Page 1

A Publication for Alumni and Friends of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff





Graduates move the tassels on their mortarboards during Spring 2016 commencement exercises. The keynote speaker, award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield, encouraged them to rise up and pursue their purpose.

Richard Redus


5 6 26 36 38

Chancellor’s Letter News & Events Athletics Class Notes In Memoriam

Features 28 COVER STORY



by Donna Mooney Photography by Brian T. Williams Speaking firsthand about her experiences witnessing inequality, she explains how it has become her life’s passion




Named after the inventor of a cotton picking machine, Rust Technology Hall has been upgraded to drive the minds of tomorrow


Fate and a moving scale helped alumna Stacia Ward find her purpose

Brian T. Williams

Dr. Diane Gilleland is photographed in front of a painting in her home





While pursuing his passion for music, Dedric Jones helps others find careers

For Kasey Taylor, UAPB planted seeds for success as a conservationist


2016 alumna and artist Bryona D. Whitlock cultivated her style at UAPB. Her recent art show, “Woven.” featured pieces like the one shown below, called “Evillene.” Read more on page 12

Volume 3 No. 2 Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander, J.D., Ph.D. Director of University Relations and Development, and Title II Programs Dr. Margaret Martin-Hall Program Director for Public Information/Editor

Tisha D. Arnold Copy Editor

Donna Mooney Creative Director

Brian T. Williams Contributing Writers

Tisha D. Arnold Staphea Campbell Bob Condatta Shedelle Davis William Hehemann David Hutter Ray King Donna Mooney Contributing Photographers

Brad Mayhugh Richard Redus Brian T. Williams Correspondence and Address Changes University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff ATTN: UAPB Magazine 1200 N. University Drive, Mail Slot 4789 Pine Bluff, AR 71601 870.575.8946 Email Website UAPB Magazine is published three times a year by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a member of the University of Arkansas System. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all in every aspect of its operations. The university has pledged not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status or disability. This policy extends to all educational, service and employment programs of the university. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, 230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500, Chicago, IL 60604. Let Us Know What You Think! We want to know what you think of this issue of UAPB Magazine. To share your opinions, email us at



UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff






We’re elated to bring you an edition of the UAPB Magazine that takes a look at elements of our university’s history while also highlighting examples of our unyielding commitment to a dynamic future. Of course all universities exist for their students, but not all universities can provide the opportunities for intellectual, professional, and personal growth that are available at UAPB. Our students are here for more than a credential that will help them find meaningful employment. They come for the broader experience of community involvement, internships, research opportunities, learning trips, and study-broad international experiences such as in Kingston, Jamaica or China. This issue also spotlights some of our outstanding alumni who are using the foundation that was laid for them during their time at “Dear Mother” as a blueprint to leave their footprints in the community and create a path for those behind them to follow. You will read about individuals such as Ms. Stacia Ward and Mr. Dedric Jones, both of whom are positively influencing others through their talents. One who has realized her dream as a certified fitness trainer, returning to her alma mater to currently serve as the Director of the UAPB Fitness Center while the other makes his mark in the music industry by leading a rising gospel recording group called “Chosen Praise.”

As you peruse this publication, you will find our cover story on Dr. Diane S. Gilleland, a leader and visionary with a heart of a lion for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Dr. Gilleland carries the title as the first person in the history of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) to reverse decades of funding disparity for UAPB. Because of her thoroughness, compassion, and giving spirit, UAPB has had the opportunity to improve and grow in physical capacity throughout the years. She is the perfect example of an avid supporter of the university, a true humanitarian and philanthropist. Our current students are preparing to become the type of alumni and supporters who will offer their experience and assistance to the success of a generation of college students. They are already making strides in philanthropy through their involvement with the Circle of Pride Student Philanthropy initiative. Under the leadership of our Student Government Association, students are engaging in a variety of activities to generate a sense of this connection to the alumni and the role they play in the current generation’s education. What we now need is a renewed sense of belonging and family-type relationships that go beyond a specific sport or student organization (although it may certainly include that) to an awareness of a values-based experience that establishes a commitment to lifelong learning and community responsibility. Values such as excellence, integrity, engagement, quality customer service, diversity, globalization, and accountability are what we take pride in as a university and are key components in our endeavor to be student focused. I am confident that our current students will take these values with them as they become alumni, making a difference in the world. Working together with our alumni, we can continue to provide our students with the best educational experiences possible. We owe that to them and to all of our stakeholders who support this institution. With Golden Lion Pride,


Summer 2016 5


UAPB receives $50,000 grant to assist low income students in completing degrees Courtesy of the APLU Continuing their effort to promote the use of microgrants to prevent low-income college students nearing graduation from dropping out, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) awarded nine public urban research universities funds to launch or expand pilot programs of their own. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was among the institutions to receive a microgrant for $50,000 to establish an office within the Student Success Center (SSC) to assist graduating seniors with the completion of their degrees. This office will market the completion program, identify and enroll eligible seniors for assistance, and establish the process for enrolling, engaging, and tracking seniors to graduation. The SSC currently has two full-time professional staff dedicated to student retention. An additional professional of at least a half-time appointment is required to expand efforts in meeting the specific requirements as proposed by the completion program. The SSC is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Post-Secondary Education, Strengthening Institutions, Title III, Part B, Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program. “Micro-grant programs, particularly at public urban research universities, have proven very effective at providing low-income students facing financial hardship with the resources they need to avoid dropping out and instead earn their diploma,” said Shari Garmise, Vice President of the USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives. “These grants will support nine institutions looking to help students in need. By supporting these institutions as they develop a micro-grant program or expand a pilot program, we are effectively supporting students, the workforce, and the nation.” The grants come on the heels of the release of APLU and USU’s report, “Foiling the Drop-Out Trap, Completion Grant Practices for Retaining and Graduating Students”, which detailed the success of these micro-grant student aid programs at 10 public urban research institutions and included an implementation guide for other universities looking to institute or scale micro-grant programs on their own campus. 6

UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

The grants are for two years and are funded by the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation and Lumina Foundation. The nine awardees will launch or begin expanding their development through June 2018. Awardees were selected on a range of criteria. This included the institution’s ability to: ensure the inclusion and buy-in of campus leadership, including the president/ chancellor and financial aid office; monitor student data at multiple points over the two years; build up the fund to support students in need; and identify, track, and communicate with students. The micro-grant program is a component of USU and APLU’s broader student success initiative known as Collaborating for Change, which is building campuscommunity collaborations to transform higher education practices, reduce student costs, and educate and graduate more disadvantaged students. As part of this larger effort, the institutional participants will be matched with peer mentors to form learning communities designed to offer technical assistance, professional development engagements, and other interactions to help them work through challenges, opportunities or unexpected developments as they build student success efforts. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 235 public research universities, landgrant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, APLU member campuses enroll 4.7 million students, award 1.2 million degrees, employ 1.4 million faculty and staff, and conduct $42.7 billion in universitybased research.

Founders Celebration The week-long celebration commemorated the 143 year existence of the institution with events for educators, students and the community. One of the highlights of the week was the Founders and Honors Award Assembly and Convocation.

Above: Faculty and Staff in regalia enter the H.O. Clemmons Arena during their formal procession. At top right: Convocation speaker and 1999 alumnus Dr. John Kuykendall, Jr., who serves as the interim department chair and associate professor of Higher Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, addresses the crowd.

At right: The African Drum Ensemble plays during the opening of the Founders and Honors Award Assembly and Convocation. The group is directed by Mr. Harold J. Fooster (far left).

Summer 2016 7


Men’s Day

Marc Lamont Hill urges students to be themselves by Ray King | Courtesy of The Pine Bluff Commercial Noted author and television commentator Marc Lamont Hill told students at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to “be yourself. Don’t ever let time be the enemy of your dreams.” Speaking at the university’s Men’s Day program, Hill — who has appeared on BET, Fox News, CNN and other media outlets — used his own life as an example, saying that after high school in North Philadelphia, his only goal was to play basketball. He wanted to go to college to play basketball. “My parents thought I should go to college to learn something,” Hill said. He enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta and made the basketball team his freshman year but “me and the coach didn’t get along. I sat on the bench and got tired of going around the country not playing.” Hill said he dropped out at the beginning of his sophomore year and the school wrote him a check for $5,000 to cover the tuition his parents had paid, and the first thing he did was buy a car, a GEO Metro.

