Kannan, professor of biology


For the past five years, I have taken my biology majors to Belize, a delightful little tropical country in the Yucatan Peninsula south of Mexico. There is no better place to study tropical biology than Belize, given its proximity with the USA, its stable political situation and the fact that it is an English-speaking democracy. But above all, it teems with wildlife that can easily be seen. In the week we spend there, we do a variety of activities to foster interest in and enhance knowledge of tropical biology, like birding, canoeing, hiking Mayan ruins and snorkeling. Students come back with a passion for tropical biology after being immersed in a tropical paradise. And I get annually rejuvenated by the time spent in my most favorite field site.

Latisha Settlage, associate professor of economics


Almost every year since purchasing our RV trailer, our family has made Yellowstone National Park a part of our summer destination. Our favorite time is spent “unhooked” in Pebble Creek Campground, just inside Yellowstone’s northeast entrance. My daughters, now ages 7 and 13, enjoy splashing in the creek and hiking up the narrow canyon with my husband in search of its source. One afternoon a black bear made its way into the campground and explored the sites just behind where we were seated. The bear crossed the creek right where my daughters had been splashing and proceeded on up the canyon. It’s an experience that my daughters often recount to their friends. Argie Nichols, department head of computer graphic technology


I had the pleasure of conducting a 2011 Maymester trip to Peru. We toured the sights around Lima and Cusco, which included visiting Machu Picchu. We then mapped an ancient burial site of Huaca Pucllana near Lima. We provided up-to-date maps of the area by using high-end GIS/GPS equipment in conjunction with a ground penetrating radar. They had never had modern mapping equipment on the site, and we were the first to help them with updated maps. At the site, workers had previously found mummies from the Wari culture. We were able to see the workers start unwrapping the 1,200-yearold baby. It made us all stop and think about our lives and what we can do differently to make the world a better place for all to live.

Pam Blesch, Douglas O. Smith Jr. Endowed Professor of Nursing


What a privilege it has been to care for those in need around the world during my nursing career. Since I was in college, I have been involved in ministry opportunities that immersed me in other cultures and allowed me to see the need for health-related services. The thrill of being used to provide care and share love with others has left a lifelong impression. In my teaching experience, I have taken students to other countries. Sharing the differences in food, transportation, housing and language with nursing students has been a highlight of my career. Seeing how their lives were changed as they reached out and provided a loving touch, gentle smile or a cup of water confirmed that all I had treasured had been passed on to my students. There is nothing that can take the place of the endless stories by nursing students whose worldviews have just been expanded. Stephen Husarik, professor of humanities and music history


I have traveled from Egypt to Hadrian’s Wall, from Beijing to St. Petersburg. I travel specifically for what I need to know for my courses and for my research. My favorite trip came in 2007 when I spent a month zigzagging across China after being invited to give a paper on Beethoven in Beijing. I sent pictures back to students of the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta warriors in Xian and the ghost town of Fengdu on the Yangtze River. At the Summer Palace, I climbed the hillside with pilgrims, true believers, to the Buddhist Temple of Heavenly Aspirations. I felt so close to the Chinese culture at that point. The students taking the humanities class that summer produced a PowerPoint tour of China using my photos and video. More than 200 people attended their presentation.


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Knowledge Base


Tony Pearn teaches a criminal justice class.

Going to Extremes

Criminal justice professor explores extremism IN TONY PEARN’S CLASS on extremism, one fact above others seems to stun students. “When we cover this in class, they’re amazed that the KKK (Klu Klux Klan) is still around,” said the criminal justice instructor. And not just the KKK, but many other groups that fall under the extremist or hate group label. “It’s kind of an eye opener,” he said. “Most people live in a sheltered world, if you’re not around law enforcement. Arkansas is actually a hot bed for white supremacy groups. We like to pretend they don’t exist.” The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies 24 active groups, ranging from white supremacists to black separatists and general hate groups in Arkansas. Making the students aware of the reality around them is one part of the class that helps prepare those headed toward careers in criminal justice. “I think it helps educate both sectors as to the gravity of the actual threats,” Pearn said. “This, in turn, helps everyone be more aware, especially for the law enforcement 10

In a class immediately after the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, Pearn suggested the class create a profile of the potential bombers as they had just finished studying about radicalization. They started out with deciding it involved one to three people and went on to draft a profile. By the next time the class met, police had killed one of the alleged bombers and arrested his brother. “It was dead accurate,” Pearn said, which astonished the class members. But such knowledge helps people to be aware of those around them and to report suspicious activity to police. “If you see a tattoo of a shamrock, you’d think that person is Irish. Maybe. It’s also a sign of white supremacy,” he said. “You don’t want to be paranoid and look at every person with a shaved head as a white supremacist or a Muslim as a terrorist. But there have been a lot of cases where someone noticed something and reported it.” Pearn acknowledged that 90 percent of suspicious activity reports to police turn out to be nothing. But the remaining 10 percent can save lives. “What we teach in intelligence is we tell everyone that it is better to be safe than sorry. If it looks suspicious, it probably is. It gets your attention for a reason, something is not normal,” he said. To discover more information about groups and hate crimes, Pearn suggests reading publications by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization compiles cases reported throughout the United States. Pearn also suggested becoming involved in different community groups across ethnicities and religious groups. “Most community groups are very insulated,” he said. “It’s the nature of people to gravitate to people like yourself. But being open to others unlike yourself, with different cultural or religious beliefs, is a way to combat extremism.”

officer, but it also translates to the public-atlarge also.” With a 20-year career in law enforcement, Pearn understands the awareness the job requires. He worked as a patrol officer, oversaw training of agents for the National Nuclear Security Administration, taught close-quarter defensive tactics to air marshals and worked at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. In the class on extremism, Pearn teaches students about radicalization — the process by which an individual adopts extreme religious, political or social ideals — and how it happens. “Radicalization, if it’s not happening in prison, it happens in small groups at churches and mosques because it’s so isolated,” he said. In that isolation, distrust grows of others seen as outsiders alongside gathering closeness to those of similar beliefs. While individuals take different paths to radicalization and not every radicalized person partakes in violence, occasionally it erupts.

