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F A L L / W I N T E R 2 0 14

Bell Tower The Alumni Magazine of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

Standing in the


4 Worldly Visions / 14 For the Win / 22 The Heart Beats On / 29 Class Notes

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Retired Vice Chancellor for University Relations Mark Horn, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Mary Lackie, Chancellor Paul Beran, First Lady Janice Beran and Events Coordinator Susan Devero serve a late night breakfast to students during the spring semester’s finals week.


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by Kat Wilson, ’96

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volume 5, number 2


FROM THE CHANCELLOR The Spirit Remains the Same


GRAND + WALDRON university to build recreation and wellness facility | worldly visions | making a community | things they carried


SNAPSHOT Presentation at the Capitol








LIONS LOWDOWN for the win | new coaches hired | award earners


features 16

STANDING IN THE CROSSROADS Chris Cameron weighed the costs and benefits of pursuing the blues. Then he made his choice. by Jennifer Sicking


THE HEART BEATS ON As students and 2014 alumni tell their UAFS stories, one thing becomes clear: They love it for the same reasons that alumni from years past do.


ALUMNI + FRIENDS let Numa “perk” you up | class notes | she did it | a promise kept




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From the Chancellor

Bell Tower

Fall/Winter 2014 Volume 5, Number 2

The Spirit Remains the Same


The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

CHANCELLOR Paul B. Beran, Ph.D.

lumni — whether you graduated from UAFS, Westark or Fort Smith Junior College — you have much of which you can be proud. We are evolving into a premier regional university. As we take the final step to begin offering a master of science in healthcare administration in 2015, we are not forgetting our two-year roots. We continue to carry forward our tradition of caring for students and helping them succeed while maintaining and expanding our technical programs. This year we expect to hit an all-time high of 600 students in our Western Arkansas Technical Center. The center allows area high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn college credit and provides students with handson training in technical fields. In the following pages, you’ll see other physical signs of our transformation into a premier institution as we work toward completing our master plan. Construction is underway for our new Windgate School of Art and Design as are our efforts to raise $2.5 million of a matching grant for the building. Our students approved a new fee to pay for the construction of a new recreation and wellness center. You can read more about it on page 4. We should break ground on that construction in the spring. Another new project underway is an amphitheater being built between the Fullerton Administration Building and the Boreham Library. This new addition will seat 200 people and it will be used for pep rallies, small plays or concerts and even as an outdoor classroom. As you can tell, our campus is changing to meet the needs of our students, now and in the future. But even with the changes, you’ll find within these pages that the university carries on the spirit of all its ancestors. Read the features on the students and you’ll realize that they love many of the things that you loved when you attended here. Come back and see how we’re changing and how we remain the same.


Mary Bane Lackie, Ed.D.

CONTRIBUTORS Jennifer Sicking, John Post

PHOTOGRAPHERS Kevin Ledford, Jennifer Sicking, Kat Wilson


ADVISORY BOARD Dr. Paul B. Beran, Chancellor Dr. Georgia Hale, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs 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 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.


With Lion Pride,







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 –



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Fort Smith.

Contents ©2014 by the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.

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These official state license plates help you display your Lion Pride and show your support of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. The Lion Pride license plate also helps provide support for UAFS student scholarships. The cost is $35 per year above the cost of a current standard plate, and $25 of this goes to UAFS to help fund student scholarships. The $25 donation is tax-deductible and considered a charitable contribution.

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University to build recreation and wellness facility An artist’s rendering of the future recreation and wellness center

CONSTRUCTION ON A new recreation and wellness facility should break ground in the spring, with it opening to students by the fall of 2016. During the spring 2014 semester, UAFS students approved a $5-per-credit-hour fee to build the estimated $10 million facility. After a majority of the 1,600 students who voted in the special election approved the fee increase, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees unanimously backed the fee and project in March 2014. Annsley Garner, Student Government Association president, said the new center will benefit the students in numerous ways, mainly by putting student recreation at the forefront. “If you’ve spent any time on this campus, you know that our current fitness center is severely outdated and doesn’t meet the needs of the students,” she said. “The new facility will eliminate the competition for space between athletics, classes, intramurals and recreation.” 4

The facility will be built across Kinkead Avenue from the current fitness center. The site currently provides parking for the university. While still in the design phase through the summer and fall, the facility will give students access to two full-size basketball courts, a two-story rock climbing wall, three studio rooms of 3,300 square feet along with a 5,800-square-foot fitness area, an elevated three-lane walking track and open recreation space. “It will be great for recruitment and a really nice facility for students to recreate and to use,” said Meighan Pendergrass, director of campus recreation and wellness. The current fitness center opened in renovated space in 2006. Up to 550 students use the center each day, not including those there for physical education classes. “Within a few years after the renovation, the usage had already outgrown the space. The new facility will allow for future growth of the university,” Pendergrass said.

Out of a vacuum For 10 years, the Family Enterprise Center has helped multi-generational-owned businesses in the Fort Smith region to succeed. “Every family business tends to operate in a vacuum and they think their problems are unique,” said Dave Robertson, center director. “But there are commonalities and proven ways to handle those problems.” The idea for the center began in 2003 with a conversation between Fort Smith, Arkansas businessman Bill Hanna and a former dean of the College of Business. The first workshop was held in May of 2004. The center, through talks by experts and peer group meetings, helps family members understand that they’re not alone. That becomes increasingly important for economic development. Family firms make up two-thirds of all businesses around the world, according to the Harvard Business School. Those businesses produce up to 90 percent of the global gross domestic product, according to the Family Firm Institute. Yet, family businesses face three unique challenges: deciding on the next generation of leaders and preparing them; passing on the business while minimizing estate taxes; and working through conflict. “What we do is try to help take some of the drama out of the discussion by providing a safe and supportive environment,” Robertson said. More than 40 family-owned businesses seek help from the center, which holds semiannual workshops and monthly luncheons. “The real key is communication,” Robertson said. Information on the Family Enterprise Center may be found at or by contacting Dave Robertson at

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points of pride Students and staff remove brush on trails and pick up trash around the pond at the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center.

Selected for the National Flute Choir, Kaitlin Jones, sophomore, qualified to participate in the national convention in Chicago. She was the only UAFS student who participated in this year’s competition.

Making a Community Lion Community Outreach Day allows students to give back CONNECTING WITH UAFS and the Fort Smith community led more than 100 students to volunteer to sort food, paint walls, clear brush and pick up trash as part of Lion Community Outreach Day. And all those hours of community service helped organizations that needed it. Ted Clemons with the River Valley Regional Food Bank said the students painting walls and doors, washing refrigerator units and sorting food all helped the organization prepare for an upcoming inspection. But, he saw it as doing more. “It’s instilling in these kids to volunteer not just now, but later on in life,” he said. “They could have been many other places than here getting dirty.” Getting flecked with paint allowed sophomore digital design major Brooke Slaton of Charleston, Arkansas, to participate in Fort Smith life. “It allows me to give back and to see what makes a community,” she said.

for damaged food at the River Valley Regional Food Bank.