He decided he was going to sell incense to make money. He said his parents stopped paying his rent and after a few months, his landlord locked the door of his apartment with his stuff inside. “I had to sleep in my car and didn’t have enough money to pay for the car, so they picked it up,” he said. “I ended up sleeping on the floor of the train station.” At that point, Hill said his life changed when another person who was also sleeping on the floor told him “you don’t belong here.” “I got a lesson,” Hill said. “Listening is something we don’t do enough of in this world. Young people don’t listen to their elders and grown folks don’t listen to young folks.” Hill said the man at the train station told him to “live your life. Be yourself.” “Most people don’t know who they are or what they are,” Hill said. “The world tries to tell us who or what we are.” He said he told the man, who was a homeless veteran, that he wanted to be a professor, then said it would probably take him 10 years to accomplish that. Comparing that period to students at UAPB, Hill said many of them can remember when they were freshmen and thought the four years they would spend at the university would never go by. “Now, some of you are going to graduate [soon],” he said. “If you don’ try, you are definitely going to fail.”

At left: Commentator and author Dr. Marc Lamont Hill delivered a passionate speech during Men’s Day at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff







SEPTEMBER 22, 2016 7:00 PM






Summer 2016 9


Young Scholars Program

Celebrating a legacy of educational access and community support by William Hehemann

Above: Pine Bluff Judge Berlin Jones speaks to students in the Young Scholars Program after an introduction by Dr. Irene K. Lee, creator of the program

Marquill Daniels, a 25 year-old native of Brinkley, Arkansas, was six when she started to sew, cook, garden and give speeches. She realized her potential for these and other educational pursuits as a student in the Young Scholars Program. An initiative started by University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1996 to help minority children from low-income families ages six to 15, the program was recently retired after 19 years of service. Dr. Irene K. Lee, 1890 Extension administrator at UAPB, began the initiative to demonstrate the link between children’s academic success and their ability to move out of poverty, become productive citizens and form strong families of their own. “Young Scholars was not a quick-fix program,” Dr. Lee said. “We were focused on long-term change for both the children and their parents. The program emphasized high learning standards, effective instructional and assessment practices and family participation.” The after-school program was implemented at several housing projects for lowincome families in Monroe and Lee counties. Extension human sciences educators worked with children and their parents five days a week, all year long. They taught math and science concepts through horticulture, environmental stewardship, nutrition, consumer education, clothing and textiles, and housing. “This was something all of us kids looked forward to every day after school,” Daniels recalls. “When it comes to education, you have to motivate youth. When children are motivated, they often don’t realize they are participating in an educational exercise.”


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Daniels said she was such a competitive achiever that her elder peers referred to her as “Star,” a nickname that remains today. A current major of business management at East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City, she hopes to someday start an educationbased non-profit so that she can give back to the community some of what she learned as a Young Scholar. Hands-on, inquiry-based activities were a major focus of the Young Scholars Program. Children learned to cook basic meals, plant a garden and complete basic bicycle maintenance tasks such as repairing a flat tire. When the 93 children completed the program, each was awarded a new bicycle and helmet by Dr. Lee. In addition to the regular afterschool sessions, the Young Scholars program featured a week-long summer day camp every year, during which UAPB professors would host engaging workshops on various scientific and mathematics topics. “More than teaching about educational topics and practical life skills, we also wanted to instill important intellectual and social development skills,” Dr. Lee said. “Instructors emphasized critical thinking, listening, decision making, goal setting and moral reasoning. Also included were universal virtues such as compassion, courage, fairness, justice and respect.” Elmer Calahan, whose daughter was a Young Scholars graduate, said the program kept children out of trouble on the street and taught them self-respect. His daughter, who was shy when she entered the program, learned to hold her head up and be confident in herself.

Clockwise from left: Six-year old Marquill Daniels introduces former Chancellor, Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. at an awards recognition banquet.; A six-year old Young Scholar learns how to sew; All 93 Young Scholars received a new bicycle and helmet after participating in the program.

“After Dr. Lee and the Young Scholars program came here, the kids became encouraged and were enthused to learn about all sorts of new things,” he said. “Most importantly, it gave them great discipline to get educated to succeed in the future.” Dorca Hinton, 30, says she still uses the lessons she learned from her Young Scholars mentors in her personal and professional life. As a representative for resident relations at Lindsey Management Inc., one of Arkansas’ largest housing corporations, she regularly practices the issue resolution techniques she learned in the classroom. Hinton credits Dr. Lee and the other program coordinators, Dorothy M. Taggart and Carrie Aldridge, with keeping her on a path to personal success. “I was the only teenage mom in the program,” Hinton said. “There were times when it was difficult to stick with it, but [the program leaders] drove me to continue. They gave me the resources to live a productive life.” Debra Hall, a single, working mother of three, had just moved to Brinkley from Chicago when her daughter asked if she could join the Young Scholars Program.

When she brought her children one day after school, she was opened up to a world of support, she said. “Not only did the program’s instructors take care of the children, they also provided resources that were valuable to me as a single parent,” Hall said. “I learned how to manage my finances and even how to preserve food with canning. The instructors seemed to give parents a boost to help their families through life.” While the program focused on youth, parents were also involved to a similar degree as they served as volunteers for the after-school program and participated in weekly group meetings. “Although parents were not the targeted audience, the participation of their children increased the way parents in the program began to look at their role in the growth and development of their children, and were thereby enriched by the program along with their children,” Dr. Jacquelyn W. McCray, interim vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UAPB, said. Calahan, who attended the group sessions with his wife, Doris, said he learned how to better communicate with his children and ultimately become a better parent.

“I never had anyone teach me how to communicate with my children,” he said. “I learned to never call your children stupid or crazy when they did something wrong because they would internalize it and react from that. From that day forward, it changed how I addressed my children and helped us have a better relationship. All of my children and grandchildren are totally different, but now I can sit down and talk to each of them with respect.” After Kenneth Jeffers’ wife passed away in 2000, he moved back to Brinkley. As a full-time employee with two daughters and two sons, he was unsure of where to turn for help. In addition to his emotional stress, he had trouble knowing how to care for all his kids’ needs. He says the Young Scholars program helped him get back on his feet. “You talk about help, this was the biggest help in the world for me,” he said. “Ms. Aldridge, Ms. Taggart and Dr. Lee took me under their wings and helped me out. As a working father with kids who needed to be ready for school, I wouldn’t have made it without them.” Calahan said the way parents learned to express themselves in the discussion groups provided a good example for the child participants who were learning how to interact cooperatively. “Even if the kids got mad at each other, they learned to sit down and reason with one another,” he said. “The message was, if the grownups can do it, you all can do the same thing.” Throughout its lifespan, the Young Scholars Program and its leaders received state and national recognition. In 1998, Dr. Lee received the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary’s Honor Award, the highest service award presented by the department. In 2007, the program was named one of the 10 best programs in the nation. Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr., former chancellor of UAPB, said the program had a profound effect on Monroe and Lee counties. “The Young Scholars Program was one of the most innovative, creative and productive programs that the university ever implemented,” he said. “It made a great difference in the lives of young people, their parents and the entire community.”

Summer 2016 11


Art graduate finds her stroke — without a paintbrush At left: Visual Arts graduate Bryona D. Whitlock stands in the midst of her largest works, “Beauty in the Struggle,” in her senior art exhibit, “Woven.”