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Jennifer Jamison, Assistant Professor of Chemistry/Motivated



henever Jennifer Jamison feels that she can’t do something, she uses that feeling to motivate herself to accomplish it. That’s partially how she found herself teaching as an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. Now she’s motivated to help change children’s perception of science. Each year Jamison works with Dave McGinnis, assistant professor of chemistry, and Jennifer Jennings-Davis, director of the Education Renewal Zone, to engage local third and fourth grade students through the Festival of Science. In 2014, the event’s third year, almost 100 children panned for gold, created paper helicopters and extracted strawberry DNA. They also looked at microbes and created bubbles out of carbon dioxide and dish detergent. By exciting the children with fun, hands-on experiments, Jamison hopes they will stay engaged in learning science. “The disparity between the U.S. and foreign countries happens really early around the fourth grade,” she said. In 2012, the latest results from the Program for International Assessment showed 22 countries scored above the United States in science scores. By making the Festival of Science pure fun, Jamison hopes the children will continue to pursue studying it. During the summer of 2014, Jamison and Sabrina Gomez, instructor of electronics technology, aimed to inspire junior high girls with the Go Green Academy. The Arkansas Science and Technology Authority funded the weeklong camp with a $30,000 grant. Girls spent half of their days learning about and building solar cell circuitry and the other half creating biofuels from vegetable oil and building nanoparticles. Before the camp, Jamison said the girls were not excited about science. By the end, all of the girls could picture themselves working in science. The girls, with visits from UAFS female scientists, learned that not all scientists look and act like characters from the television show “The Big Bang Theory.” “You can have a pretty face and know a lot about popular culture like Penny and still have a brilliant scientific mind like Sheldon,” Jamison said. But Jamison knows how the girls felt. As a

student, science intimidated her. She couldn’t imagine herself mastering any part of it. But when faced with a challenge, she rises to conquer it. She earned a doctorate in chemistry, researching nanotechnology. During her freshman year in college a professor encouraged her to continue her scientific studies into graduate school. Others continued to encourage her. “They saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself,” she said. Now she’s trying to open the eyes of her UAFS students and children in the Fort Smith area.

They saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself.


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Sense of Place





Athletic Training Room: Protectors


healthy as possible,” he said. “Our job is to protect them.” When injuries do occur, O’Connor and Kelby Chambers, assistant athletic trainer, work as first responders. They evaluate injuries and determine the necessary treatment and rehabilitation. They determine if the athlete needs to go to the emergency room or schedule a doctor’s visit with one of the care providers or if the injury can be treated on site. To protect athletes from injuries and to help them heal, O’Connor and Chambers turn to the equipment that lines the athletic training room.


IN A ROOM UNDER THE STUBBLEFIELD CENTER court, two athletic trainers work to keep the 150 University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s student-athletes playing at optimal levels in 10 sports. For Brian O’Connor, director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer, that means working to prevent injuries and then caring for the athletes when those injuries occur. That work includes ensuring the athletes get the proper nutrition as well as strength training and conditioning. “We’re here for the athletes. We try to make them as BELL TOWER spring/summer 2015

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1. Swiss and medicine balls are part of the equipment the athletic trainers use to help build strength, increase flexibility and improve body position awareness. This equipment is used to both help prevent injuries and to rehabilitate existing injuries. When providing rehabilitation, O’Connor said they can do most of what is required at the university. 2. Every member of the men’s basketball team, as well as many of the other athletes, has sat on the taping table. Coach Josh Newman has the men’s team members get their ankles taped before practices and games to reduce ankle sprains. O’Connor estimates that it takes about 30 minutes to tape the 13 players. 3. An arm bike provides a gentle cycling motion for athletes, especially baseball players, to warm up the shoulders, chest and, of course, arms before stretching or practices. The active motion helps provide a better overall warm up for the body.

4. A hydrocollator unit heats packs that provide therapeutic heat. The heated packs, wrapped in towels, warm a player’s muscle tissue, which can ease stiffness. “The athlete will get one and put it on their leg or knee,” O’Connor said. “It helps them warm up prior to practice or treatment.” 5. Electrical stimulation and ultrasound machines also help the athletic trainers work on athletes, who lie on the treatment tables. The machines can loosen up muscles and break up scar tissue before they provide treatment to the injured areas. 6. An adjusting table lets the teams’ chiropractor, Dr. Kyle Jarnigan, manipulate athletes’ bodies before practices or, sometimes even, during games. “It’s a way for him to help our athletes by being able to do his work onsite in the athletic training room,” O’Connor said.


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Lions Lowdown


Super Moments


CALL IT A SEASON of firsts with an accent of orange. The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith volleyball team journeyed to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II national championships. The Lady Lions had been on a 15-match winning streak until losing to University of Tampa, the eventual national champions. “It was an amazing run that this group of players and coaches can be forever proud of,” said Jane Sargent, head The lucky orange scarf worn by Coach Sargent volleyball coach. throughout the year iies wrapped around the While the team Lady Lion’s NCAA trophy. proudly wears blue, this Sargent accented her coachyear orange featured in a good luck charm. ing outfits with the orange scarf In late October, the team visited Lubbock, for the rest of the season, through the conTexas, to play Lubbock Christian Univerference and regional tournaments and for sity. The team stopped at a shopping center the final match against Tampa. where Sargent spotted a jacket in her favorThe team finished with an overall record ite color of orange. It happened to match a of 29-5, including capturing the Heartland scarf she owned so she bought it. Then she Conference championship. The American wore it for the match. Volleyball Coaches Association selected “We played our best match of the year, senior outside hitter Michelle Walker of so that’s when I knew that color was going Sugarland, Texas, as a Second Team Allto be lucky for us,” she said.

Lady Lions Make First Post Season Appearance THE UAFS LADY LIONS EARNED an inaugural appearance and victory in the basketball NCAA Division II National Tournament after winning the 2015 Heartland Conference. UAFS defeated the University of Colorado - Mesa in the first round of the tournament before falling to West Texas A&M University in the second round. UAFS (21-9) was the only Heartland Conference team to qualify for the national tournament. The Lady Lions earned a share of the regular-season title. It was the Lady Lions’ first conference tournament title in two championship game appearances. “Every morning after practice our kids break the huddle by saying ‘together,’ and that’s what it took to win a championship,” Head Coach Louis Whorton said.


American and senior middle hitter Jessica Anderson of Columbus, Kansas, as an Honorable Mention All-American. Along the way, the team set some records. It was the first UAFS team to win a match at the regional tournament and to win a regional title. It was the first team in Heartland Conference history to reach the Final Four. It was the first time in NCAA history for a team to go from never winning a national

tournament match to reaching the Final Four. Sargent described the success as a total team effort, from the coaching staff to the players. “If one person had a bad game, then two others played their best game of the season. It’s like everyone had each other’s back and we were committed to not letting our teammates down,” she said. “We didn’t just have one super star; we had a team of super moments.” Now the team is preparing for the next season. The majority of the defensive players and setters will return for the 2015-16 season, but the team will lose Walker, Anderson and senior Shakendra Mumphrey of Tyler, Texas, as hitters. “Right now we are working hard to bring in talented student-athletes who will buy into our coaching philosophies and fit in well with our team,” Sargent said.