Presented with an award for teaching mathematics, Jill Guerra, professor, received the recognition for her teaching effectiveness that influenced others beyond UAFS. She received the Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics from the Mathematical Association of America, Oklahoma-Arkansas Section. Lauded with 22 awards and recognitions, 17 members of Phi Beta Lambda dominated the Arkansas PBL State Leadership Conference. Eleven members qualified to represent UAFS at the PBL National Leadership Conference, where four placed in the top 10 in subjects including international business, cost accounting, and financial analysis and decision making.



Students check

Awarded top prizes during the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Region VI Festival, student Lee Hartsock won the Meritorious Achievement in Lighting Design for his work on the production “Women of Manhattan” while Pablo Guerra-Monje, associate professor of theater, received the American Association of Theatre in Higher Education’s Regional Award for Innovative Teaching. Also students Erin Decker and Cory Wray advanced to the semifinal round of the regional Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition, performing pieces from the plays “Gruesome Playground Injuries” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Awarded with 33 medals, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith students and Western Arkansas Technical Center students brought home a multitude of awards, including 24 golds, from the 2014 Arkansas SkillsUSA Championships. The gold medal winners represented Arkansas during the national conference in June. Asked to display her food photography at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Kat Wilson, ’96, adjunct professor and staff photographer, also spoke about the challenges of the art form in July. After her talk, she accompanied those attending to the museum’s restaurant where she offered tips on lighting and presentation with food displays. Selected for awards at the CASE District IV Accolades competition, Laura Wattles, graphic designer, won a bronze award for

(continued on page 7)


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Isaiah Schoeppey


Paige Lively

Tavin Nguyen

Things They Carried



MOVING INTO A residence hall room shared with another person means a culling of personal items students bring with them to campus. Three freshman share what they couldn’t leave behind. Isaiah Schoeppey, a biology major from Lavaca, Arkansas, needs his morning coffee and likes the individual brew from the Keurig. After negotiating with his mother and the timely purchase of a second Keurig by his grandmother, he brought one to campus. “Normally, I just need a cup in the morning and I’ll be fine.” Paige Lively, an animation technology major from Fort Smith, Arkansas, brought her stuffed animal, a hedgehog, named Mr. Toomi after a character in Stephen King’s novella, “Langoliers.” “It was a gift from my Mamaw before she died,” Lively said. Tavin Nguyen, a chemistry major from Fort Smith, Arkansas, couldn’t leave his skateboard behind when he moved into the Lion’s Den. “It’s a big hobby of mine, and it’s the way I’ll get around campus,” he said.

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(continued from page 5) her viewbook design and Carl Hulsey, ’08, graphic designer, won a bronze for the design of the UAFS mobile app. The marketing department also won awards at the American Advertising Federation District 10 competition. Hulsey won a bronze for the UAFS Zombie Shirt design.


Invited to show two paintings, Charles K. Steiner, adjunct faculty in the studio art department, displayed “Fort Smith Study #7” in the 56th Annual Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock and “Smoke and Ash #2” in the 66th Annual River Valley Invitational at RAM in Fort Smith, Arkansas.


Nursing (BSN) 438

Business Administration 395

Early Childhood Education Biology


Criminal Justice



Health Sciences Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

1,072 1,005

Humanities & Social Sciences 928

Education 815



Applied Science & Technology


Languages & Communication 647

Selected for top awards, actors and actresses in the Academy of the Arts show “Shrek” received attention from the National Youth Arts. Cameron Law was selected as Lead Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Donkey while Lindsay Vickery was selected as Lead Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Fiona. Others receiving nominations were: Cody Walls for Lead Actor in a Musical for playing Shrek, Blake Bulger as a Supporting Actor in a Musical for Farquaad, Kelsey Vickery for Featured Actress in a Musical for Dragon and for Outstanding Ensemble.


General Studies

What started as a class project ended with national recognition when Brooke Cagle, ’14, received a silver National Student ADDY Award for a board game she designed. Hipstafy, a parodic hipster board game Cagle created in her package design class, won gold awards at the local and regional ADDY Awards ceremonies before moving on to the national competition. Cagle is just the third UAFS student to win an ADDY award at the national level.

Asked to write monographs on three neotropical birds for Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s Neotropical Birds Website, Ragupathy Kannan, professor of biological sciences, will cover the Montezuma oropendola, the crimson-collared tanager and the royal flycatcher.


Named one of the Executive Director’s Outstanding Advisors of the Year for 201314, Linda Fair, assistant professor of geography, was selected by the National Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society for First Year Students due to her hard work and dedication. In her first year of advising in 2013, Fair inducted 48 new members, and by 2014 membership increased to 120.

Construction workers smooth the concrete pad for the Windgate School of Art and Design. The university is raising $2.5 million to meet a challenge from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, which gave a grant to fund the building’s construction.


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Alumnus returns to Season of Entertainment




Danyell Farris visits Barcelona while studying in Spain.

Students study in Spain for summer


S. Sean Six, ’89


AN ALUMNUS WILL make his return to the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith as part of this year’s Season of Entertainment. S. Sean Six, ’89, will perform classical guitar at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at The Blue Lion at UAFS Downtown. He studied guitar at UAFS with Paul Mendy from 1988 through 1989 before completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He then studied guitar at the University of Denver. He currently resides in Denver where he performs, composes and teaches. Six recalled Mendy’s joy for music infusing him while he studied at Westark. “He had a laugh that was infectious and always kept me interested in discovering new composers — to me that is — and music of the guitar masters of the past,” he said. Other performers at the Blue Lion will be Barrett Baber on Nov. 7 and the Chester Thompson Trio on Jan. 23. The musical comedy “Anything Goes” on Oct. 17 begins the season of touring shows. Other performances scheduled are “Dancing Pros Live” on Jan. 28, “Jekyll and Hyde” on Feb. 23 and “Stomp” on April 14. The complete list of shows and additional information can be found at seasonentertainment/season-entertainment. To order tickets, contact the box office at 479-788-7300 or visit the box office in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center.

FROM GETTING LOST IN ancient cities to learning about themselves, seven UAFS students spent their summer studying abroad in Spain. Taylor Jordan of Ozark, Missouri, Danyell Farris of Hartford, Arkansas, Emily Randall of Vandervoort, Arkansas, Heather Rogers of Greenwood, Arkansas, and Alex Nolan, Pamela Rosales and Mariela Esparza of Fort Smith, Arkansas, spent three months in the Iberian Peninsula as part of the university’s Spanish program. Farris studied in Granada, a city located in southern Spain. There she visited several iconic landmarks, including the Alhambra, a palace that was the last Moorish stronghold in the country. She also visited the city of Seville and the Seville Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Nolan, Randall, Esparza, Rosales, Jordan and Rogers took courses in Salamanca. “I have much more to learn about the world and more places to see, and going to Spain taught me that I’m not finished learning about myself, either,” Rosales said. Rogers’ experienced an epiphany the night that Germany won the World Cup. “At the end of the game, it wasn’t Germany’s victory that took my breath away,” she said. “It was the fact that I was standing among a generation of students who represented our planet as a whole, and through all our cultural differences we had one thing in common: the desire to share our knowledge.” Mary Sobhani, assistant professor in the world languages department, said what the students gain is why the university requires them to study internationally. “The source of the richness of studying abroad is twofold,” she said. “Students can learn from the hours of class work while in Spain and also from the very nature of having to live life immersed in Spanish culture.” —John Post

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Rebekah Karp “Sunshine”

Jesus Sedeno-Gutierrez “Praise for the Falling”

Tia Johnston “The World Is”

Worldly Visions UAFS ARTISTS’ INTERPRETATIONS OF THE WORLD ARE HELPING STUDENTS EXPLORE other countries. Students created art pieces for the Visions of the World competition in connection with the international festival this spring. Bidders on the art paid just more than $1,000 into the International Scholarship Program fund, which aids students studying abroad. Twenty-three students painted and assembled their visions using oil, acrylic, pastel, collage and mixed media on canvases of 8 inches by 8 inches. The UAFS student body then voted on their favorites. Rebekah Karp of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, won Best of Show for “Sunshine” while Talia Blanton of Bonanza, Arkansas, won first place for “A Land Unknown.” Tia Johnston of Fort Smith, Arkansas, took home second place for “The World Is …” and Christopher Ha of Fort Smith, Arkansas, won third place and the Student Choice Award for “Impressions of an Asiatic Scene.”