Visitors who ventured through the Leedell Moorehead-Graham Art Gallery at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff would be captivated by a senior exhibit that scaled a quarter of the room with a plethora of yarn that formed peculiar shapes and tells interesting stories. Entitled “Woven,” the exhibit is the collective work of Bryona D. Whitlock, a graduating senior from St. Louis, Missouri, who received her bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts in May 2016. Wanting to explore beyond her hometown, she was advised to speak with former Art Department Chairperson and well-known artist Henri Linton, Sr. After that meeting, it didn’t take long for her to make the decision to attend UAPB. “I like the pace of the city and the one-on-one teaching I’ve had at UAPB,” Whitlock said. “I can always sit down and talk to my professors, and bounce ideas off of them. They let me use my imagination the way I wanted to.” Her interest in art began in elementary school. Although she was in sports, she liked being by herself, watching cartoons and drawing. “Art was the way for me to escape, show my ideas and show people that I exist, I have a vision, and that I have dreams,” she said. “When I was little, I always had big dreams but didn’t know how to achieve them. Now that I’ve been through college, I know how to execute in the way I want to.” With a style described as 3D art, the pieces range from the large-scale piece called “Beauty in the Struggle,” that speaks of hope in the midst of trials to “Evillene,” a nod to the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. Whitlock grew into this style because it allows her to move beyond the extension of a pencil, brush or computer mouse – with 3D art, she can use her hands and go with it. The exhibit “Woven” is inspired by the evolution she made as an artist in elementary school where she took a basket weaving class. She was so engulfed in doing it that she found herself making them during lunch at school and when at home. “I chose to weave for my senior project because it’s often something people take for granted. Everyone [usually] thinks a basket has to sit on a table or hold fruit but don’t realize that it can be whatever shape you can imagine and hold anything, everything, or nothing at all.” 12

UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Whitlock aspires to be a full-time artist and plans in the near future to obtain a master’s degree in psychology so she can become an art therapist and work with adults and autistic children. After having found her way through the different types of art, she has finally come into her own. “I’m a lot more outspoken now and comfortable with who I am as an artist.”

Above: Whitlock’s piece called “Night and Day” is one of her favorites in her senior exhibit.

Dr. Ganesh Kumar honored with Ph.D. award Bell Community Services awards more than $16,000 for animal science students

(L-R): Ellis Bell, Founder/President of Bell Community Foundation and Catherine Coleman, Board Member for Bell Community Foundation, present a check for $16,542 to benefit UAPB Animal Science students Maleek Ware, Azia Pugh-Thomas, and Ashlyn Carlton. UAPB Chancellor Dr. Laurence B. Alexander, and Dr. Mary E. Benjamin, Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation, and Economic Development were also present to lend their support.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Academy at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was awarded $16,542 by Bell Community Services to help increase the number of animal science graduates. A 501(c)(3) corporation, Bell Community Services is a college readiness STEMfocused program that partners with science teachers, colleges and others to inspire middle school and high school students to become college ready. Bell Community Services received Monsanto funding to advance its mission of helping to ensure a resilient agricultural economy. Partnering with the UAPB STEM Academy to increase the number and diversity of animal science professionals who will provide service and conduct needed research for livestock farmers is critical to the economy, the U.S. and the global food supply. The funds will go to assist UAPB students Ashlyn Carlton, Azia PughThomas and Maleek Ware, who are each majoring in agricultural science (animal option). Carlton is a Matteson, Illinois, native who aspires to become a wildlife biologist or conservation scientist. Pugh-Thomas hails from Desoto, Texas, and looks to obtain her Ph.D. in veterinary science with the goal of opening her own veterinary practice. Ware is from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and plans to pursue his master’s degree, become a Wildlife Biologist and one day have his own wildlife television show. As a result of the award, each student will receive a monthly stipend and a funded trip to a professional meeting.

Ganesh Kumar

Dr. Ganesh Kumar received the 2015 Best Ph.D. Dissertation Award from the International Association of Aquaculture Economics and Management, the professional organization of aquaculture economists. Presented at the World Aquaculture Society meeting in Las Vegas, this award recognizes research excellence and contribution to the profession by a doctoral candidate in the area of aquaculture economics, marketing and management. Dr. Kumar’s dissertation presents an explanation of the theory behind technology adoption and lists the factors influencing the technology adoption process. It is the only known study that investigates the technology adoption process in the U.S. catfish industry and is the first study to analyze the economic and investment feasibilities of alternate catfish production systems addressing the key question of “why farmers do what they do” when it comes to choosing technology. Originally from India, Dr. Kumar earned a bachelor’s degree in fisheries science from Kerala Agricultural University, India in 1999, and a master’s degree in inland aquaculture from the Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai in 2001. He was a technical and marketing consultant for two leading shrimp feed giants for four years before coming to the U.S. and earning a second master’s degree in aquaculture marketing from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) in 2007. Then, Dr. Kumar worked for UAPB as a research associate in aquaculture economics and marketing while earning his doctoral degree in aquaculture economics. As UAPB’s first student to earn a Ph.D., output from his research is expected to generate extension publications and articles in peer-reviewed journals and marketing. Summer 2016 13


Paula Johnson receives first 3-Plus-1 certificate through poultry science partnership with UA-Fayetteville by William Hehemann Apart from providing career training, the program can help prepare students interested in graduate and professional or veterinary schools for continued studies and advanced degrees, he said. Johnson said the program’s main benefit was its “best of both worlds” approach. “Being able to study both disciplines makes students more marketable for careers. Most of all, having previous knowledge in animal science helped a lot in understanding animals and ways to further improve their well being.” Johnson said the twofold advantages of the program also benefited her overall collegiate experience. “The University of Arkansas was a new and wonderful place to be,” she said. “The staff were From left: Dr. Linda Okiror, Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Success, Dr. Obadiah Njue, Chair of the Department of Agriculture, Paula Johnson, graduate of Animal very helpful and friendly, and I gained new Science and the first student to receive a 3-Plus-1 Certificate of Poultry Science, and Dr. Ondieki friends and learned many new things about Gekara, Associate Professor of Animal Science at UAPB’s 154th commencement in May 2016. myself.” Johnson said the foundation she gained Paula Johnson, a May 2016 graduate of animal science at the University of at UAPB helped her tremendously in her Arkansas at Pine Bluff, recently became the first student awarded the 3-Plus-1 transition to the University of Arkansas. Certificate of Poultry Science. The program allows senior UAPB animal science “The people at UAPB were and will always majors to take classes at the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, a unit of remain my family, ” she said. “The teachers and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the University of staff worked diligently with me and believed in Arkansas. me even when I didn’t believe in myself.” Completion of the program at the University of Arkansas requires students to Being active in clubs and organizations earn 26 to 28 hours of poultry science credit. The classes Johnson completed counted within the agriculture department helped open both toward her agriculture degree from the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries her outlook on life and the things she was and Human Sciences and her certificate in poultry science from the University of capable of doing, she said. Arkansas. “UAPB will always have a place in my “UAPB is extremely proud of Paula for her achievements at UAPB and for heart for giving me the foundation I needed reaching out for a new experience that will lead the way for others seeking to succeed, ” Johnson said. “I loved every this opportunity,” Dr. Linda L. Okiror, associate vice chancellor for enrollment second spent at UAPB and wouldn’t trade the management and student success, said. “UAPB’s long relationship with the poultry experience or family gained.” industry is now stronger with well-trained graduates to employ in significant roles.” Johnson is a native of Pine Bluff. Her parents Dr. Ondieki Gekara, associate professor of animal science at UAPB, said the are Paul and Lyna Johnson. Johnson said she 3-plus-1 Certificate of Poultry Science program enables animal science students to now plans to attend graduate school at the complete their studies in a timely manner and graduate with the knowledge and skills University of Arkansas for a master’s degree in necessary to find well-paying jobs in the poultry industry. poultry sciences, eventually pursuing a career “The partnership between the two universities comes at a good time, as demand in quality and assurance within the poultry for skilled graduates in the poultry industry is at an all time high in Arkansas and industry. across the U.S.,” he said. 14

UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff


can’t reach her full potential

without you!

Please invest in the lives of students like LaShanna by making a gift today! LaShanna Evans Nursing Pine Bluff, Arkansas Junior

Over 90% of students attending UAPB

today receive some form of financial aid. First-generation college-going students have a significant presence at UAPB. A large percentage of our students come from rural communities or urban cities where they and their families live at or below the national poverty level. Your gift to scholarships assists such students with attaining a college degree.