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Wanda Srygley, with Athletic Director Dustin Smith, speaks to the gathered audience after the basketball team unveiled letters naming the room for her and her late husband. (inset) Srygley hugs members of the UAFS Lions basketball team before the ceremony.

WANDA SRYGLEY AND her crew of workers prepare the tenderloins, chicken spaghetti, potato casserole, chocolate cake, fresh fruit and more. But the one thing she always makes herself are green beans, which she covers in brown sugar and bacon. “The first time I met her was at an annual dinner where she makes the only green beans I ever eat,” said Djordje Stojanovic, ’13, a former center for the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Lions’ basketball team. “The green beans are the cheapest thing I make and its what they all love,” Srygley said. “I wonder if I didn’t bring them if they would still like me?” It would seem they would. During a ceremony in her honor members of the men’s basketball team lined up to lean way down and envelope her petite frame in hugs and to kiss her cheek. “I love them all and they know it,” Srygley said. In December, UAFS named the Stubblefield Center hospitality room, in which she serves many of those meals, the Bill and “Miss” Wanda Srygley Room. “She opens her home, she opens her heart to our kids,” said Dustin Smith, UAFS

athletic director. “This is a small way that we can repay her.” During a luncheon in her honor, Srygley said, “I appreciate this, but in my heart I don’t know why you’re doing it.” “Miss Wanda,” as the athletes call her, attends nearly every home game, has endowed scholarships and is nearly as famous for her green beans as she is for the hats always found perched atop her head. “It didn’t matter if we were playing the best team in the league or the worst team in


For Love and Green Beans

other team gets the ball.” Srygley’s devotion to the Lions will soon show up on the racetrack. She has named three of her horses for the university. The first, UAFSLions, injured her leg and became a brood mare who gave birth to LionOnTheLoose, who is now in training and is expected to run in 2015. The latest to join the UAFS family is LouisTheLion after women’s basketball coach Louis Whorton, who earned his 600th win in 2014. “Win, lose or draw, she always shows the way to do things,” Whorton said. “She’s just a classy lady.” Srygley didn’t set out to serve all of the athletes a meal. During the university’s junior college days, she noticed the cheerleaders working hard during the games. So she gave the cheer coach money to take the girls to dinner. “That kind of started it,” she said. “I looked around and all these kids work

“She opens her home, she opens

her heart to our kids.

the league, I could always look left and see that hat,” Stojanovic said. Srygley began attending Westark Community College basketball games with her husband Bill and continued to attend even after his death in 1989. Now she attends other teams’ games as well. “I still don’t know the rules,” she said about volleyball. “I get upset when I think they’ve done something wonderful and the

—Dustin Smith

hard. What do they get for it? Nothing. So I thought, I’ll feed them.” Since before Westark became UAFS in 2002, she has scheduled dinners in the fall for the students. “It is a home-cooked meal and a chance for them to interact with Miss Wanda,” Smith said. “She loves the chance to visit with our kids and to tell them she appreciates and loves them.” UAFS BELL TOWER

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t o


 the BEAUTIFUL ORDINARY  FLOWING PAST FIELDS AND FACTORIES and homes, Interstate 40 unspools, a 2,500-mile coast-to-coast concrete ribbon of lives dreamed and real. On this highway, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith alumni – travelers all – journey to the east, to the west, to the promise of tomorrow. These are the stories of a few who craft the beautiful ordinary along the 460-mile road from Memphis to Oklahoma City. They teach. They learn. They create. They live. UAFS BELL TOWER

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Brennan & Elizabeth Will, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


s Brennan Will, ’10, walked down the stairs of the Sebastian Commons, he didn’t know a chance meeting with a girl headed up the same steps would alter his life. For Elizabeth Will, ’10, the stairs were the spot where she first “saw his cute face.” A mutual friend who was with Elizabeth introduced them. It didn’t prove long before Elizabeth asked Brennan to take her to play putt-putt. Brennan

agreed, but then the shy man thought about canceling. His friends encouraged him to go that June 16, 2007. The couple wed on Dec. 15, 2007, one day before their sixmonth mark and one day after finals. “We both knew after the first date that we were going to get married,” Elizabeth said. Family and friends tried to convince them to wait until they finished college, saying

they would only quit school. But the married couple remained in school and kept their scholarships as both pursued degrees in middle school education with an emphasis in math and science. They shared books. Studied together. Persevered. Brennan graduated in May 2010. Elizabeth finished in December 2010 – her student teaching delayed a semester due to the birth of their firstborn son, Braeden. She gradu-

ated on their third anniversary. Under the Arkansas STAR program, Brennan needed to find a teaching position in Arkansas to have his student loans forgiven. He drove to interviews at schools in Malvern, Booneville, Rogers, Texarkana, and more. He never received the call offering him a position. “Every door was closed,” he said. “We’d been praying for a long time for God to show us where to go.”



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Alley (Reid) Meredith, Memphis, Tennesee

The answer came through then-UAFS professor Gabriel Matney. He recommended Brennan for a position teaching geometry at a charter high school in Oklahoma City. Days after the phone interview, Brennan received a call offering him the position. The family moved 177 miles west to start anew. Now Brennan teaches six sections of that subject to more than 140 students at the yearround school. “I enjoy giving people information to help them better themselves in some way to have a better life,” he said. Elizabeth works with their children, home schooling and caring for them. Braeden, now 5, has been joined by James, Grace and Hannah born Jan. 1. “I’m really blessed that he’s so good at budgeting,” Elizabeth said of Brennan. The couple has also cared for numerous foster children – a set of three older siblings for nine months, an infant boy for more than a year and others for shorter periods, including just one night. Oklahoma, Brennan said, has 12,000 children in its foster system. “A large percentage of them live in a shelter because there are not enough homes,” he said. For the couple, Oklahoma City is home now. “It happened really fast for us,” Elizabeth said. “We had such a sense of purpose and knew this is where we were supposed to be.”