Christopher Ha “Impressions of an Asiatic Scene”

SNAPSHOT UAFS graduate Cassie Peer, ’13, and students Daniel Schwartz and Alice Tholen presented posters of their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) research to elected state officials, including Gov. Mike Beebe, during a presentation at the capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas. Peer’s research focused on conformal mappings and resulted in original propositions and theorems. Schwartz contributed to the Mars Rover Project by programming the microcontroller for the rover. Tholen’s research focused on controlled aggregation of gold nanoparticles.

Talia Blanton “A Land Unknown”


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Knowledge Base

John Martini shows the construction work to make the energy conservation house more efficient.


Energy Savings

Students learn to make houses energy efficient ACCORDING TO THE U.S. Energy Information Administration, the state of Arkansas ranks 17th in the nation in energy consumption per capita. It seems there’s some work to be done. The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is working to help Arkansans lower their usage. The university holds classes teaching

students to conduct housing energy audits, testing for air leaks and energy loss. Students also learn about green initiatives, sustainable conservation, clean electrons and solar technology. After finishing the classes, the students could apply for certification through RESNET (Residential Energy Services Net-

“This shared space will bring our art historian into the studios, the studio artist to the graphic design table and all these heads bumping in the same common areas. By changing the process in this magnitude, we change the product immeasurably.”

work). That certification could become even more important in the future with possible legal changes, said John Martini, department chair and assistant professor of electronics. During the 2014 legislative session, the Arkansas Energy Office proposed changes to codes that would mandate energy audits on houses before they could be sold. Although the proposal failed to make it through the legislative process this year, the office has submitted a new version for review that includes audits as an option. The goal is that homebuyers could comparison shop to find homes that are energy efficient, much like the Energy Star rating on appliances. Ultimately, whether through construction or remodeling, houses will become more energy efficient, resulting in lower utility bills by lowering demand for electricity and gas. While students learn about solar power and geothermal heating systems, they also learn to test houses for issues and make recommendations. Most structures struggle with air leaks, Martini said. Through a blower test, which pressurizes the house, auditors can find where air – taking the heat or cool with it – seeps out. Findings can lead homeowners to add insulation in the attic or sealing around pipes coming into the house or caulking around windows and doors. Students also learn to conduct tests on ductwork and run thermographic scans. Students get hands-on experience in a university-owned Sustainable Energy house on 52nd Street. “We may make some things fail on purpose, but the house side has terrible windows,” Martini said with a laugh. The upper part of the split level house will be made into classroom space and as energy efficient as possible. It’s all to teach students the future for green construction and to build homes that use less energy. Those skills could be increasingly important if the Arkansas Energy Office has its way.

—Rebecca Carolan, senior studio art major from Alma, Arkansas, about the

Windgate School of Art and Design during the UAFS Foundation board meeting.


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Lee Krehbiel, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs/Piper


Playing the bagpipes takes some coordination. A piper must play the chanter, keep the drones humming and breathe air into the bag. He quotes an old bagpiper who described it as “trying to blow a golf ball through 12 feet of garden hose while wrestling an octopus.” Krehbiel practices almost daily with 20 minutes on the chanter and another 20 on the pipes. He’d like twice that much time. His goal is to be able to listen to the music and make adjustments without thinking about each note that he is playing. “It’s really enjoyable when you can be in the moment and the music, not thinking about where your fingers are going or about the bag,” Krehbiel said. “If my mind wanders when I play, I veer off and wreck.” Krehbiel and his bagpipes have become part of the university culture. He marches in the Homecoming parade, plays at sports camps and has been asked to play at faculty and staff family members’ funerals. “I feel like I can make a certain contribution to an esprit de corps, and I like that,” he said.

“... trying to blow a golf ball through 12 feet of garden hose while wrestling an octopus. — I feel like I can make a certain contribution to an esprit de corps, and I like that.”


ee Krehbiel lifted the bagpipes from his shoulder and waved the girl into the Reynolds Room, where he’d been practicing. It’s a common occurrence. The bagpipes draw people in and break down barriers between students and the vice chancellor for student affairs. “They’re not going to come in and talk to some gray-haired, balding administrator,” he said. But put the Great Highland Bagpipes in his hands and it changes the situation. “For this part of the world, it’s a little bit of an unusual instrument,” he said. “It touches an emotional chord.” Krehbiel took up bagpiping in 2003 during a sabbatical to Scotland. While there, he interviewed chaplains to understand their roles in Scottish education. One of the chaplains, an accomplished bagpiper, invited Krehbiel to participate in a beginner’s class. He and two Chinese women began learning to play the chanter, the cylindrical tube with finger holes that creates the melody for the bagpipes.


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Sense of Place

3 2 1

Welding Lab: Transformers University and Western Arkansas Technical Center students in the welding program will spend about two years studying three welding processes and how to take a job from blueprints to completion. They spend their days learning about the different techniques and putting them into action during the eight-weeklong classes. “It’s a hot process. It’s a hot job, but it pays well,” said Mike Crawford, an instructor of welding technology. The sharp pock of hammers hitting and transforming metal testify to a shared lineage from its blacksmithing grandfather. “They’re both forming, fabricating and forging metal together,” Crawford said.


1. The red, electrical boxes provide power for the shielded metal arc welders, of which the university has 20. Typically used outside in construction work, they’re easy to move around. The lab also has 20 metal inert gas (MIG) welding stations, which are typically used in indoor fabrication. Twelve tungsten inert gas (TIG) stations allow students to learn the process generally used in sheet metal shops. 2. Students wear hoods and face masks to protect their eyes from the intense light and smoke. The typical outfit also consists of steel-toed boots and long-sleeved shirts or protective gear over T-shirts to save skin from sparks. Safety is an important component of the classes. 3. Welding fume extractors hang in each workstation, part of a $250,000 air filtration system for the space. The system cleanses the

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5 air before recycling it into the building. 4. Plastic dividers keep students from blinding each other with incandescent light as they’re working. 5. A growing number of robotic welders in industry mean that welding students must also know computers. A computer numerally controlled plasma arc welder program allows this robotic arm to blaze through metal. “Robots get it done 10 times quicker than a human can do it,” said Jason Keyes, welding instructor. Yet it takes a welder who knows his craft to get a robot to do its work. Keyes recalled training he attended, one welder among numerous computer programmers. While he struggled with the programming, his robot was the first to complete its task with a clean weld. “You have to have knowledge of welding for it to work right,” he said.