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Office of Development • UAPB Foundation Fund 1200 North University Drive, Mail Slot 4981 • Pine Bluff, AR 71601 Phone: 870-575-8701 • Fax: 870-575-4605

Summer 2016 15


Shifting Gears


by Donna Mooney

Photographs provided courtesy of the University Museum and Cultural Center


ust Technology Hall is home to Industrial Technology Management & Applied Engineering, Printing Services, University Studio and Channel 24 TV. This particular building at the corner of Reeker Street and L.A. “Prexy” Davis Drive, has had name changes over the years that were relevant to the times. When it was first built, the structure was called the Mechanical Arts Building. In 1963, it was called the Vocational Arts Building, and then later it was called the Industrial Technology Building. The late 90s edged out industrial technology for computer-based technology which led to Rust Technology’s current name. This specific building is named after John Daniel Rust, the inventor of the cotton picker. Rust was a Texas native who moved to Pine Bluff in 1948 after he invented a cotton picking machine that was powered by a V-8 Ford truck motor. His machine picked 13 bales of cotton a day. He obtained a licensed contract with Ben Pearson, Inc., and his invention became the prototype for the first 100 machines built under Pearson’s supervision. Rust chartered the John Rust Foundation in 1949 as a charitable corporation to provide scholarship assistance to southern students in colleges and universities. He was a charitable donor to Arkansas AM&N College. Before finding a permanent home at its current location, records from the University Museum and Cultural Center show that the “Mechanical Arts Building” stood across from the John Brown Watson Memorial Library. Originally, courses taught there included welding, tailoring, carpentry, brick masonry, auto mechanics, agriculture farming, radio and television repair and machine shop. In 1963, the building relocated to its current spot and became knowns as the Vocational Arts Building. In 1998, the Vocational Arts Building received a major remodel that removed the auto repair and body shop. 16

UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Above: Circa 1968 - Masonry students learn bricklaying techniques.

In 2012, Rust Technology Hall received a $3.2 million renovation provided through funding by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Post-Secondary Education, Strengthening Institutions, Title III, Part B, Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program. This mass makeover included installing an elevator, increasing classroom capacity, adding new furniture and replacing the HVAC system. In addition, the building now has a 120 seat auditorium and multipurpose classrooms with retractable walls.

Center of page: Circa 1968 - Mechanic Arts students put into practice what they have learned. At left: Circa 1968 Mechanic Arts students work on an engine as instructor Doyle P. Russ (far right) supervises. Below: Circa 1968 - Drafting students work on drawings as instructor Hurthle Curry looks on.

Above: Main entrance of Rust Technology Hall as it stands today. At left: The 120 seat auditorium style classroom inside Rust Technology Hall. Renovated in 2012, the facility now includes an elevator, increasing classroom capacity, adding new furniture and replacing the HVAC system for the floors, walls and ceilings. In addition, the building now has a 120 seat auditorium and multipurpose classrooms with retractable walls

Summer 2016 17


Above: Emmy-Award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield delivers the Spring 2016 Commencement Address .

Above: Graduates eagerly wait to walk into the arena of the Pine Bluff Convention Center for Fall 2015 Commencement exercises. A total of 187 degrees were conferred


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

At left: UAPB Chancellor Dr. Laurence B. Alexander stands with Chancellor’s Medallion recipients (l-r) Jade Gilbert, Kashina Burnett, Matthew Dismuke, and Davion Banks. Not pictured: Harry Estep and William Olson.



Courtesy of the Pine Bluff Commercial

Commencement means beginning and today is the beginning of a new chapter in your life,” said Laurence Alexander, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. UAPB held its 154th commencement ceremony at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, where Emmy-Award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield, was the speaker. Alexander gave the welcoming speech, letting the students know that their lives have just begun, and Whitfield challenged students to get excited about their new beginning and rise up to meet what’s ahead of them. “This day represents a day of honor, perseverance, achievement and accomplishment,” Alexander said. “This is the day that the Lord has made, so let us be glad and rejoice in it.” Three students who died before having the opportunity to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas with their classmates were recognized for their legacy. There were also three graduates that were mentioned by Alexander that gave the class of 2016 a genuine uniqueness. He asked the graduates to salute their fellow classmate Mary Kohn, a 73-year-old first-generation graduate, and Natasha Henderson, who was graduating alongside her son Justus Henderson. When Whitfield took the podium, she asked the graduates to stand to their feet and celebrate their achievement. She went on to name past graduates of the university who have gone on to have successful careers and assured them that they will be successful as well. “Yes, you will be doing stellar things, so today is an important milestone for you, yet it’s a turning point — a time of change,” Whitfield said.

“It is a singular moment when all the work you have done throughout your whole academic life is being rewarded — you’re being honored, I mean just look at this convention center — just look around.” Whitfield, who is also a graduate of a historically black college or university, said that she and the graduates are so blessed to that the founders of the HBCU’s were able to build the institutions against all odds. She reminisced on her college graduation and remembered thinking, “what’s next?” She said there’s always a what’s next, but the only thing that’s certain is right now. “You are graduating, you are moving forward, you are moving out, and you are rising up,” Whitfield said. She said that graduation is not a lateral move. “Rise is a very powerful word,” Whitfield said. “To assume an upright position, to return from death as in the power of resurrection, to appear above the horizon, to attain a higher level.” She said rising up is not a gratuitous idea but a consciousness. She used the example of her career in Hollywood. She said she had to believe that there was a place for her. “So when Josephine Baker came up, what did I do?” Whitfield said. “I rose to the occasion.” During her speech, Whitfield recited Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” with a blues spin with the help of the UAPB concert band and wind symphony. At the end of her speech, she recited lyrics to Andra Day’s hit song “Rise Up” as the graduates stood to their feet teary-eyed and proud. “I’ll rise up like the day. I’ll rise up unafraid and I’ll do it a thousand times again,” Whitfield said.

“Yes, you will be doing stellar things, so today is an important milestone for you, yet it’s a turning point — a time of change.”

Summer 2016 19

“[My family] taught me how to get out and get what I want no matter what it takes. They told me that I was in control of my own life, and I should always step out on faith and not be afraid to ask for what I want. This is how I will inspire other young ladies.”

Ward is photographed inside the UAPB Fitness Center where she serves as Director


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Perfect Fit




by Donna Mooney

eing a fitness trainer was not on Stacia Ward’s radar when she graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Her plans were to be an office manager and enjoy life. Back then, she didn’t exercise, nor did she follow a healthy nutrition plan, but fate and “an expanding waistline” forced her into a career choice that fits her perfectly. Even when she’s not on fitness trainer duty, Stacia Ward is still in perfect form – sitting in a chair with legs crossed at the knee, shoulders back, and head high. Or, is that Golden Girl formation? Ward is a 2001 alumna, former Golden Girl (GG), and certified fitness trainer. Known in the Pine Bluff community as the girl-nextdoor fitness guru, she came to UAPB in 1994 majoring in business administration with a concentration in office management. Her mother, Ms. Elizabeth Taylor, who happens to be a music teacher and band director, convinced her to try out for the UAPB Golden Girls team. Ward said she was hesitant because she had been a majorette for the Altheimer High School Band, but not a dancer. However, once she traded in her baton for dancing shoes, she was convinced. Her fitness name is Stacia Star, a nickname given to her by a best friend. She has been in the fitness business for eight years, and is currently employed as Director of the UAPB Fitness Center, fitness trainer for Jefferson Regional Medical Center (JRMC), and Fitness Coach for the Golden Girls. Also, Ward is the dance coach for Broadmoor Elementary School Drill Team. Her fitness certifications include the Les Mills certified group fitness instructor, Zumba Fitness LLC, and American Muscle Fitness Personal Training (AMFPT) certified personal trainer. She is certified with the American Heart Association BLS, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), AED, and First Aid. To say that Ward is disciplined is an understatement. Her daily personal routine starts with drinking a quart size bottle of lemon or cucumber water, followed by nutritional supplements and a green smoothie. With Fitbit firmly strapped on, she sets out to walk several miles during the day, in addition to working out with clients at JRMC and UAPB. Her personal exercise routine is so challenging that she can’t find anyone willing to accept her Fitbit challenges. What’s odd is that Ward wasn’t always a fitness fanatic.