lley (Reid) Meredith, ’12, watched as the optometrist leaned forward to peer past the iris, the cornea and the pupil to the tiny blood vessels that run like canals in the back of the young boy’s eyes. The boy’s general practitioner had referred the boy to the eye doctor in Hot Springs, Arkansas, because he suffered from an unknown illness that had a symptom of blurry vision. Meredith watched the optometrist, whom she was shadowing, sit back and tell the boy’s mother that he needed to be put on insulin immediately. The boy had Type 1 diabetes. Meredith knew in that instant that she had found the career for her. “The smallest blood vessels are in the back of the eye. That’s where diseases show up first,” she said. Plus poor eyesight is a problem she knows well. “I can’t see anything unless I have lenses to help me,” she said of her myopia, measured at 20/200 in both eyes. It was a career that the previous studio art major hadn’t imagined. After a biology class with UAFS Professor Ragupathy Kannan, he suggested that she should become a doctor. “He was probably my biggest influence besides the experience in Hot Springs,” she said. During Meredith’s sophomore year, she switched her major to biology. On a snowy February morning in 2012, the day after she interviewed for a place at Southern College of Optometry, she awoke to the news of a snow day at UAFS. Then her day became even better when her phone rang and she saw the Memphis area code of 901. The call informed her that she had been selected to attend the professional school in Memphis. In fall 2012, she started at the optometry school, where she found that her classes at UAFS had prepared her well. “That first year I didn’t have much of a life,” she said. “I really wanted to prove myself.” Now in her third year, she has done just that. Meredith has a special passion for helping those with low vision, an impairment that cannot be corrected by lenses. Instead they need help with highpowered telescopes and microscopes, occupational therapy or encouragement. Meredith and her husband, Winn, whom she married on Aug. 24, 2014, plan to eventually settle in Arkansas. But first, in March, she must take her medical board examinations. Then she and her husband have three four-month externships. She looks back to Kannan’s encouragement that started her on the journey. And she recalls the words of UAFS biology professor Davis Pritchett, who told her, “You can do it, you can.” And so she does. UAFS BELL TOWER

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FINDING HER NICHE Shawn Cozzens, Maumelle, Arkansas


hawn Cozzens, ’90, didn’t begin college with a future decided. “I wasn’t one of those people who knew what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she said. After graduating from Van Buren High School, she started at Westark Community College trying to figure that out. While she studied for her classes and served as an ambassador with the Pride of Westark, she made many

lifelong friends. After one year at the then-junior college, she transferred to the University of Central Arkansas. She worked two jobs to pay for college. She pledged a sorority. She volunteered with different organizations. And she still wondered what she should do. First, she thought about education because she came from a family of educators. But in her volunteering, she didn’t find it a good fit for her.

“I’m not a teacher,” she said. “It didn’t bring me joy.” Finally, because of the many biology classes she had taken, she decided on a degree in health. That degree required her to do worksite shadowing at a hospital. “I had found my niche.” After graduating from UCA, she attended the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences for a one-year program in nuclear medicine. In that field, which is part of radiology, she performs

brain scans, bone scans, scans of internal organs and more. “I have loved getting up and going to work every single day.” Cozzens has spent her career working at hospitals and health centers, including managing an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) center where she performed scans when needed as well as handling the marketing. She also earned a master’s degree in public health from Tulane University in partnership with Johns Hopkins University. Now she works at the UAMS Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy. There, she runs PET (positron emission tomography) and CT (computed tomography) scans by injecting tracers that seek out cancer. She also has started her own company, Genomics and Personalized Health. The company works with doctors who want patients genetically tested in pain, cardiac and depression to better tailor their treatments. “I love startups,” she said. “I love challenges.” Along with working the two jobs, she has a third, as mother to Ethan, 16, and Brodie, 6. “They are just the loves of my life,” she said.


Hannah (Cross) Osborne, Conway, Arkansas


annah (Cross) Osborne, ’08, had one question for the interviewer who asked her if she wanted to sell servers. “What’s a server?” she said. On her first day of training with Hewlett-Packard, Osborne indeed learned about computer servers, and much more. “The first six weeks, I didn’t really talk to anyone,” she said. “I was trying to soak in the information.” She absorbed it just fine. While working in sales, Osborne


nabbed honors as the number one inside sales representative for several quarters. She also was named Most Valuable Player in her first full quarter on the floor. But Osborne knew she wanted to do more than sales. She began to work her way into management at Hewlett-Packard. Now, she’s the human resources information technology manager, directly overseeing a team of 20 and indirectly managing (continued on page 22)

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Peter Cullum, Sallisaw, Oklahoma


hen Peter Cullum, ’94 and ’14, considers his traditionalist landscape painting style, he thinks back to his childhood – and the road he’s traveled since. Raised in Hanson, Oklahoma, just outside of Sallisaw, he, his brother and cousins spent days outside exploring the creeks and woods around their rural community. “It was not so much a community as living in a giant extended family,” he said. “It was full of Cullums, lousy with them.” Cullum left that enclave after graduating from Hanson’s Central High School in 1992. He knew he wanted to pursue art. At Westark Community College, he met with Don Lee, the head of the art program and the first to criticize his work. “It convinced me that here’s a place that would challenge me,” he said. “That was the tough love I needed. Fortunately, I knew I needed it.” At the time, Cullum imagined a future working as an animator. But his plans began to shift as he studied figure drawing, printmaking and painting. He learned to see objects as shapes. He took control of colors and forms. And he locked into a tradition that traces its history to cave walls. “I fell in love with the whole thing – the smell of the paint, the click of the knife on the palette mixing paint, the smell of linseed oil,” he said. After graduating from Westark, he enrolled at the

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, a decision he initially found exciting and terrifying. “I knew they were giving me good information here, but I was afraid that I would show up in Philadelphia and be leagues behind and have to catch up,” he said. “It was exactly the opposite.” For four years, Cullum immersed himself in a world fanatically focused on art. But his part-time work in the institute’s museum showed him other job possibilities in the arts, regardless of his painting career’s success. “When you’re young you think your art will change the world and if it doesn’t, you think you’ve failed,” he said. After completing his certificate in painting, Cullum’s computer experience led to a position with the institute designing advertisements, signs and websites. Yet, he felt the pull of home and his painting. In 2001, he returned to Sallisaw, where he’s lived since. He spent a year focusing on his painting, transitioning from a pop art style to traditional landscapes. “I don’t know if it was growing up in the country, running around Hanson Hill, the colors and the light,” he said. All he knows is landscape painting pulled him into it. He also began teaching art at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith at the Western Arkansas Technical Center and as an adjunct instructor. That led to him working as a graphic designer for the university. But. “I’d really caught the bug of teaching,” he said. In the fall, he’ll enroll in a master of fine arts program to study painting. “As I would tell my students, when you major in art, you minor in adventure,” he said.


