UCA plans Night of Distinction gala

by Scarlet Sims


A spectacular gala on Saturday will honor distinguished University of Central Arkansas alumni and celebrate 100 years of band at the university.


The fourth annual Night of Distinction will be a stand-out, night-to-remember event, said Don Bingham, special events director at UCA.


“It’s a grand celebration of the people who have supported and made contributions to the UCA community,” Bingham said. “It’s celebrating our own.”


Those who will be recognized are Tommie Sue Anthony and Supreme Court Justice Cliff Hoofman, Distinguished Alumni Award recipients; and Joe E. Walthall, Alumni Service Award recipient.


The Distinguished Alumni Award is the most prestigious award presented and recognizes outstanding contributions to the university, community, state or society. The Alumni Service Award goes to a person or couple who has shown dedication to the UCA Alumni Association.


About 500 people are expected to come to UCA’s Farris Center, where attendees will be treated to ice sculptures, sublime food and in-house music. This year’s theme, “Legacy Square,” re-creates Rogers Plaza and Simon Park for an ambiance of Downtown Conway.


“People will be sitting outside under the stars,” Bingham said.


Attendees will be treated to an extravagant buffet, salad bars with salads served in glasses, a carving station and chefs standing in regalia.


Buffet items include savory Savannah shrimp and grits with a lobster bisque and chef-carved, smoked inside round with roasted garlic au jus. Guests can pick from several pastas, including smoked gouda with bleu cheese sauce, tossed with fresh chervil, chives, red swiss chard, cavatappi pasta and topped with fried green tomatoes. For dessert, attendees will dine on poached pears in a sweet port wine with bourbon caramel sauce and wedge of tiramisu.


Nearby screens will show sponsorships and acknowledgement, and the entertainment will honor Robin Nix as grand conductor of the UCA Centennial Concert Band, which will play two numbers during the gala.


Nix, who graduated from UCA in 1965, is a member of the Dixie Band Camp Board of Directors. Nix also served as drum major at Arkansas State Teachers College for four years. UCA offers the Dixie Band Camp and Robin Nix scholarship for students in the UCA band. The Nix scholarship also covers students on the tennis team.


The weeklong, summer camp is for junior and senior high school students.


Founded in 1937, the band camp is the oldest in the South. This year, the camp celebrates its 25th year on the UCA campus, Bingham said.


The Centennial Concert Band, composed of UCA music graduates and public schoolchildren who partici
pated in the camp, will perform “Purple Pageant” by Karl King under the direction of Nix. The band will also play the UCA Alma Mater under the direction of Ricky Brooks, UCA director of bands.


Proceeds from the gala will benefit UCA scholarships, including band scholarships, according to Shelley S. Mehl, vice president for UCA Advancement and president for the UCA Foundation, Inc.


The gala is about recognizing the accomplishments of UCA alumni and is the only venue that focuses on alumni and their individual accomplishments, said Jan A. Newcomer, UCA alumni services director.


“As always, recognition of the distinguished alumni and alumni service award winners is inspiring for the entire UCA community,” Mehl said. “With a UCA degree, our students can accomplish their dreams and improve the economic life of our state.”


Doors will open for a VIP reception at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at the Farris Center at UCA. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.


Cliff Hoofman

“I learned to study; I learned about the world; I really discovered myself at (UCA),” Arkansas Supreme Court Judge Cliff Hoofman.


When the Arkansas native first arrived at the college as a student in 1963 and finally registered for the first time, he stood in front of the concrete bear at Old Main and let emotions overtake him.


Hoofman and his wife, Debbie, live in Enola. His astounding career — in all three branches of state government — were made possible by the strong foundation Hoofman had as a student at what is now UCA, he said.


Hoofman earned his bachelor’s degrees in math and history from the State College of Arkansas, now UCA, in 1968, before going to law school. He earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1972, and he practiced law in North Little Rock for more than 30 years.


Hoofman served as a state representative from 1975 to 1982 and was in the state senate from 1983 to 2002. He was Arkansas Assistant Attorney General from 2003 to 2006 and served as a state Highway Commissioner from 2007 to 2011. In January 2011, Hoofman was appointed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals where he served through the end of 2012.


During his time as a legislator, Hoofman was chairman of the Joint Budget Committee and the Legislative Council. He also spent two years as the city attorney for North Little Rock, starting in 1973. Gov. Mike Beebe, who had served in the senate with Hoofman, appointed him to the Supreme Court in 2012. His appointment expires Dec. 31.


Hoofman has garnered a number of awards, but the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UCA surprised and “humbled” him.


“I couldn’t be more honored,” Hoofman said.


Tommie Sue Anthony

As a child, Tommie Sue Anthony could see the lights from the UCA football field from her Conway home on Bruce and Mitchell streets.


Growing up in the shadow of UCA, she took organ and piano lessons on campus. “UCA seemed like an extension of home,” Anthony said.