“I was always kind of thick as a GG,” Ward said. “I was 143 pounds and it was solid. It was the greens and ham hocks type of thing. I didn’t exercise either. One day I went shopping and tried on size 9/10 jeans and they did not fit. I had to go up to 10/11 and that did not work for me, so I decided to go on a diet.” With a goal to lose 10 pounds, Ward started drinking more water, walking and eating one Subway salad a day. She said the first 10 pounds were the hardest to lose, but within six weeks, she had lost a total of 30 pounds. “When I lost weight, I had people coming up and asking me how to lose weight,” she said. “I would put them on a diet and exercise routine and would work out with them. One day I made up my mind that I wanted to be a fitness trainer. The next day, I went to JRMC Wellness Center and to my surprise, the fitness instructor asked me if I would be interested in becoming a trainer. I knew it was meant to be.” Her future short and long term goals are to focus more on fitness for children. “I would like to be more hands on because statistics show that one out of every five children in the U.S. is overweight or obese and this number is continuing to rise,” Ward said. “My objective is to create programs to enhance children’s activity and nutrition.” According to Ward, everybody needs someone who motivates him/her to do better. Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels is her fitness motivator, Dr. Ann Williams is her personal motivator, and her mother and late great aunt are her inspiration. “My mother and great aunt, Allean Williams, inspired me because both of them are alumni of this University where they both received their degrees in education,” Ward said. “They taught me how to get out and get what I want no matter what it takes. They told me that I was in control of my own life, and I should always step out on faith and not be afraid to ask for what I want. This is how I will inspire other young ladies.” As a dance coach, Ward has already begun to positively influence young girls by working with the Broadmoor Elementary School Drill Team, the Flawless All Stars and Jack Robey Dancers. She teaches them about discipline, order, exercise and nutrition.

Summer 2016 21 Photograph by Brian T. Williams


A New Song


Photographs by Ryan Abernathy


edric Jones entered the music industry in his local church amid a litany of talented musicians and singers. At a young age, he found himself loving music and developing a desire to pursue music ministry as a career. His determination was fostered by Dr. Dewitt Hill, a well-known religious leader in the Pine Bluff community. Dr. Hill would take him and other youth to national conferences. It was at these events that he witnessed the work of famous gospel artists like The Clark Sisters, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, the late James Moore, Timothy Wright and others. Jones said that his mind was blown by the encounter. “After [that experience], I just had a passion and drive even more for gospel music pursuit,” Jones said. “I knew what I wanted to do.” While attending Pine Bluff High School, he was asked by now retired educator Mrs. Mattie Collins to start a choir through the History Club. This was the first gospel choir that was ever started at the school. Jones considered himself an average guy while in high school and said it was through this initiative that he really began to develop his gift and ultimately unify the campus, garnering more than 100 students to perform in the ensemble. A 2001 University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff graduate with a bachelor’s degree in History Education with a minor in English, Jones attended UAPB with a scholarship from the Vesper Choir. The passion for music that developed during his time in high school continued in college and led to the founding of the United Voices Chorale, or UVC, while on campus. Another chapter began after starting the choir that led him to begin writing songs and founding another performing group called Chosen Praise. “UAPB was a blessing and exposed me to so much and helped me prepare for life,” Jones said. “I received a good education, not only through books, but through so many on campus who inspired and challenged me to be well rounded.”

“It’s my job to coach students into their destiny.....When we receive, we should also be empowering someone else.”

I Don’t Want to Fall

Of the lessons he learned at UAPB, Jones says perseverance is one of the most valuable. He recalled a time when he and his group Chosen Praise were singing at the Pine Bluff Convention Center for an event hardly anyone showed up. The group didn’t get paid, either. He remembered vividly that they sang a song he wrote called “I don’t want to fall.” Even though the venue was empty, they sang it with everything they had. In the small audience was renowned artist and saxophonist Donald Hayes who was in the area to celebrate one of his close friends who lived in Pine Bluff. He heard them and asked if they were recording. Jones responded that they were not. Hayes then connected them with respected gospel music producer Andrew Gouche’ and the rest is history. Jones admits that he thought it was a joke, but a few weeks later, they were flying to Los Angeles, and began recording with Gouche’ to produce their first album, “Heart of David.” Through this experience, Dedric Jones and Chosen Praise had a chance to meet several new artists, perform for audiences of 10,000 and met one of his mentors, awardwinning gospel artist Dorinda Clark-Cole. His relationship with her gave him access to a national stage and opened up a network of other performing artists and opportunities. Success comes with its prerequisites. Jones is quick to point out that a lot of his songs often come as a result of struggle. He has endured growing pains while dealing with the industry and depression when grieving the death of his brother. It was through these living lessons that he wrote his most powerful songs. “People have celebrated a lot of the songs I have written, but the most powerful and effective songs I have written, it was hell,” Jones said, comparing his process to that of an olive plant. “The oil began to pour because I was crushed.”

My Brother’s Keeper

Although he’s been all over the country, Jones has not forgotten his roots in education. He works as a career coach where he has the privilege of helping high school students find their paths in life. One of the first questions he was asked when interviewing for the position was whether he thought the job was his calling. “It’s my job to coach them into their destiny,” Jones said. “When we receive, we should also be empowering someone else.”

At this point, Jones knew he was making the right choice. He juggles this job along with his music career, often flying across the country and going to work the next day. He doesn’t mind, though, because he says he is passionate about education and impacting the next generation.

Something Better

Jones continues to work on his music and has since produced four more albums. He is currently working on more projects including acting and the production of a soundtrack for a faith-based movie that is set to come out in 2016. Jones believes that you should die empty; meaning that every gift given to you should be shared with others.

Above: Dedric Jones and his group Chosen Praise perform during a live recording for their album, “Living Live.” At left: Jones (centered) is pictured with other members of the UAPB Student Government Association where he served as Treasurer.

Summer 2016 23



by William Hehemann


asey L. Taylor, an alumna of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, says some of the most important insights she gained as a student of the department of agriculture mirror some of the things her grandfather, a farmer with land in Alabama, used to stress to his family. Above all, he emphasized caring for farmland through an understanding of sustainable land management practices, and urged his family to always continue their agricultural legacy. An Illinois native, Taylor credits her grandfather’s inspiration and the instruction she received at UAPB, for helping her forge a rewarding, 21-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Now, as state conservationist for Delaware, she enjoys helping other landowners make important decisions about their farmland. Taylor’s journey to her current position began when she decided to break family tradition by attending UAPB, an 1890 land-grant university in the Mississippi River Delta, rather than the University of Illinois, where her brother and aunt attended. “We had some family friends who were die-hard fans of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal (AM&N) College, so I always knew I wanted to attend an 1890 university,” Taylor said. “I had a great Golden Ambassador when I visited the campus. From that moment on, I fell in love.” As she worked towards earning her bachelor’s degree in animal sciences, Taylor was awarded a student internship with the USDA Cooperative Education Program in Kansas, and later in Arkansas. After she graduated, she was hired as a NRCS soil conservationist. Taylor said the practical training and exposure she gained working with landowners in Lafayette, Columbia, Sebastian, Crawford and Scott Counties eventually led to great opportunities. She was appointed district conservationist for the NRCS field office in Batesville and later in Mississippi and Phillips Counties. “With all the experience I gained working in the great state of Arkansas, it really became my home away from home,” Taylor said. In 2003, Taylor was selected as the assistant state conservationist for field operations in Minnesota, where she worked for ten years. In 2013, she was selected as the state conservationist for Delaware.


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

In this position, she is responsible for providing overall direction of NRCS personnel, the implementation of conservation programs and activities consistent with the Farm Bill and the equitable, timely delivery of technical assistance. Among Taylor’s most recent achievements was receiving an outstanding performance award in 2015. She was also selected to serve on several committees, including the NRCS Chief ’s Advisory Committee, the National Conservation Planning Steering Committee and the North East Region Representative on the National Employee Development Board. Taylor said she is blessed to work with incredible partners and landowners who are innovators and pioneers. Being a good advocate for a landowner means knowing how to do it right. “A lot of times, landowners may be looking to implement a single conservation practice tied to a specific resource concern that has been identified,” she said. “However, there may be ongoing needs that could be assessed through a detailed resource inventory, which can be treated through a prescribed conservation plan. We lay out a full plan for their land, beginning to end, so they get an overall understanding of what they can implement to improve their operations and provide long term sustainability.” Taylor said local NRCS conservationists work in partnership with the landowners to understand how their operations are working for them and how they can use assistance as needed. Often, landowners may not want financial assistance, but rather help with engineering design or the development of a conservation plan to transform their operation from good to great. Conservationists hope to leave the landowner with a blueprint that ensures the longterm sustainability of the land’s soil, water and air quality. The most commonly implemented conservation practice is crop rotation, she said. Other practices, including interseeding and the addition of cover crops, aim to ensure healthy soil and prevent soil runoff. “Sometimes, landowners may not see the limitations for their soil,” she said. “We try to help them understand the complexity of soil and how important it is to build up the microorganisms that make fertile, productive soil.”