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a group of 50. “I had the foundational knowledge and support to be able to do it,” Osborne said. “UAFS continues to be a source of knowledge and networking for me.” Originally from Sheridan, Arkansas, Osborne had first enrolled at another university as a music major. When she found herself pregnant with her daughter, Haleigh, she moved to Fort Smith for help from her father. She enrolled at UAFS and changed her major to business. “I had a family now and I couldn’t support her with music,” Osborne said. Osborne joined Phi Beta Lambda, a business student organization, and received experience in management, marketing and sales. “It’s what really expanded my growth in business,” she said. It also gave her the opportunity to compete nationally. At that level, she won awards in the categories of partnership with businesses, community service project and business plan. A UAFS class trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, has continued to pay dividends for Osborne as a professional. “Since Hewlett-Packard is a global company, it really prepared me for understanding different countries’ cultural expectations.”

After graduating from UAFS, she worked for J.B. Hunt. Then she saw the position advertised for Hewlett-Packard. “When you see a window of opportunity, jump through it, even if you aren’t confident about the result,” she said, “High risks return high rewards.” In the future, Osborne may pursue a Master of Business Administration and eventually wants to become a university professor. But for now, she’s enjoying being a mother and a newlywed after marrying Jason Osborne on Jan. 11, 2014. “I held out because I wanted a good dad for my blessing of a daughter,” she said. “I wanted to make sure we were in a good place first. Now, I’m in the best place of my life.”

WHERE SHE WANTS TO BE June Pham, Little Rock, Arkansas


or June Pham, ’14, life has come down to art and family. Five years ago what this native of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, knew about the United States came from watching movies and what her uncle told her about life in Fort Smith. That changed. While she had a degree in multimedia from a private university, friends and a job offer 22

in the city formerly known as Saigon, she wanted to see more of the world. In 2010, she stepped on a plane with her parents for 30 hours of traveling to a reunion with her uncle and cousins. Pham enrolled at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith with a major in graphic design. “Here they focus on training minds to create designs that have

more meaning,” she said. She knew she had found the right career path when a professor described the program as competitive with only the best advancing to the degree. “I thought it was awesome because we don’t have that competition in Vietnam.” Graphic design proved an apt fit for Pham. As an only child, she entertained herself by creating

stories and then drawing them. In high school, she decided to pursue her passion for art before she settled on a career in graphic design. “You get to do something meaningful for more people and you get paid to do what you love,” she said. She studied art alongside graphic design at UAFS. She combined the two during

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KEEPING HER VOW Jutta O’Neal, Forrest City, Arkansas

her junior year to create an opening sequence for “Edward Scissorhands,” her favorite film. That class project, which used stop motion animation, won a silver award in the national American Advertising Federation awards competition. “Professors pushed us to produce better ideas,” she said of her training in the program. “So many of my first sketches were thrown away.” Learning from the critiques and competitive classes helped Pham land first an internship, then a position with Stone Ward, one of Arkansas’ largest advertising agencies. In the Little Rock office, each day her job changes, from creating a logo to designing a website. But at night, she goes home to create her own art. Visitors to the Van Buren Center for Art and Education saw work by Pham and her cousin Xumi Pham, ’13, during a show in March. “The dream in my head is to sell my own art and make a living off of it,” she said. “If not, I’ll do it on the side. I love being a designer and the agency is the place where I want to be.”

Find more profiles on alumni beginning on page 28


ecades ago Jutta O’Neal, ’11, made a vow to herself. In 2011, she fulfilled it. Born and raised close to Hanau, Germany, she met an American soldier, John O’Neal, and married him in 1976. “I should have pursued my education a little better, but I didn’t,” she said. “My attention was diverted to my family.” In 1977, she and John moved from Germany to Delaware when John left the Army and began driving trucks. O’Neal also began an emotional journey that ended in 1981 when she took her oath to become a United States citizen during a ceremony in Philadelphia. “It’s always been an honor to be a citizen,” she said. “I didn’t give up my German citizenship lightly.” Then in 1999, the family, including a son and a daughter, moved to Forrest City, Arkansas, following her husband’s job south. Yet, through it all, O’Neal always remembered a long-ago vow. “I promised myself that I’d give myself the education that my mother expected of me,” she said. In 2006, she quit her office job with a trucking company and signed up for classes at Eastern Arkansas Community College. Two years later, she graduated with an associate degree. She learned that the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s distance education program would allow her to take classes via satellite from a classroom at the community college. She began her classes toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2008. Licensed as a commercial driver since 1981, O’Neal team-drove with her husband to make weekly deliveries of Boar’s Head products from Forrest City to Ohio and New York. She would work on her homework while waiting for the truck to be loaded and unloaded. At times, she thought about quitting. But her husband encouraged her. “If anyone can do it, you can. Keep going,” he said. So she did. “If you’re dedicated and don’t mind working on your own, that’s the way to go,” O’Neal said of the distance education program. When she attended the May 2011 graduation ceremony, it was the first time she stepped onto the UAFS campus. “My mom was very, very excited, very happy,” O’Neal said. “I guess mom hadn’t expected me to follow through.” Her business degree proved useful when in September 2013, O’Neal and her husband expanded their trucking company, O’Neal Transport, which they founded in 2007. They employ eight people, including themselves. O’Neal mainly works in the office handling paperwork for the business. “My classes have really helped,” she said. “I use it all the time.” Now she has three years to accomplish her next goal: earning her master’s degree by the time she’s 60. “Anything is possible as long you want it bad enough,” she said.


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Lana Bell watches as Channing Harris cleans the teeth of her mother, Amy Nelson, ’87


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WIDE OPEN by Jennifer Sicking

Channing Harris leaned over her patient, peering into the woman’s mouth. UAFS BELL TOWER

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Scritch, scritch. The sound of steel on teeth cut through the silence.