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Lions Lowdown






UAFS ATHLETICS LEFT its mark on the Heartland Conference during the 2013-14 season with two Coach of the Year honors and six students taking top honors. Take in some games and matches this year to see what the fuss is about. In men’s basketball – in addition to taking home the conference title and earning the university’s first berth in the NCAA Division II national tournament – two players earned top honors, and coach Josh Newman was named Coach of the Year. Newman led the Lions to a 21-5 season. Jake Toupal, then a senior, received the Player of the Year award. The Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, native led the conference in free-throw shooting with 86 percent and averaged a team high of 14.5 points per game. Seth Youngblood, of Roland, Oklahoma, received the Freshman of the Year honor by averaging 14.5 points per game and shooting 50 percent from the field. After UAFS ran over the Heartland Conference, claiming its second consecutive regular season volleyball championship, the Lady Lions dominated the All-Conference honors as well. Two Lady Lions players received top honors and coach Jane Sargent was named Coach of the Year. Outside hitter Michelle Walker, then a junior, was voted the Player of the Year. The Sugarland, Texas, native played in 29 matches, averaging a team high 3.20 kills per set, and had nine assists, 91 digs, 32 block assists and nine solo blocks.

Setter Stephanie Brock, then a senior, was named Setter of the Year. The Arlington, Texas, native, averaged a team high 7.45 assists per set and 0.58 kills per set, served nine aces and had seven block assists. It was the second consecutive season for Sargent to earn the coaching honor. She guided the Lady Lions to a 21-8 overall record and a first-place finish in the conference during the regular season. In women’s basketball, Justyne Huber, of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, earned Freshman of the Year honors from the conference. Huber led the team with 11.8 points per game and scored in double-figures the final eight games of the season. She also led the team in rebounding with seven rebounds per game. In women’s tennis, Abby White, of Coppell, Texas, earned Freshman of the Year honors. She compiled an 8-8 record while playing No. 1 singles and compiled a 4-7 record while playing No. 1 doubles. She was ranked No. 32 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association NCAA Division II singles rankings this season. UA FS AT HL ET IC

Award Earners

From top to bottom, Seth Youngblood, Michelle Walker, Jake Toupal and Stephanie Brock.

New coaches selected for baseball, tennis UAFS HAS HIRED TWO NEW COACHES, although one is already a familiar face. Todd Holland will lead the Lions baseball team. Ben Anderson will helm the men’s and women’s tennis teams. Holland, who coached at Cameron University, succeeds former Lions baseball coach Dale Harpenau, who resigned after 16 seasons as head coach. This will be the second head coach-


ing position for Holland, who compiled an overall record of 304-251 during 11 seasons at Cameron. This past spring, UAFS finished 25-26 overall and 14-16 in the conference. Anderson served as interim head coach this past spring and previously volunteered as an assistant coach for four seasons. Anderson is a 1977 graduate of Ozark

(Arkansas) High School, where he played No. 1 singles in tennis. He played collegiate tennis for four seasons at Arkansas Tech, where he played No. 1 singles. This past spring, the Lady Lions were ranked No. 50 in the nation and finished 12-7 overall and 5-1 in the Heartland Conference. The Lions finished 6-12 overall and 3-3 in the conference.

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For the Win

N’Goran at-a-glance Number 33 6-foot-3-inches Post 2013-14 stats Started 17 of 22 games Blocked 30 shots Averaged 5.4 points & 3.5 rebounds per game


BEFORE BLANDINE N’Goran returns home to the Ivory Coast, she wants to accomplish two things. The Lady Lion basketball player wants a Heartland Conference championship ring and her bachelor’s degree. Then she wants to win again. N’Goran, a junior international business major from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, followed her older sister onto the basketball court even though her friends played handball. “I feel free and happy on the court.” She played for the Ivory Coast’s national team and her school, Lycee Moderne La Colombe. When she graduated from La Colombe in 2009, her plans to attend college halted due to ongoing civil unrest and fighting. For two years, she stayed with her sister and other family members trying to stay safe during a dangerous, unstable time. “We didn’t know where to go, how to go, when to go,” she said. “Where do you find food and groceries?” With a return to normalcy, N’Goran played basketball for the national team. After the Francophone Games, a competition in which French-speaking countries compete against each other, N’Goran was asked if she wanted to play in the United States. Her mother, who was ill, encouraged her to go before she died in 2010. N’Goran then journeyed to the United States. “You have to have courage to leave your family and home,” she said. N’Goran played for Kilgore College in 2012-13. However, junior college rules do not allow players older than 25. The now-27 year old found her way to the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. She knew she would sign to play with the Lady Lions when she saw the small classes with the ability to get to know the professors and learned of the basketball team’s legacy. Playing ball with the Lady Lions under Head Coach Louis Whorton has made her a better player, she said. While playing in the Ivory Coast, N’Goran played on the outside as a wing. At UAFS, she leaned to play the

Blandine N’Goran poses near her apartment on campus.

inside post position. “Since she’s an older student athlete, she brings a lot of maturity and stability to the team,” Whorton said. “I think she will be a key cog in the success we’ll have this year.” Though the team finished 9-17 in 2013-14, N’Goran is working for an improved season this year.

“I’m from Africa where to be a lion is to be king. We have to come back and be queens,” she said. And she wants that conference championship that will bring her a ring. After graduation, she plans to take her honed skills back to her country and play for the national team.

The Lady Lions first game against Evangel University is set to tip off at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Stubblefield Center. The full schedule may be found at UAFS BELL TOWER

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CROSS ROADS ON THE RIB ROOM’S STAGE in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Chris Cameron, ‘99, teases his guitar until it wails with recalled pain from the soft weeping of sorrow to the gut stabs that cannot be borne. In his suit jacket and button-down shirt with his scruffy beard and glasses, he resembles a professor more than a musician. He throws his head back, letting the guitar speak of the agony in blues, giving voice to what cannot be spoken in words. The pain forces its way into the room’s corners and cracks, mining its depths. by JENNIFER SICKING


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Counting the costs There comes a time when decisions must be made. Cameron weighed the cost and benefits of whether to pursue his childhood dream of playing the blues or a steadier career in business. He’d won the International Blues Challenge and the Albert King Award for Most Promising International Blues Guitarist at age 18 in 1997. He’d performed with Bonnie Raitt, Tab Benoit and other blues greats. He had the skills. He had the passion. But he knew there would be an accounting. In 2000, Cameron stumbled into a dirty hotel room with suspect sheets after singing afternoon matinees and evening shows Wednesday through Saturday. Come Sunday, his weary voice graveled with hoarseness. A pocketful of cash from the tour proved he could make a living as a blues singer. But he knew there would be a cost. A few years later, Cameron drove to his house to pick up a guitar and an amp for his friend, a wellknown bluesman, to use. The friend once had everything, including his own line of guitars. But he lost all after his record label sued him for not fulfilling his contract when he became ill. Cameron understood the cost for chasing the blues. In 2004, Cameron stood in line at an Austin, Texas, club to buy a CD from blues piano great Pinetop Per-

kins, who at the end of everything was trying to make a little money for another day of food and a night with a roof over his head. Cameron knew he could make it as a blues musician. But he knew that there’d be a cost. “You can be famous in the blues circle, die and nobody knows who you are. Even in blues, when you make it, there’s no money,” he said. 18

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“You can be famous in the blues circle, die and nobody knows who you are. Even when you make it, there’s no money.” —CHRIS CAMERON Floyd Cameron, Chris’ father, feared that his son would give up his education and scholarship to Westark Community College to chase the blues. “It’s your ace in the hole,” Floyd said in advising Chris to pursue his studies. Chris made his choice. He enrolled at Westark,

pursuing his associate degree while playing everywhere he could, including the Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business through the University Center, began a career in sales, then went after his MBA. He wanted the security of health insurance and retirement followed by the daily return to a house filled with family and a bed with clean sheets. “Some kids are predisposed to be wanderers. I’m not,” he said.