Kasey Taylor (center) listens as a Delaware producer speaks with her and U.S. Senator Tom Carper Photo Courtesy of Kasey Taylor

Taylor said the NRCS works to identify and eliminate barriers for limited resource farmers, beginning farmers and historically underserved farmers. This involves hosting local round table meetings, fostering inclusivity and equal access for all services and providing assistance and training. “We benefit by having an audience that wants help,” she said. “We’ve seen small and beginning farmers expand their operations into sustainable, profitable models. When the landowners start telling the story – when they want to implement some practices they see working well on a neighbor’s farm – that’s what it means to be successful.” During her formative years at UAPB, Taylor said she benefited from a support system of committed professors. Among the professors who made the biggest impression on her, were Dr. Dennis O. Balogu, professor of animal science, Dr. Abdullah Muhammad, professor of plant and soil sciences, Dr. Mohammad Jalaluddin, professor of plant pathology, and Dr. Owen Porter, professor of soil sciences. “Dr. Porter gave me a much better appreciation for soils,” she said. “I began to realize that if you don’t understand soils, you don’t understand agriculture. Without understanding the cornerstone of farming, it’s impossible to make recommendations to others about how to treat their land.”

“The nurturing you receive as a student at an 1890 school is different than at any other university...[it] is an investment that increases your confidence, independence, selfgrowth and motivation. It’s quality education at an affordable price that comes with a unique, personal touch.” Taylor said her mother often remarks about the noticeable difference that attending an 1890 land-grant institution made in her daughter’s life. “The nurturing you receive as a student at an 1890 school is different than at any other university,” she said. “Choosing to attend an 1890 university is an investment that increases your confidence, independence, self-growth and motivation. It’s quality education at an affordable price that comes with a unique, personal touch.” Together with her husband, Myron Taylor, and their two sons, James, 8, and Jonathan, 7, Kasey is proud to continue an agricultural legacy started by her grandfather.

Summer 2016 25

Friday, March 4, 2016save the date






1 0 1 E a s t M a r k h a m S t r e e t , L i t t l e Ro c k , A R

GENERAL RECEPTION - 6:00 PM ž DINNER - 7:00 PM A fundraiser to enhance programs at the Torii Hunter Baseball, Softball, and Little League Complex. To purchase a ticket, contact the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Office of Development, (870) 575-8701 or (870) 575-8702.


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff


Kyle Coleman

Kyle Coleman signs with Seahawks by Bob Condatta | Courtesy of the Seattle Times

The Seattle Seahawks have signed Kyle Coleman to fill a spot created on the 90-man roster when the team waived cornerback Jamal Marshall. While the official release announcing the signing lists Coleman as a linebacker, he was listed as a fullback when he participated in Seattle’s rookie mini-camp last month as a tryout player (Coleman was also listed by NFLDraftScout. com as a fullback). However, Coleman also played some linebacker during Seattle’s rookie mini-camp, one of several players the Seahawks used on each side of the ball that weekend. And Coleman played both linebacker and tight end during his college football career.

Coleman finished his college career in 2015 at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff after having played earlier at Arkansas State. He is the son of former NFL star Monte Coleman, who is the current head coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coleman was listed last season at 6-2, 220. But he said in this story from last fall that he weighed more than 240 pounds when playing linebacker at Arkansas State before switching to offense for his final season last year at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coleman had 10 catches for 117 yards last season.

Summer 2016 27



UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff




Diane Suitt Gilleland, Ph.D., carries the title as the first person in the history of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) to reverse decades of funding disparity for UAPB. Recently, she shared her thoughts on the matter - discussing the circumstances surrounding her actions. In 1988, Gilleland was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for ADHE when she saw that UAPB urgently needed money for capital improvements and that the University deserved much better than the State had allocated over the years. Her passionate commitment led to the allocation of a $30 million state appropriation for new construction, overdue renovations and critical replacement of underground pipelines. Gilleland has been a member of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Foundation Board since 2003 and the University of Arkansas Foundation Board since 2005. Currently, she is an adjunct professor of higher education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a career choice that started in 2003. From 1986 to 1990, Gilleland was Chief Financial Officer for ADHE, and Deputy Director for ADHE until 1997. She also has been an Independent Director of Navient Corporation since July 1997. Dr. Gilleland is photographed inside her home amidst a portion of her extensive art collection. Photographs by Brian T. Williams

Summer 2016 29


She was previously a member of the Sallie Mae Board of Directors, and she served as an Independent Director of SLM Corporation from March 25, 1994 to April 30, 2014. From 1999 to 2003, she served as a Deputy Director of the Illinois Board for Higher Education and Senior Fellow of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. in 1997. Gilleland earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. In 1983, she was completing her dissertation on “The History of the Board of Higher Education from 1961-1978,” when she discovered the now outdated funding formula for Arkansas’ Higher Education distribution. “A portion of money was allocated to the Department of Higher Education and State legislators were told to go into a room and work it out,” Gilleland said. “But remember, this was during a time when then President Davis (L.A. “Prexy” Davis, Sr.) was not allowed in the room, so how could he be a part of the meeting to work it out? President Davis had to eat his meals in the kitchen because he was not allowed to eat with the legislators.”

According to Gilleland, enrollment figures at that time revealed State universities with one-half the number of students as UAPB were getting more money. Prior to working for ADHE, Gilleland was the Director of Corporate and Government relations in Carbondale, Illinois. At the time, she was a single parent and her teenage daughter, Leabeth, soon would be attending college. Gilleland said she needed a higher paying salary to help pay college tuition. Therefore, when the ADHE job offer opened paying the salary she desired, she applied. (Today, Leabeth and Gilleland’s grandchildren, Gabe, 18 and Sophie, 8, are the reasons she remains in Arkansas.) As CFO for the Department of Higher Education, Gilleland’s duties included making funding recommendations to the legislators and governor. Not long after becoming Deputy Director of ADHE, she toured UAPB with former Chancellor Dr. Charles A. Walker to review the campus capital and building needs. During an outside tour of the chemistry building, in addition to noting the broken windows and bird infiltration, she discovered standing water and soggy soil from leaky, aged sewer lines.

Caine-Gilleland Hall as it stands today on UAPB’s campus. The construction of the building was a result of Dr. Gilleland’s work to increase funding for UAPB.


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

“I thought to myself, ‘If I were a student at UAPB, I would not think the state of Arkansas cared about me that much...I was crushed to see the conditions, and I knew the State had to give UAPB the money to make improvements.”

Summer 2016 31


Above: Dr. Diane Gilleland stands next to Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. while holding the commemorative plaque that displays the building (Caine-Gilleland Hall) that was co-named in her honor. She was surprised with the dedication during a visit to the campus. Photo courtesy of the University Museum and Cultural Center


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

“I thought to myself, ‘If I were a student at UAPB, I would not think the state of Arkansas cared about me that much,’” she said. “I was crushed to see the conditions, and I knew the State had to give UAPB the money to make improvements. UAPB had no way of making improvements or constructing new buildings with the funding they were receiving back then. They were just surviving.” Although Gilleland was keenly aware of UAPB’s financial needs, at the time, ADHE did not have the funds. Then in 1990, ADHE received a 10% increase in the budget that included $300 million from the College Savings Bond Program. Gilleland said she knew that UAPB had to have a huge piece of that money and if it wasn’t done then, it would never happen, but she needed support from others. FROM $20 MILLION TO $30 MILLION University President B. Alan Sugg was the first person Gilleland said she contacted for backing. She called and explained UAPB’s situation and told him she wanted UAPB to have at least $20 million of the appropriations. After touring the University for himself, Sugg agreed. Next, she contacted Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and told him about the sewer line experience at the University, and that UAPB would need lots of money to replace it. Gilleland suggested that since Tucker was about to take a bus tour throughout the state, he should tour UAPB. Not long after the tour, Gilleland asked Gov. Tucker what he thought. “Governor Tucker told me that if he had the money the day he visited UAPB, he would have written a $30 million check right then because he knew it had to be done,” she said. “Even without the sewer line problems I (Gilleland) would have been convinced they needed the money.”