Lana Bell, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith dental hygiene instructor, stepped into the work area to watch the junior bent over her work. Bell offered suggestions such as switching the light to brighter and having Harris hold her hand at a different angle while applying more pressure. With the added pressure, the scritch deepened to scratch as Harris’ patient lay back with her mouth open. That patient took Harris, when she Channing Harris flosses the teeth of Amy Nelson, ‘87. was a child, to dental appointments, and so are overseen by professional dental hygienists. introduced her to her future career. It was “At first we’re really hovering, then we gradually pull natural to Amy Nelson, ’87, to volunteer to be her daughback,” Davidson said. “At the end, you’re watching them do ter’s first patient. what they’re supposed to do.” “I told her we’re making memories,” Nelson said. Senior Jessie Woerpel of Hot Springs, Arkansas, now Harris, of Van Buren, Arkansas, is a member of the requires little oversight in cleaning her patients’ teeth. 13-person cohort ushering in the dental hygiene program’s “It’s cool when you finish your first patient in one apmove to a bachelor’s degree. Students now must earn 120 pointment,” Woerpel said. “You think, ‘This is what the hours to graduate, up from the 88 credit hours for the real world will be like.’” associate degree. They must take statistics and textual But she remembers well the combination of nerves and research in addition to anatomy, microbiology, physiology excitement before she started cleaning her father’s teeth. and chemistry before applying to the program. A former athlete, she compared it to the feeling before a “Our students need to provide evidence-based care,” championship game. said Pam Davidson, executive director of dental hygiene. “It’s that moment where you’re so excited but you want “We want them to be able to write and do research.” to throw up at the same time,” she said. “It was a moment Once in the program – which only accepts up to 16 that I dreamt of since I was a weird little kid in the dental students from the 80 that apply – juniors learn about head office.” and neck anatomy, dental anatomy and teeth characterisWoerpel and Harris wanted to work with teeth since tics. They also learn how to clean teeth and under gums. they were children, both inspired by regular trips to the dentist. Woerpel celebrated her birthday when she was in the third grade with a visit to the dentist and then to the humane society to select a puppy. “It was the best day ever,” she said. In kindergarten, Harris declared she wanted to be a dentist. Through years of dentist visits, braces and dental They start out on dummy heads before moving on to other appliances, she changed her focus to become a dental students in the program. Then at the beginning of the hygienist. spring semester, the juniors see their first real patients, “When you’re a dental hygienist you can’t diagnose like whom they treat during three days with three hours per a dentist, but you can still help people,” Harris said. treatment. While some students see friends and family for As a second-semester junior, Harris and the others in their first patients, others treat patients from the comher cohort began to give that help to patients. On Nelson’s munity who schedule appointments at the low-cost UAFS first visit, Harris questioned her mother about her mediclinic. All of the patients receive care from students who BELL TOWER spring/summer 2015

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cal history, and checked her temperature and pulse before taking her blood pressure. She felt along her mother’s neck and jawline for abnormal bumps. Only then did she have her mother open her mouth to check for bumps on the mouth and tongue. Then she took a look at the hard and soft palates, throat and uvula since Nelson’s tonsils had been removed. Then she examined the gums. “Now, I’ll probe your whole mouth to check for pocket depths,” Harris said. “It’ll be fun.” “For who?” her mother replied. “For me,” Harris said as she put on her safety goggles with magnifying lenses and a light.

Jessie Woerpel prepares to clean a patient’s teeth.

By the time Harris, Woerpel and other dental hygiene students graduate they will have checked the gum pockets of at least 60 patients. Most of the students will have treated more than that. With each mouth opening wide, the students gain experience by helping people with a variety of medical and dental conditions as well as patients of all ages, from children to elderly, in the UAFS Dental Clinic. During

“It’s like learning to use chopsticks. You fumble around and then you can finally pick up sushi and it’s like, ‘I’ve got this.’”

the 2013-14 academic year, students saw almost 900 patients in the clinic. Patients will sometimes come in refusing to smile and covering their mouths with their hands because they’re embarrassed by their dental conditions, Woerpel said. “You help them feel better about themselves,” she said. “When they leave they’re smiling more.” With each patient, the students gain confidence in their abilities and know their equipment better. Instead of searching for the right tool, their hands gain sureness. “It’s like learning to use chopsticks,” Woerpel said. “You fumble around and then you can finally pick up sushi and it’s like, ‘I’ve got this.’” By graduation, students will have spoken to groups about good dental hygiene and worked in the Community Dental Clinic as part of community outreach. They will have presented research to dentists and dental hygienists. Through clinical experience, the skills grow sharper and the knowledge wider. Both are important as the students must pass a national written exam and a clinical exam to obtain certification. UAFS has a 100 percent pass rate on the written boards and an exceptional pass rate on the clinical board. “You need a quality student because it’s a hard program, a rigorous program,” said Davidson. When Harris was nearly finished scratching the calculus from her mother’s teeth, Bell returned to review her work. She showed Harris how to access hard-to-reach places and to better position the small mirror to see the work. “Use little tiny, tiny strokes,” Bell said. “Can you feel it? … Right there. …You got it.” “Oh,” Harris said as a flake popped free, to Nelson and Bell’s laughter. “Who knew that something so microscopic and minuscule could make you excited?” Soon Harris finished the mint-flavored polishing of her mother’s teeth. After being checked one more time by Bell and Dr. Stephen Rappeport, the clinic’s dentist, and the administering of a fluoride treatment, Harris finished her first patient’s care. “I’m glad I got to experience it with her,” Nelson said. “You were a great patient,” Harris said. That afternoon Harris began treating her next patient with a little more confidence in her work.

—Jesse Woerpel


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Alumni+Friends Connections I’VE ENJOYED MEETING SO MANY wonderful members of our alumni family at our Little Lions family events and during on campus student/alumni events, the Numa Awards and Scholarship Banquets, Homecoming and working with the members of our Alumni Advisory Council. It’s heartwarming to observe the interaction between you and your children at Little Lions events, hear stories of your time on campus and your hopes and dreams for your children. Along with our alumni staff members Nikki Cureton, Tyler Lamon, ‘11, and Kerstie Breeze, I’ve enjoyed meeting and helping those of you who have called or come by the office. This year we launched Numa’s Alumni Advisory Council Perks, our free phone app disRebecca Hurst ’00 count program. The app gives you – Chair discounts with more than 60 local Pam Rice ’70 – Secretary vendors. So far more than 1,500 Lap Bui ’93 – Chair Elect alumni, students, faculty and staff Karla Jacobs ’95 – Past Chair are saving money using the proConaly Bedell ’56 gram. If you haven’t joined yet, go Shawn Cozzens ‘90 to Elizabeth Echols ’87 We also have facilitated interacJennifer Enslow ‘91 tion between you and our students. Jimmie Lincks ’68 These contacts have come through: Jeremy May ’07 Student/alumni conferences Rick Rice Panel discussions Eric Smithson ‘09 Mentor Connections, our pilot mentor program launched this year. The advice and guidance you provide to students at these events rounds out the classroom education our outstanding faculty provides. You give our students an understanding of the transition from college life to the real world, which comes quicker than they realize, as well as an idea of what it takes to be successful in whatever career field they choose to enter. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for your time and efforts. We hope to offer more opportunities for involvement as we grow these programs in the coming years. As always, if you have suggestions or ideas on how we might better serve you, please send us an email at, call the office at 479-788-7920, or best of all drop by our office at Grand and Waldron. With Lion Pride,

• • •

R I C K G O I N S Director of Alumni Affairs


DROP US A LINE! Let us—and the people you went to school with—know what you’ve been up to! Please take a few minutes to sit down and tell us what’s been going on since your time at UAFS, Westark, or FSJC. Tell us about your job, your family, your hobbies, your adventures, your plans—whatever you want to share with other alumni. We love to get photos too, and we’ll happily run them in this section. Be sure to include your name (and your name while you were in school if it has changed since then) and the year you graduated or the years you attended. Email your class note to or mail it to Alumni Office, UAFS, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913.