Developing the blues

Chris Cameron and band members relax before takingthe stage for a two-night show at 5-Star Productions in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Chris wasn’t passionate about football like his brothers who would go on to play in college. He wandered from activity to activity until the guitar caught his attention at 12 years old. Floyd thought his son would pluck at the borrowed guitar for a week before leaving it behind in the detritus of youth. But Chris continued to strum and pick then learned chords and more from an old country music picker. Watching their son’s interest grow into passion, Floyd and his wife decided to buy Chris a guitar. A family friend retrieved a red Stratocaster from under a bed and offered to sell it. Floyd arranged a weekly installment plan and sold his hunting dogs to raise the down payment. “I got rid of some of the best rabbit hunting dogs in the state of Arkansas,” Floyd said. But Floyd watched his son’s passion turn into fervor when an Englishman awakened Chris to music that would cause him to debate his future. He found Eric Clapton when he turned on VH1 after cable television arrived in his hometown of Alma, Arkansas. He watched video after video showing Clapton’s hands creating magical music on the guitar. Clapton’s mention of his influences such as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and other bluesmen sent Chris and his family on five-hour drives to Memphis to visit music stores and find that soul grinding music. On one music expedition, he discovered the complete recordings of Robert Johnson. “That music changed my life,” Chris said. As a 16 year old driving around with his friends in his green ’68 Mustang, he’d pop in that cassette and listen as Johnson played his way through “Crossroad Blues,” “Love in Vain” and “Walkin’ Blues.” Grunge music ruled the airwaves in the 1990s, but Chris only had ears for the blues. His friends knew not to ask to listen to anything else. UAFS BELL TOWER

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“For God’s sake, if we don’t get anything else right, we should get the music right.” —CHRIS CAMERON

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Blending dark & light A full band and six backup singers join Chris on stage, and light filters into the darkness. The bar becomes a church as one of the backup singers raises her full, warm voice and reminds all that, “You can’t hurry God.” Audience members raise their hands in witness. Chris, in his suit and slicked back brown hair, sways, his head tilted back and his mouth open, lost in the song. The bar crowd becomes a congregation of faithful believers that he leads in singing “I will sing hallelujah, I will sing O Lord.” Even as Chris sought to emulate the darkness in the blues, he also flew to the light of the gospel music he’d hear on Sundays when his parents took him to Fort Smith’s predominantly black Northside Church of God in Christ. “It’s just a gift of God Chris has on his music,” Floyd said. “None of us can even sing.” In the church, Chris listened as the pastor riffed on guitar, the vocalists harmonized together to move songs forward. He felt at home. “Everybody there treated us like we’re family,” he said. Now, in his music, he mixes the dark with the light. In back-to-back June concerts he played old blues songs by Etta James, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry on Friday, and on Saturday he chased those blues away with the gospel’s light. Times may be hard leaving hearts in shards and the pain pounding to unloose its wail from that soulwounding blast. That is the essence of the blues. In a tweet to his followers, Chris wrote, “Singing the blues feels like confession. I can tell the world about a heart that’s breaking, without anyone suspecting it’s mine.” Gospel bathes a balm on the soul, reminding it that if Jesus’ eye is on the sparrow, then he’s got his eye on everyone. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson spoke of this when she said, “Blues are the songs of despair, but gospel songs are the songs of hope.”

At the crossroads Chris now plays what he wants to play, with whom he wants to play it. A job as a corporate salesman for Goodyear took him around the United States before bringing him back to Fort Smith, Arkansas. He reformed his band. As the band played, a new idea emerged, one that capitalized on his investment in music and family. With the eye of a businessman, he formed informal focus groups to ask them about how and where they wanted to listen to music. He found people wanted

small venues, music at non-deafening levels with bands that played earlier in the evening instead of until the wee hours of the morning. He discovered what people would pay. The Founders’ Room opened on Sept. 27, 2014. Named for his parents, the founders of the family and supporters of his music, Chris built the music joint north of Alma. He worked with his brother Glenn, a journeyman electrician, and his father to remodel a house into a club. His mom Sharon cooks the homey meals served to the music-loving customers. Chris sees The Founders’ Room as a hybrid offering good food and service, but focuses on local, regional and national performances. “For God’s sake, if we don’t get anything else right, we should get the music right,” he said. Chris plans to continue performing with his band in the River Valley and the region, but this merger of business and music that has taken root means new possibilities blossoming. “I think this is the future for me,” he said.

Emily, Chris, Audrey and Jackson Cameron.

Chris awakens in the bedroom of his Fort Smith home that he shares with his wife, Emily, and two elementaryschool age children, Audrey and Jackson. He sees the red Strat that his parents bought leaning against the fireplace. Rising, he settles on the hearth, reaches for the guitar and begins to strum the strings. Without thinking he plays the lessons learned from bluesman Sherman Robertson who saw music as having living, breathing parts. “What are you thinking about when you’re playing?” Robertson asked him. “I’m thinking about the notes,” Chris replied. “Don’t be in the moment. Be in the song.” Years later in his bedroom, Chris dwells in the song. He bends the notes, infusing them with the morning light. UAFS BELL TOWER

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Mayra Esquivel

AFTER A SEMESTER at UAFS, Mayra Esquivel registered for only one class in the spring. When her concerned adviser asked why, she refused to answer. “I didn’t want to be termed a criminal,” said the pre-med major. Fear kept her in the shadows, bound by secrecy. At 3 years old, Esquivel’s mother brought her north from Mexico to join her father, who had taken the same trip to find work to care for his family. She grew up celebrating the Fourth of July, studying U.S. history and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, dreaming of a bright tomorrow. She earned straight A’s, joined clubs and made the honor society. But a dark cloud shadowed her future. “I needed that magic nine-digit number to go to college,” she said. Even without a Social Security number, Esquivel’s


faith kept her believing that she would go to college. She applied to UAFS. While she had good grades, her lack of citizenship made her ineligible to receive scholarships. It also meant she must dig deeper into her pockets to pay out-of-state tuition. Her parents’ savings paid for her first semester, but she could only afford one class in future semesters. Each semester she kept her secret wrapped close. Then came 2012. She stepped out of the shadows and shared her story at the Catholic Campus Ministry. “I realized it’s not my fault. It’s nothing bad that I did,” she said. In telling her story, she found others hiding in the shadows too. They, too, were caught in a bureaucratic immigration web, unable to get visas or green cards or to apply for citizenship because of their immigration status. In August 2012, she jour-

neyed to the White House with other Arkansans to speak to President Barack Obama’s administration about changes to immigration law. That fall she led a vigil at the UAFS bell tower. “When your life’s at stake, your family’s at stake, you come out fighting,” she said. Also in 2012, Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allowing people in Esquivel’s position to work. Esquivel found a job to help pay for her schooling. Through speaking out, she met people she refers to as “my angels” who volunteered to help pay her tuition. Esquivel plans to continue her studies to become a neuropsychology researcher. She also will continue her fight for immigration changes. She comments simply: “We’re Americans.”