“I was teaching a class at Monticello High School not long after integration, and Linda was black. One day, I told her that she could go to college anywhere she wanted - she could go to Harvard University. She told me that she had always wanted to attend AM&N College.” “She said to me – ‘I’m not going to Harvard. Do you think I’d be accepted and elected president of the freshman class at Harvard? Do you think I’ll get the leadership experience and acceptance there? I’ll have leadership and acceptance at AM&N College.’”

Prior to this major appropriation, UAPB only received maintenance money. Support in check, Gilleland forged ahead with the UAPB improvement campaign. Her efforts to increase funding and promote improvements at UAPB resulted in renovations to existing facilities and the construction of new buildings Dawson-Hicks Hall, Caine-Gilleland Hall (co-named in her honor), and Holiday Hall. Also, the infrastructure was updated to accommodate state-ofthe-art classrooms and laboratories. WALL TO WALL ART Gilleland has kept pieces of her life work dear to her heart through a personal collection of artwork that speaks clearly of her commitment to her fellowman and to God. Gilleland loves people, and she loves art, and she has purposefully merged the two into one seamless rendition of her inner self decorated throughout her home. “These are literally my thoughts on the wall,” she said. Classic paintings and portraits hang on the wall like humble badges of honor.

Each one tells a story that speaks to her, and she selflessly shares stories with others. Paintings with bright shades of blues, stunning oranges and majestic purples, make for colorful conversations and reminisce. Framed prints, abstracts, representational expressionism, and renderings of life after apartheid have their assigned places on plain walls – one large canvass prepared for multiple works. Although a bulk of the paintings and woven art from South Africa have an assigned room of their own, additional sculptures, art pieces and bowls are staged atop and amidst shelves high and low. Ferns and Japanese Holly Ferns are nestled on the patio, while orchids, her favorites, are sometimes staged in front of paintings. Pottery from Mississippi and wedding baskets from South Africa work well together. Artworks completed by Henri Linton of Pine Bluff, Emile Wood from Arkadelphia, Marion Davis and others have prized locations. Proud of her Delta background, Gilleland also has paintings of the Bank of Lake Village and small town Marvell, Arkansas.

Summer 2016 33


“...My goal today is — I want to finish well. I want to be a blessing to others. I want to hear well done, good and faithful servant.”

HEART OF THE MATTER Gilleland grew up in Jennie, Arkansas, a rural town near Lake Village - population about 100. She said her quaint community included people who were Chinese, Lebanese, Syrian, Italian, African-American and Caucasian. Even though she didn’t hear the racism – she saw the injustices. “I have had a special connection to my ‘brothers and sisters’ since I was five years old that some things weren’t quite right,” Gilleland said. “I believe the Lord laid it on my heart. I would see the other children out playing in the yard, but I wasn’t allowed to play with them. I grew up with my grandmother, and she took care of anyone in the community who was sick and made sure they got to the doctor, but there were boundaries.” “UAPB has been a heart issue for me for a long while,” Gilleland said. One of her former students, Linda Williams, taught her about the college. “I was teaching a class at Monticello High School not long after integration, and Linda was black. One day, I told her that she could go to college anywhere she wanted - she could go to Harvard University. She told me that she had always wanted to attend AM&N College.” “She said to me – ‘I’m not going to Harvard. Do you think I’d be accepted and elected president of the freshman class at Harvard? Do you think I’ll get the leadership experience and acceptance there? I’ll have leadership and acceptance at AM&N College.’ Linda graduated from UAPB and then from Ohio State University. She showed me she was right. We’ve been friends since she was in my classroom and our children are friends now.” Gilleland said she has no regrets about her work with UAPB. “My only regret is that I didn’t ask for $100 million,” she said. “It worked out great for UAPB. My experiences with UAPB led to other opportunities in my life, even my travels to South Africa. My goal today is - I want to finish well. I want to be a blessing to others. I want to hear well done, good and faithful servant.”


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

An avid art collector, Dr. Gilleland has carefully curated several pieces in her home that pay homage to the Arkansas Delta. Her collections include (clockwise from top): Various tapestries purchased during her time in Cape Town, Africa; a portrait she affectionately calls Love Me Tender; Lake Village Bank by Daniel Coston; and Charlie Mae Practicing for the Baptism by the late Carroll Cloar (reprint)

Summer 2016 35


Above: Justus Henderson and his mother Natasha Henderson (Photo Courtesy of the Pine Bluff Commercial)

Mother, son graduate together Excerpt of an article from the Pine Bluff Commercial

Natasha Henderson, 41, and her son Justus Henderson, 22, both of Pine Bluff walked across the same stage on the same day to receive their college degrees from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in the Spring 2016 semester. Natasha Henderson, who said she was on the brink of giving up on school when she was struck with the news of a heart condition, said she got strength from someone who has always been a best friend and supporter — her son. Natasha Henderson gave birth to Justus Henderson when she was 19 years old. She said motherhood was something she was afraid of because of her rocky relationship with her parents, and it took her until her mid-20s to really get it together and be the mother and friend that she always wished she had. “I really am a proud mother — I really am,” Natasha Henderson said. “I was just telling him, ‘Raising you being a single mother, I had no idea how you would turn out.’ We have this bond.

He knows when I’m sad — he knows when something is wrong and I remember when he was little, he could tell when something was wrong and he would crawl up into my lap and he’ll just grab my face and say, ‘Mommy, I love you, it’s going to be OK.’” Natasha Henderson said that as Justus Henderson got older, he would tell her that she could talk to him about the things that she was going through and although he might not always understand, he told her he would listen. She said he was always a lot more mature than kids his age and always put value on education and learning. She said his maturity made being a single parent a little bit easier and his love and support of her was second to none. “I told him that both of us have come a long way. Neither one of my parents have a college degree,” Natasha Henderson said. “I’m a first-generation, and so is he, so looking at that and looking upon my parents, they never really encouraged me to go to college. My dad didn’t attend any of my graduations, but my mom did despite the fact that she’s disabled and can’t drive, she made a way to get there.” Natasha Henderson received an associate’s degree in business office administration and she also has a cosmetology degree. After attending the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in order to obtain a bachelor’s degree and being denied the opportunity at a second chance after failing classes and suddenly withdrawing after being hit with the news that she had a heart condition that required surgery immediately, she was ready to give up on her dream. “I’m so grateful and I’ve told my son no matter how hard things get to never give up and people all day everyday will try to test you but you can’t let them see that side of you because that’s what they want to see.” After five years of sitting out of college, Natasha Henderson was finally able to enroll to complete her last two semesters during the same time that her son was a student at the university. Justus Henderson said his mom has always told him that he could do anything that he put his mind to. “I actually made my own quote from her advice,” Justus Henderson said. “I said, ‘If I think it, I can do it,’ which pretty much holds true because the human mind is not made to engineer irrelevant thoughts.” Justus Henderson received a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and hopes to work in federal security. He said that despite his mother’s apprehension and fear of him initially wanting to work in law enforcement, she supported his dream. In the wake of all of the controversy surrounding law enforcement, Justus Henderson said he has decided not to pursue a career in law enforcement but may go to law school one day.

Demetrius Johnson, Jr.’16 will be attending

a four-week French speaking learning program at the University of Toulouse in France in a study abroad partnership with the Office of International Programs and Studies at UAPB. He will also receive the chance to experience French culture.

WE WANT TO KNOW *Photos and book covers must be 300 DPI in resolution and in pdf or jpeg format 36

UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Maria Cabane ‘14 received

her master’s degree in sports psychology from Boston University.

Send your accomplishments, milestones and publications to


PRIDE At the UniversitY of ArkAnsAs At Pine BlUff, YoU Are A PArt of A PlAce where A legAcY of excellence hAs Been forged. You are a part of a place where our students are as diverse as the world in which they are preparing to thrive. You are a part of a place where world-renowned academic programs are led by stellar faculty who provide one-on-one instruction. You are a part of a place that prepares you to go on to impact the world — as a proud representative of the pride.