1950s Neal Little, ’54, died June 17, 2014. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Celia Maria (Pola) Little, ’54, whom he met while playing with the Fort Smith Junior College’s softball team. He also is survived by five children and seven grandchildren. He served in the Korean War and was awarded a Bronze Star. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology and a doctor of education from the University of Arkansas. He had a 37-year career serving individuals with disabilities while employed by the Arkansas Rehabilitation Service and the University of Arkansas Research and Training Center.

1980s Jack James, ’81, has retired from public education and is now “living the life of no papers to grade or bells” ringing in his ears. His three sons attend UAFS, twins Jacob and Josh James are seniors while Caleb James is a freshman. Juanita Nave, ’88, spent one year working at Sparks Regional Medical Center after graduating as a registered nurse. She then moved to Lakeland, Florida, where she worked in many different nursing positions, including

as a traveling nurse. Since 1999 she has resided in Elizabethton, Tennessee. She is married and has one daughter. “Graduating with this degree really opened up a lot of doors in my life and I’m thankful and blessed for my time there. Thank you UAFS/ Westark. I’m proud to call myself an alumna!”

1990s Kendall Triplett, ’96, received five nominations for the 2015 Rhythm of Gospel Awards, one of the largest independent gospel awards in the nation, from his independent, debut album, “Lose Myself.” The nominations include for Urban Contemporary/Rock and Pop CD of the Year and Praise and Worship CD of the Year. The awards will be given out in July.

2000s Jeremy Nuckolls, ’07, and Melissa Boyt-Nuckolls, ’10, had a baby boy, Trent Isaac Nuckolls, on Sept. 23, 2014. Hanna Valli, ’09, successfully defended her doctorate dissertation in molecular genetics and (continued on page 32)

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A Perfect Fit Jaye Gasaway, ’09, found where he fit at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. “It had small classes and I never felt overwhelmed,” said the Huntington, Arkansas-native after moving to UAFS. In the move, Gasaway also changed his major from civil engineering to marketing. He found ways to get involved on campus. He participated in the Student Government Association as a senior class representative. He played trumpet in the jazz and concert bands. But while studying marketing, he took plenty of account-

ing classes, and in so doing prepared for his career. After graduating, he found a position with a firm in Fort Smith figuring accounts for small-to-medium sized corporate clients. But he discovered that area of public accounting wasn’t for him. He found his career with Pricewaterhouse Coopers working as an auditor. Now as a senior associate in the Little Rock office, he audits financial statements for Nokia Solutions and Networks, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Windstream Corporation. He examines the

companies’ financial statements to ensure they have accounted for their finances completely and accurately. He describes the eight-week auditing season that begins in January with one word: “busy!” The job also moved Gasaway, a certified public accountant since 2012, to Little Rock, which now has become his home. “It feels like a big Fort Smith,” he said. “It’s close enough to see my family, but it’s far enough away to have a different atmosphere.” An enjoyment of travel has

taken him most recently to Belize and New York City. Other travels have taken him to Peru, Canada and Puerto Rico. In each place, he has experienced new cultures and scenery, which have impacted him. “It puts everything in my life into perspective,” he said. Part of that perspective is to remain connected to UAFS, to continue the bond built during his years of study. “You want to be a part of its success and its future,” he said. “I really enjoy what I do and UAFS has allowed me to pursue my dreams.”

SPECIAL ALUMNI SURVEY CALLING ALL ALUMNI The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith Alumni Association is conducting a survey to determine the effectiveness of alumni communications and engagement with you.

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Complete the survey, and be entered into a drawing for one of three $50 Visa gift cards as our thanks for participating.


The results of this survey will be used only by the UAFS Alumni Association to improve programs and communications to alumni. Your input is highly valued and appreciated. Thank you!

Complete the survey online at: UAFS BELL TOWER

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Alumni+Friends LION FILE


Finding His Vision Growing up, Nate Lipe, ’13, knew he wanted to be a doctor. He just was unsure of the specialty. With his 20/400 vision due to myopia and a diagnosis of color blindness, he found himself having regular appointments with an optometrist. One day he realized that he and others didn’t dread appointments with the eye doctor. “People seem to like that person,” he said. And he found his future career. Since then he discovered that it’s been voted one of top 10 professions in the past several years. “So that’s a good start,” he said. At UAFS, the Cedarville High School graduate found an affordable tuition close to home. “I knew I was going to be a doctor of something so I needed to try to save money,” he said. He also found that his UAFS education prepared him well for his classes at the Southern College of Optometry. “They prepared me above and beyond what I expected. When I got here, I thought ‘Wow, I already know all of this.’ I go to school with kids who went to some of the best schools in the nation and I’m ahead of them,” he said.


Now in his second year studying at the professional school, he’s beginning to move the book knowledge to the practical by applying it to other humans. Lipe knows that he made the right decision in studying eyes and continues to find them interesting. “No one else has a clue how they work,” he said laughing. “If I wanted to wow someone with facts, I could toss out a hundred.” For example each of the retina’s 10 layers carries different information to the brain to assemble the image that the eyes transmit. It is the tenth layer, the furthest one back, which absorbs the light photon. After Lipe finishes school in two years and becomes a doctor of optometry, he plans to return to Fort Smith. While he would be open to buying the practice of a retiring optometrist, he would prefer to start his own business. He even has a vision of creating a clinic with multiple doctors of different specialties in one place to care for patients. “I could be my own boss and build it from the ground up so I can say that nobody did this but me,” he said.

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‘Better Things Ahead’

While teaching sociology in classrooms from Nebraska to New York to North Dakota, Cross was recruited to teach American Indian law and then to direct American Indian programs. He is a member of the Hvteyievlke Band of the Seminole Nation. In 1985, Cross returned to Oklahoma State University as the director of the American Indian Studies program and as a sociology professor. He retired in 2009. “If I hadn’t got that position at Tahlequah, I had considered going back to Fort Smith,” he said. “But that set me off on a different route.”