Finding Her Voice


AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, WIL MOON knew he didn’t want to go to college, especially after a couple of semesters enrolled in one. So he went to work as a bartender. Then he worked in construction to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina submerged the city. And the years passed. Then he drove past a church with its sign proclaiming, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is time.” “I’ve thought about that a lot,” he said. “I knew I had to do something different.” At 32 years old, he enrolled in UAFS and found a passion for learning and a way out of the rut. In the spring of 2014 at 35, he completed his bachelor’s degree in marketing and prepared for entering the University of Arkansas School of Law in the fall with a desire to study business law. “The College of Business definitely breeds confidence. I went from being cocky to confident,” he said. “There’s a huge difference between the two. Cocky, you think you know everything. Confident, you know what you know. I thought I knew a lot when I got here but the amount I learned is astonishing.” Besides continuing to work while attending UAFS, Moon married, became a stepfather and then a father. He also interned with Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), served as state president for the business fraternity Phi Beta Lambda and as treasurer for the UAFS Student Government Association. “As a nontraditional Wil Moon student, I think you get a lot more out of your educational experience. One reason is you know how crappy it is out in the real world,” he said. And that can motivate a person with a full life who returns to school. “If you make it important, you’ll find time,” he said.

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Mother Knows Best IT WASN’T RASILA Soumana’s idea. But mother knows best in Niamey, Niger, just as she does in Fort Smith, Arkansas. After finishing high school, Soumana listened in disbelief as her mother said she would move to the United States to learn English to succeed in the global world. “She wanted something better for me,” said the senior biology major. Forty-eight hours and a flood of tears after Soumana bid adieu to her family, she arrived in Fort Smith and met other international students,

who also felt the shock of separation from home. She learned that others would be walking the same journey. Soumana knows she has become more independent, more outgoing and more adventurous. In Niger, Soumana avoided rollercoasters. But after friends coaxed her onto one, she now enjoys the steep climbs and curving drops. Now, she plans to go skydiving. “You have to let go, be open and try new things,” she said. But all the new plans and daring coupled with her edu-

cation will lead her home, she hopes, as a gynecologist. “There is no plan B,” she said. Her dry sub-Saharan country has 0.02 physicians per 1,000 people, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book. The United States averages 2.42 doctors per 1,000 people. The doctor shortage translates into suffering and death due to lack of care for many people. In world statistics, Niger ranks 14th in maternal mortality rates. It ranks seventh in infant mortalities. Soumana works at her studies to change those numbers.

“They need me back home,” she said. So she studies at UAFS preparing for that day, aided by faculty at a university where she feels at home. “My teachers want the best for me so I can get my education and move on,” she said. And Soumana knows now that her mother knew best in sending her to the United States. “If I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.”

Rasila Soumana



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In the U.S. capitol, Jones worked on administrative tasks, helped in the press office and assisted Pryor’s constituents. “One of the most important things I learned is that, while the government may appear dysfunctional — and at times it is — that there are great people working hard to move the nation forward on both sides of the aisle in D.C.,” he said. Jones, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, knows that UAFS is helping him build a strong foundation for a planned, purpose-driven life of helping others. “It’s a great atmosphere to learn who you are and the person that you’re meant to be,” he said. Jones expects in the future he will move beyond his media communication major and political science minor. He wants to study law to help families and eventually run for political office. He’s following his mother’s example by helping others. “The small acts of service I saw her do instilled in me the need to serve,” he said.



BY ANY DEFINITION, Tony Jones had an adventurous summer. In May, the junior traveled to Spain as part of the Chancellor’s Leadership Council Scholarship class. Then one day after he returned to Fort Smith, he again boarded a plane. This time he was bound for Washington, D.C., and an internship in the office of Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. From studying Spanish and living with a host family in Salamanca, Spain, to getting a glimpse of how the Senate operates, Jones found himself exploring new worlds. “Through these opportunities I came to realize that a key to living a fulfilled life is being able to step out of your comfort zone and reach for what’s out there,” he said. In addition to his studies, Jones explored the Spanish cities of Madrid, Segovia and Castile and Leon. ` He found himself seeing the world anew. “The world is an immensely diverse place, and this trip helped open my eyes to that,” he said.

Tony Jones stands in front of the White House

A Better Life



Sylvia Nguyen

WHEN SYLVIA NGUYEN thinks about her future, she also considers her family’s past. She looks to her parents, who emigrated from Vietnam as teenagers, and wants to make them proud. “They want me to have a better life than what they have, like so many other immigrants,” said the junior biology major. In 1975, Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith, Arkansas, became one of four entry points in the United States for Vietnamese refugees fleeing their homeland after the end of the war. While many of the 50,000 who came through the military base moved to other areas of the United States, some, like Nguyen’s parents, stayed

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Jesse Watson

Chasing a Dream


and created a thriving Vietnamese community. In her senior year at Northside High School in Fort Smith, Nguyen settled on a future career in dentistry. It would allow her to work with her hands, which she enjoys. Plus, she could provide care for children. “I like that dentists monitor their patients,” she said. “I want to work with children so they learn they can trust me as a dentist.” When she began looking for a university to help her make her dream a reality, she found one in UAFS. She liked the small classes, low tuition costs, diverse campus and sense of community. When she begins to doubt herself, she turns to her biology adviser, professor Davis Pritchett. Pritchett said he sees his role as offering

THE WHEELCHAIR doesn’t define Jesse Watson, ’14. Mark Horn, retired vice chancellor for university relations, met Watson when she began attending his church, and he admits what he first saw was a young girl in a wheelchair. That faded as he witnessed her courage, sense of purpose and spirit. “Frankly, when you come to know Jesse, the wheelchair just doesn’t get noticed,” he said. The wheelchair just transports her. But in her dreams, her arthrogryposis multiplex congenita doesn’t keep her in her chair. In her dreams, the disease that didn’t allow her joints to fully form in the womb doesn’t anchor her in place. At night while she sleeps, she dreams, and in her dreams, she walks. Awake, she rolls through obstacles. “I have goals that I want to achieve, and I’m not going to let being in a wheelchair stop me,” she said. Now, she has a new goal that she’s chasing. For four years, the Greenwood, Arkansas, native stud-

ied math education, enrolling in almost every math class offered. But as she faced her last year at the university, a new dream formed. Watson participated, often holding leadership positions, in 30 organizations on campus. Through those experiences, the 2012 UAFS homecoming queen found her future. She changed her major to organizational leadership. “Nothing against math; I love it,” Watson said. “I just became passionate for college life.” Working in the university’s testing center, she observed how student services, student affairs and student activities intertwined. And she found her career in student life. She’s now working toward a master’s degree in educational leadership at Arkansas Tech University. With a future career helping students get involved in their campus organizations, Watson knows how transformational that can be. It’s what she found at UAFS. She knows she has alumni to thank. “Alumni from Westark and Fort Smith Junior College were building blocks for us,” she said. “I’m a building block for the future.”

encouragement and reassurance when needed. “Pursuing a pre-professional course of study is very challenging and often frustrating. She has faced those challenges and dealt with the frustration well up to now, and I am sure she will continue to do so,” he said. Nguyen meets with Pritchett two or three times a semester to regain her confidence in herself. “My highest obstacle is sometimes self-doubt in my study, and I think about switching majors,” she said. “I go visit with Dr. Pritchett, and I always leave his office feeling uplifted.”