© 2015 University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

IN MEMORIAM GLORIA ANNTOINETTE MALCOLM HILL’71, died Tuesday, December 8, 2015, at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. She was born July 11, 1949, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to the late Charles Leroy and Mabel Topps Malcolm. She attended Main Street and Thirty Fourth Avenue Elementary Schools. She graduated from Merrill High School in 1967 and Arkansas AM&N College (UAPB). She loved being a mother, interior and exterior decorating, sewing, cooking and music. She also had a passion for poetry. Gloria Malcolm was an active member of Saint Bethel Baptist Church. She diligently worked at Arkansas Power and Light (Entergy) for 25 years and after retiring she worked at the University Shop.

VILEARA LEE GIBSON JORDAN'74 died June 3, 2016. She was born November 24, 1951, to George Andrew Gibson and Erma Lee Gibson. Vileara confessed hope in Jesus Christ at an early age at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Elaine, Arkansas. After she moved to Pine Bluff, she became a member of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church and served on the Usher Board for over 20 years and enjoyed working on different church committees. She married Willie Earl Jordan on April 26, 1975. Vileara grew up in Elaine, Arkansas, and graduated from Elaine High School. After graduation, she attended AM&N/UAPB, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Business Education Degree. She later earned a Master of Education Degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She was employed at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for 41 years. Vileara proudly served as the Education Program Coordinator—a position that allowed her to come in contact with students and to encourage, motivate, and emphasize the importance of higher education.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 35 years, Benjamin Freeman Hill, Jr.; maternal grandparents, Doc and Ida Byas Topps; five sisters, Mamie, Thelma, Ida Marie, Mable LaJoyce and Mildred Malcolm Chambers; and one brother, Charles L. Malcolm, Jr. Survivors include two daughters, Bionne and Brittani Hill, of Pine Bluff; one brother, Louis B. Malcolm, of Chicago, Illinois; three sisters, Mary V. (Ocie) Johnson, of Flint, Michigan; Margret J. (Elbert) Parks and Leola Malcomb Sims, both of Pine Bluff; one brother-in-law, Herman Mitchel, of Pine Bluff; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and acquaintances.

In 2015, she received the University Customer Service Award recognizing those who exhibit the highest degree of customer service and consistently exceed job expectations. She was preceded in death by her parents George Andrew Gibson and Erma Gibson; stepfather, Sammie Grant; two brothers, Charles Gibson and James Larry Gibson; three sisters, Georgia Ethington, Betty Gibson, and Bernice Tye; one niece, Tresha Gibson Wilson; one uncle, Ivory Gibson; and one nephew, George Arnett. She leaves to cherish her memory her husband, Willie Earl of Pine Bluff, Arkansas; two sisters, Levora Carlton of Elyria, Ohio, and Sandra Henry (Jerry) of West Helena, Arkansas; two sisters-in-law, Shirley Applegate (Earnest) and Thelma Ramsey (Jerome) of Little Rock, Arkansas; two brothers-in law, Roosevelt Jordan, Jr., and Allen Jordan of Dermott, Arkansas; two aunts, Viola Watson of Elaine, Arkansas, and Dr. Lavern Scott (Pete) of West Helena, Arkansas; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives, and friends.

WILFORD GLENN'59, 83, died October 5, 2015. He leaves to his memory his wife, June Glenn; two daughters, Stephanie (Michael) Tate and Letitia Glenn; two sons, Wilford E. (Remell) Glenn, Jr. and Stephen Glenn (deceased); one sister, Joyce (Earl) Vinson, Seattle, Washington; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

ARTIS T. LOFTON'74 died Thursday, April 21, 2016. He was born on April 8, 1952, to Floyd and Mozella Lofton. He was 64 years old. He married Clara Garrett on May 17, 1975. LTC(R) Artis Lofton was born in Forrest City, Arkansas. He lived in Heth, Arkansas, and finished high school in Hughes, Arkansas. He received his BS degree in biology and a Regular Army Commission in the Infantry at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Webster College. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College. As a career Military Officer, he has served in various assignments and positions in the United States, Germany, and Italy.

He began his career as a Second Lieutenant in Fort Benning, Georgia, where he attended Officer Basic and Advanced Course Training. His first troop assignment was in Fort Ord, California, where he served in various leadership positions. At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Italy, he served as company Commander of an Airborne Light Infantry Company and G-3 Training Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. In the 1980s, he returned to Arkansas where he served as Assistant Professor of Military Science at UAPB. LTC(R) Lofton was assigned to West Berlin, Germany, in October 1984. There he served as Organizational Effectiveness Consultant to the U.S. Commander of Berlin. Next, he served as S3 Operation Officer in the Berlin Infantry Brigade. He was selected and served as Deputy G3 for Operation at Allied Staff in West Berlin. He served as the Battalion Executive Officer of an Infantry Battalion

AUGUSTA J. PEARSON’39, died December 28, 2015, at Paradise Valley Hospital in National City, California. He was born October 29, 1915, in Pine Bluff to the late Carl W. Pearson and Bessie Jones Pearson. Augusta J. Pearson was baptized and started his ministry at St. Paul Baptist Church in Pine Bluff under the leadership of the late Rev. J.F. Clark. Dr. Pearson received the Bachelor of Arts degree in History at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal (AM&N). He later attended the School of Divinity at Howard University in Washington, D.C.; he then went on to earn his Master of Education and Master of Philosophy degrees at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He continued his education to earn his Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Francisco, California. He was honored with the Doctor of Divinity degrees from Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock, Arkansas and Morris Booker College, Dermott, Arkansas. Dr. Pearson was pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Camden, Arkansas. While at Shiloh he also taught history at Camden’s Lincoln High School. During his time at Shiloh, he also baptized 30 youth. After Shiloh he continued God’s work and became the senior pastor at Ninth Street Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas, for 13 years.

Nuclear Security Force in Neu Ulm, West Germany. He was selected to serve as the Professor of Military Science at Florida Southern College (FSC) in Lakeland, Florida. He was the first African American to serve as a Department Chairman at FSC. After 20 years of active federal military service, he spent 18 years as a high school teacher/Senior Army Instructor at North Little Rock High School JROTC program. He retired from that position in 2012. He leaves memories with his wife, Clara Lofton; son, Artis T. Lofton, Jr.; parents, Floyd and Mozella Lofton; siblings, Eloise Young, Korryene McArthur, Myrtle Young, Floyd Lofton, Jr., Larry Lofton, Virlean (Robin) Kirkland, Anthony (Joyce) Lofton, Eric (Esoleta) Lofton, and Janet (Ben) Overton; a host of family, colleagues and friends. He was preceded in death by his sister, Paulette Lofton and his brother- in-law, Sam McArthur.

He was in the community serving as President of the Interdenominational Alliance, member of the Interracial Committee for Community Understanding, Editor and Writer for the Senior Quarterly and the Informer for Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Dr. Pearson was later appointed the senior pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. While living in Topeka he continued to be an active part of the community. In the sixties, he promoted racial unity by organizing and instructing a six-week class for two years on Black Identity. He later became employed as a school counselor at Highland Park High School. Dr. Pearson’s community contributions include the following: President, Kansas Council of Churches; Co-Founder - Doorstep of Topeka; Member - Topeka Rescue Mission, where he served for six years as the president of the board. He also served as Dean - Kaw Valley District Congress of Christian Education; DeanKansas Congress of Christian Education; Facilitator/Conducts Administrative Workshop National Congress of Christian Education; Chairman - OIC of Topeka; Chairman/Hearing Officer - Human Relations Commission; Vice Moderator - Kaw Valley District Association; Director/Chairman - Topeka Extension Western Bible College 1991 Evangelistic Mission to Russia; and Moderator - Kaw Valley District (three years). Dr. Pearson retired from Shiloh and relocated to California to be near his daughters.


University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff 1200 North University Drive -Mail Slot 4789 Pine Bluff, AR 71601-2780


UAPB Magazine • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

UAPB Magazine | Summer 2016  

Speaking firsthand about her experiences witnessing inequality, Dr. Diane Gilleland explains how it has become her life’s passion.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you