Taking Time to Return Four out of the past five years Larry Patten, ’77, has driven 10 hours from his home in Whitwell, Tennessee to come to a place he called home for only a few years in the 1970s. Patten graduated in 1977 from Westark Community College with an Associate of Applied Science and an Associate of Arts while studying auto mechanics. A self-described “Army brat,” his family moved regularly though he thinks of Kentucky as home. His journey to Westark began with hearing stories about the area from a friend during his own military stint in the Navy. After he was discharged, Patten came to Fort Smith and enrolled at the community college using his veteran’s benefits. Patten studied auto mechanics in the college’s garage, then located at the corner of Waldron Road and Kinkead Avenue, a location where the Lion’s Den student housing currently resides. He regularly made the dean’s list. “We had a good institution then too,” he said. After graduating and working for a few years in Fort Smith, Patten returned to Tennessee. He worked on his own repairing cars before becoming a deputy sheriff. Then he worked in construction. From 1986 until his retirement in January 2014, he worked in road construction. But since the advent of the UAFS Homecoming celebration, Patten has taken time to return to the campus where he worked for his education and his start. He enjoys seeing the changes with its growth as it has moved from a community college to a university with its expanded programs and new buildings. “They’re moving forward and progressing,” he said. “They’re giving more students the opportunity to go to school.” Patten usually brings his sister and stepdaughter with him to the event, enjoying the parade, tailgate, game and, usually, the alumni dinner. “If everything goes right, I’ll be back next year,” he said.


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At 148 pounds in high school, John Cross, ’62, found himself too small for the football field and, at 5 feet 8 inches, too short to play basketball. He found his sport in boxing. “It was just a fun sport to be involved in,” said Cross. “After I won a few championships, it was even more fun.” Cross fought with the Cushing, Oklahoma, Episcopal Athletic Club, beginning his junior year in high school. While in high school he racked up 15 wins, including 10 knockouts, with four losses. He won the Oklahoma Amateur Athletic Union Championship in 1959 and 1960. In the fall of 1960, he enrolled at Central State College (now the University of Central Oklahoma). Then a boxing scholarship from Fort Smith Junior College tempted him east. Cross competed with the Fort Smith Boys Club notching an additional 29 wins, with 19 knockouts, and four losses. He won the Open Welterweight Champion title from Mid-South Regional Golden Gloves in Memphis in 1961 and the Arkansas Amateur Athletic Union Championship in 1961 and 1962. While he had opportunities to turn professional, he recalled the warnings of his first coach that boxing promoters didn’t put the

interests of the boxer first. “I just thought I better get a college degree,” he said. “I saw better things ahead of me with a college degree.” Words of Cross’ mother also resounded within him. She told her children they would need more than a high school diploma for a good job. Of Cross and his eight siblings, seven would graduate college and three would attain their graduate degrees. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in sociology, he returned to Fort Smith to work as

the associate director of the Fort Smith Boys Club and managed the Jeffrey Boys Club. Since the junior college and the club shared gym space, Cross became friends with Bill Crowder, the basketball coach. Crowder encouraged Cross to earn his master’s degree. And encouraged him... and encouraged him. “After a period of time, I think he won out,” Cross said. Cross earned his master’s in sociology from the University of Tulsa then taught for a year at Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, before earning his doctorate from the University of Missouri.


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Alumni+Friends PARA.STYLE developmental biology at the “HEAD 1” University of Pittsburgh. The title (continued from page 28)

of her dissertation is “Preserving male fertility with spermatogonial stem cells.” She is working as a postdoctoral fellow. Shannan Walker, ’06, has taken a new position as human resources leader with Trane/Ingersoll Rand in Fort Smith.

2010s Ashley (Eubanks) Allee, ’10, runs her own freelance writing and tutoring service through her website and her four published books have sold in the


U.S. and Europe. She is working on two fiction novels expected to be self-published within the next six months. Her three children are doing well. The one that she was pregnant with when she walked across the graduation stage had her fourth birthday in October. Dana Anderson, ’13, began working for the State of Arkansas as parole and probation officer in December 2013. In December 2014, she received a promotion to parole and probation officer II. Melissa BoytNuckolls, ’10, and Jeremy Nuckolls, ’07, had a baby boy, Trent Isaac Nuckolls, on Sept. 23, 2014. Samantha Greene, ’13, was hired as a merchandising assistant

for after working in Sam’s Club of Fort Smith for seven years. She works with the buyer who handles tablets and mobile phones for the website. She was the Intern of the Year for the College of Business in 2013. Patricia Harmon, ’14, was recently hired as an internal auditor with JB Hunt after graduating in May 2014. “It was difficult to work and take care of my family all while carrying a full-time schedule at school, but that made it even more thrilling when I finally achieved my goals…I want to extend my gratitude to the faculty at UAFS for their continued support and guidance. In addition, to the other non-traditional students I want to encourage you to persevere. Your future awaits!” Stephanie Longley, ’12, has

accepted a financial analyst job with Baldor Electric in Fort Smith. Steven Minks, ’10, passed the Oklahoma Bar Exam and is currently practicing law in Poteau, Oklahoma. Nicole Pickett, ’11, passed her Certified Public Accountant exam and was promoted to plant accountant at Fort Smith’s Gerdau in November 2014. Josh Schumacher, ’14, took a position with Intel in Folsom, California, as an application developer after graduation. His main focus is on video and network engineering as he works with a small team to develop enterprise systems for 80,000-plus employees. Ryan Timmerman, ’14, was hired as a systems analyst with ArcBest Technologies in Fort Smith.

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[ BOXED IN ] The university’s third annual Box City raised awareness about homelessness. Students rented a space and a cardboard box for the night with food donations to Next Step Homeless Services in Fort Smith.

“It’s important

for students to connect what they’re learning in the classroom to the real living conditions of those less fortunate in Fort Smith.”


—Amy Sherrill, executive director, Next Step Homeless Services

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Bell Tower

UAFS Alumni Association P.O. Box 3649 Fort Smith, AR 72913


A Look Back As stated in the 1967 Numa yearbook, “It takes skill to find a quiet place for a quick hand of bridge.” Do you know these women or about bridge playing at Westark Junior College? If so, let us know and we’ll share in a future issue of the Bell Tower.


Do you have any photos or memories of your favorite spots on campus that may no longer be recognizable today? We’d love to share them in an upcoming issue. We’d also appreciate your thoughts about the magazine, responses to stories and ideas for future articles.

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Drop us a line at or Bell Tower Magazine, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913

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UAFS Bell Tower - Spring/Summer 2015  
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