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Alumni+Friends WWW.UAFS.COM


Let Numa “perk” you up We’re raising our mascot Numa to a higher profile in the Alumni Association with the introduction of Numa’s Perks, our new, free benefit program. As you can surmise from the visual, Numa’s Perks is an app for iPhone and Android phones that provides discounts — we call them “perks” — to our alumni, students, faculty and staff. The program is free and all you have to do to join is go to the Numa’s Perk’s web page at perks, download the app, sign up using the instructions on the web page and start saving. As of press time, you can receive discounts at more than 50 area restaurants, retailers, service providers and hotels. Simply show the discount on your phone at check out and you’ll receive your “perk.” If you don’t see your favorite vendor, send us an email at, and we’ll get to work signing them up. Better yet, show the app to the manager or owner, let them know you’d like them to join, (the program is free for vendors too) and if they’re interested have them contact us or email us their contact information. We hope you’ll take advantage of Numa’s Perks and start saving money right away. We also hope that you’ll return for “Hero Pride,” our fifth annual Homecoming, on Nov. 1. Come renew friendships, cheer on the Lady Lions and see our changing campus. For more information or to register, visit www.uafsalumni. com/ homecoming homecoming. As always, if you have questions, concerns, and especially ideas how your Alumni Association can help you or an idea for an event, let us know. Yours with Lion Pride!

RICK GOINS Director of Alumni Affairs

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.

1930s Charlie Ruetzel, ’33, celebrated his 102nd birthday in June.

1950s Dr. James Burgess, ‘51, received the 2014 Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation Open Heart Award. Donald Hall, ’59, had a lengthy career beginning with Sears and Roebuck for 13 years that took eventually him to San Angelo, Texas. He then became self-employed in the credit reporting and collection industry before selling his business and beginning a day care operation. He is now retired and lives in Victoria, Texas, his home for the past 38 years. “I want to thank Fort Smith Junior College, even though it is no longer in existence, for the wonderful education received while attending there.” Joseph Reed, ’54, died on May 22, 2014. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Wilma (Hopkins) Reed, ‘55, , son David and two grandchildren.

1960s Tommy David McCullough, ’62, has been named treasurer of the International Boxing Federation.

1970s Bruce Vick, ’70, earned his B.A. in history from Arkansas Tech

University in 1972 and went to work for the Fort Smith Public School District as a social studies teacher and department chairman at Kimmons Junior High until 2001. He taught at Chaffin Junior High from 2001 until his retirement in 2011. He and his wife recently celebrated their 35th anniversary. They have two sons and two grandsons.

1990s Jonathan Gipson, ’94, and Karen Hart were married on April 19 at Cameron’s Bluff on Mount Magazine in Paris, Arkansas. The couple resides in Magazine, Arkansas. Jonathan is the director of sports information at UAFS. Denise “LadyD” Messamore, ’96, celebrated her birthday with a benefit concert to aid the Children’s Emergency Shelter in Fort Smith, Arkansas. James Mills, ’92, recently edited and published “Memories of Fort Brown and Other Select Interviews: An Oral History Project.” The interviews were conducted with community members who remembered Fort Brown, near Brownsville, Texas, across from Matamoros, Mexico. The inter-


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Alumni+Friends views give insight into the fort, the lives of soldiers and the surrounding community. The project was awarded the Mary Faye Barnes Award for excellence in community history projects through the Texas Oral History Association.

2000s David Brigham, ’05, is working to recreate 1950s downtown Fort Smith, Arkansas, in miniature through a model train layout. He has used old photos, historical books and museum visits to aid

in his recreation of the city from First Street to 10th Street. Ava (Whitmore) Knott, ’02, wobbled across the stage to graduate three days before her due date with a dream in her heart and a bright future. She attended Westark College as it transitioned to the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. “I was very excited to

graduate from UAFS,” she said. She continued her education through Park University while her husband was stationed at Fort Irwin, California. She received her BS in social psychology and works at Perspectives Behavioral Health Management. She has three children: Seth, Madicyn and Kristiana. Anthony Owens, ‘03, was hired as the head basketball coach of the University of Great Falls in Montana. Owens played basketball for the Argos after graduating with his associates degree from

Westark. He spent the five previous seasons as an assistant coach at Portland State University. Brandon and Jessica Parker, ’09, opened Carrot Dirt Organics in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The business makes and sells organic juices, smoothies and salads. Their business was featured in the August 2014 issue of Do South magazine. Allexcia Rankin, ’09, earned her master’s degree in liberal arts with concentrations in history and psychology from Texas Christian



Rosa Partin

A Promise Kept When Whirlpool closed in Fort Smith, Rosa Partin, ’12-’13, didn’t panic though she had worked there for decades. She had a promise to keep. In 1998, Partin attended Westark College part-time with plans to become a nurse. She took math and anatomy among other classes. Then Whirlpool changed its shift start times, and she quit school. But that dream of becoming of nurse remained.


When her mother became ill, Partin stayed with her at the hospital watching the nurses caring for her dying mother. Then she made a vow. “Before she passed away, I promised her I’d go back and become a nurse because they had taken such good care of her,” she said. Partin’s mother died in June 2011. Then Whirlpool closed in June 2012. Thirty years working as an assembler and inspector of refrigerators ended. “Everybody was panicking trying to figure out what they were going to do,” she said. “But I knew I was going to be a nurse.” At 56 years old, Partin enrolled at UAFS. She didn’t listen to people who told her it would be too hard, that she was too old to learn. She had made a promise to her mother, and she had her faith in God. “I said it’s going to be hard, but God’s going to get me through,” she said. She found financial assistance from the Trade Adjustment Assistance program and encouragement from professors and other students. She learned how to study with help from university programs. Even when she didn’t make the cut for the 16 students selected for the licensed practical nurse (LPN) class, Partin wasn’t dismayed. Instead she signed up for classes at another school to become a certified nurse assistant. Now, she works at the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) Family Medical Clinic in Fort Smith. She’s the one escorting patients to the examination room, checking their blood pressures, assisting the doctor. She plans to keep working there, to keep learning about nursing, to keep helping those who are ill. Then she plans to try again to become an LPN. Partin knows that her mother’s proud of her. “It was a rollercoaster to get here, but she’d be happy to know that I’m helping people like she was helped when she was ailing,” she said. “God helped me to make that promise. He told me to be patient and I’d be able to keep that promise to my momma.”

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University. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in psychology from Grand Canyon University. She worked as an education coordinator at the University of Arkansas Medical School. She hopes to begin teaching college courses soon. Craig Rivaldo, ’04, was named the new president and CEO of Arvest Bank in Benton County, Arkansas.