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It was no surprise then that Anthony attended UCA where she earned her bachelor’s of science in English in 1963. She earned her master’s from UCA 10 years later.


Anthony has had a distinguished career as a teacher and advocate, particularly for the education of gifted children.


She was president of the Arkansas Advanced Initiative in Mathematics and Science Inc., from 2007 to 2013, when she retired.


The nonprofit group provides Advanced Placement training and incentives, which reached 44 Arkansas schools this school year.


Anthony led the initiative that tripled, on average, the number of students scoring a three or higher on Advanced Placement English, science and mathematics exams over a six year period. The highest score students can earn on the Advanced Placement exams is a five.


Between 1998 and 2007, Anthony served as program coordinator for the Arkansas Advanced Placement Professional Development Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She was director of the Talented and Gifted Programs for the Pulaski County Special School District from 1983 to 1998. She taught English at Jacksonville High School from 1963 to 1983.


Anthony has served on legislative committees and was the subject of the National Association for Gifted Children’s study on effective advocacy. She wrote a Pre-Advanced Placement workshop for school administrators for the College Board that has been used nationwide. She helped write rules and regulations for Arkansas’s gifted programs.


Anthony has received numerous honors, including top awards from the Southwest Region of the College Board. She was inducted into UCA’s Half-Century Club this past October.


Supporting education in Arkansas remains important to Anthony, who was recently appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe to the Advisory Council for the Education of Gifted and Talented Children. Anthony wants to see students excel and push to improve themselves. Arkansans sometimes sell themselves short, but students should shoot for excellence no matter what, she said.


“We cannot accept mediocrity,” Anthony said. “We can’t say ‘We are poor; we are rural and we can’t achieve the same as more affluent states.’”


UCA honored Anthony’s astonishing career with the Distinguished Alumna Award, an honor that is among the most meaningful to Anthony because her peers are recognizing her accomplishments, she said.


“This is one of the nicest things that’s happened to me,” Anthony said. “This may be the greatest award I’ve ever received because this one came from my university.”


Dr. Joe E. Walthall

When Walthall was a Conway High School senior, he went to UCA to watch football games and “girl-watch.” At a young age, Walthall fell in love with the college.


Choosing to enroll at Arkansas State Teachers College, now UCA, in 1957 was easy, he said. He enrolled with a band scholarship and joined the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity.


“Since that time, UCA has been a big part of my life,” Walthall said. “I think this university is a great place to be.”


Walthall has taught and advocated for UCA for decades. For his service to and support of UCA, Walthall, 74, of Wooster, was awarded this year’s UCA Alumni Service Award.


After graduating in 1962, Walthall spent two years working as a technical Illustrator for Martin Marietta Corp., a California-based company building missile silos in Arkansas. He drew missile parts and had a top-level security clearance.


After the missile project ended, Walthall joined the Arkansas Children’s Colony, now called the Conway Human Development Center, as the administrative assistant to the director from 1965 to 1967. He left that position and became the administrative assistant to the director at the Southwest Regional Diagnostic Center in Magnolia from 1967 to 1968.


Walthall then decided to further his education and earned a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University in 1971. When a UCA teaching position opened the same year he earned his master’s degree,


Walthall jumped at the chance to move back to Conway and to UCA.


He joined the university as a special education instructor in the Early Childhood and Special Education Department. While a professor at UCA, Walthall took a sabbatical and picked up his doctorate in special education from the University of Northern Colorado in 1975. Walthall stayed with UCA for 30 years.


Walthall co-authored and published two textbooks: “Habilitation of the Mentally Retarded Individual” in 1974, and “A Handbook of Medical, Educational and Psychological Information for Teachers of Physically Handicapped Children” in 1977.


After his retirement in 1999, Walthall continued to focus on improving UCA. He joined the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2002 to 2008.


Walthall helped build up the Alumni Association by bridging relationships between students and alumni. He served on several alumni association committees, was president of the association board from 2003 to 2005 and helped secure the location and construction for the Crafton Alumni Pavilion.


Walthall was a knowledgeable and steady leader for the association, said Mickey Prince, of Conway, who served on the association board with Walthall.


“Some people are just a good anchor for the group, and he was a good, strong leader during his term,” Prince said.


Walthall served UCA in other ways, too. He was on the Class of 1962 Reunion Committee, was inducted into the Half-Century Club in 2012 and started a scholarship fund that became fully endowed.


The Dr. Joe and Charlene Walthall Scholarship Fund is for students pursuing a degree in early childhood education or special education.


Walthall and his wife, Charlene, who is a UCA alumna, remain active Alumni Association members. The couple, who wed in 1962 and have one son, Brooks, are sponsoring members of the Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA Purple Circle members and “general fans of the university,” Walthall said. They visit the campus once or twice a week.


“I’ve stayed active with the university for so long that it’s become a big part of my life and always will be,” Walthall said.