She Did It It proved a 45-year journey for Bonnie Cook, ’02, to finish her degree, but she did it. “I wanted it as an example for my grandchildren,” she said. “I don’t want one of them to think they’re not going to college.” Cook began her higher education studies at Dixie Junior College (now Dixie State University) in St. George, Utah, in 1958. Her 1959 summer break proved longer than she planned when she met the man who would take her on overseas adventures. She spent that life-changing summer working as the hostess and cashier at Uncle John’s Pancake House in Las Vegas. One evening as she stood at the cash register, she looked out the window. Her eyes met those of a dark-haired man who had paused his Corvette at the stop sign. “It was just like a lightning bolt, it really was,” Cook said. Henry Cook, ’54, parked his car and came into the diner. She walked him to his seat and watched him read the newspaper. Neither said a word. The next day Henry again came to the diner looking for her, but it was Bonnie’s day off. After the waitress on duty quizzed Henry about his job and background, she called Bonnie at home and handed Henry the phone. Three months later, they married. After journeying around the southwest part of the United States with Henry’s Humble Oil and Refining Co. (now Exxon) job, the company moved the family of four to Tripoli, Libya. During their seven years in Libya, the Cook family was evacuated to Italy and then to Utah for what became known as the Six Day War. A vacation in London stretched out longer when Muammar Gaddafi seized power in Libya in 1969. Eventually the family did return to Utah for a yearlong break, and Bonnie enrolled in classes at the College of Southern Utah (now Southern Utah University). But then the family moved to

Henry Cook, ‘54, looks on from a painting while Bonnie Cook, ‘02, poses with her diploma earned through the Westark University Center.


Rebecca Ames, ’12, joined the TL Services team in Van Buren in the role of finance business administrator. She is also currently serving her second term on the Board of Directors of the Northwest Arkansas Institute of Management Accountants as the vice president of communications and community relations. She earned the certified management accountant designation in July 2014. In her personal life, she purchased a home in Charleston, Arkansas, and became engaged to George Plumbtree. Amy Belanger, ’14, was accepted into the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and began her classes this fall. J. Shane Griffin, ’11, graduated from the Arkansas School of Law in December 2013. He successfully passed the bar and now is employed as a deputy prosecutor in Crawford County, Arkansas. Robert Jetton, ‘09, was recently promoted to senior accountant for Beall Barclay and Company, one of the state’s largest owned certified public accounting firms. Prior to his promotion he was an incharge accountant. He has been with the company since 2009. He received his CPA in 2012.


Saudi Arabia for Henry’s work in the oil fields there. In 1991 she worked with the other women living in Saudi Arabia to welcome and aid the United States’ soldiers during the first Gulf War. The women fixed dinners for them and washed their clothes. They let them swim in their pools and call home. Through the wars and changing times in the Middle East, Bonnie said she felt safe. “Ignorance was bliss. I had no idea of the danger we were in,” she said. In 1994 Henry retired and the family moved to Henry’s hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. In 1995 Bonnie enrolled in history, math, writing and music classes at Westark Community College. Coming from a long line of schoolteachers, she loved learning. She began taking classes through Westark’s University Center and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock through the center in 2003. “I always thought I should do it, and I did,” she said.


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10/6/14 7:18 PM

Alumni+Friends LION FILE

PARA.STYLE Connections Forged “HEAD 1” A 2014 graduate spent her summer volunteering with a 1972 graduate. After Kelsey Bean, ’14, graduated with a degree in history and a concentration in historical interpretation, she took a job with the U.S. Forest Service. At the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, she works as an interpreter at the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark. But on her days off, she volunteered to tag golden eagles and work at a museum. Bean contacted Charles Preston, ’72, who lives in Cody, Wyoming. He’s the senior and founding curator-in-charge of the Draper Museum of Natural History at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. He’s also a wildlife ecologist studying sagebrush-steppe ecology and golden eagles. Preston has kept his ties to the university and Bean’s father, with whom he grew up. He was happy to involve Bean in his research project and direct her to the Plains Indian Museum, one of the other five museums at the Center of the West. “It really is neat, and it’s a full circle,” Preston said. “I had no idea when I was there that I would be a mentor to a graduate from there.” After distributing information and answering questions at Medicine Wheel, Bean would

Kelsey Bean, ‘14, (left) spent part of her summer working with Chuck Preston, ‘72, (second from left) tagging golden eagles.


work with Preston’s team to capture and band fledgling golden eagles. Preston studies how climate, landscape and humans affect the birds and the sagebrush-steppe environment they inhabit. Bean learned about more than just the birds and the plains in which they live with its cliffs and rattlesnakes hiding under sagebrush. It made her more aware. “It made me notice other wildlife in the area, the habitat they live in, where other wildlife are living and what they eat,” she said. At the Plains Indian Museum, Bean has sorted through an acquired collection of Native American artifacts. She’s also searched through the avid collector’s personal correspondence to find mentions of different artifacts. “I didn’t know that much about Plains Indians, their customs and lifestyles,” she said. Bean said it has been good to connect with Preston, who also shares the campus connection as well as the family one. “I feel more comfortable in Wyoming even though I don’t have family out here,” she said. Preston said he hopes that other students and alumni will seek each other out. “We have a connection all the way across the country from Westark or UAFS,” he said.

Alyson Lindsey Looney, ’12, is a teacher at Pediatrics Plus, a developmental preschool in Conway, Arkansas. She helped to start a day camp at Camp Tanako, a Methodist church camp, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Matheus Silva, ’12, was hired for Walmart’s Merchant Leadership Program as part of the International Academy. He will receive training in different areas of the business before being relocated to Walmart Brazil to work as a category buyer. Joel Sims, ’10, plans to graduate with his master’s degree in organizational leadership from Capella University this fall. He then plans to begin work on his doctorate in business administration with a specialization in organizational leadership from Capella. Jane Van, ’12, worked for two years with Leggett and Platt as a corporate environmental auditor. She recently accepted a position with Tyson Foods as enterprise inventory management coordinator. She also started the University of Arkansas Executive MBA program this fall. Whitney Vance, ’13, began a new position as staff accountant at ArcBest in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Eaven Ward, ’14, accepted an associate position with BKD in Fort Smith. Ashley Wimberley, ’11, appeared on the game show Wheel of Fortune in June and walked away the big winner. Her correctly guessing “Your Biggest Fan” allowed her to take home almost $48,000 in cash and prizes after going to the bonus round.

BELL TOWER fall/winter 2014

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Thirteen Japanese students and their American instructors fought a battle with water balloons, water guns and water-filled bottles to end the spring semester. The students came to the university as part of the American Culture and Experience program. The program encourages students toward a greater understanding of American culture while they also study English.

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10/6/14 7:19 PM

Bell Tower

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




A Look Back Through the years fun and studies have gone handin-hand for students. Who can resist a snowball fight during the first snowfall of the season? These students certainly took advantage of it during the 1968-69 school year in front of the Westark Junior College Library. Do you have any photos or memories of your favorite

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

10/6/14 7:34 PM

UAFS Bell Tower - Fall/Winter 2014  

Fall/Winter 2014 edition of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith Bell Tower Alumni Magazine

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