Homecoming 2017 was remarkable in many ways, but three significant awards made at the Alumni Reunion Social on Feb. 24 showed the ways the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith reverberates through the lives of those who spend time on campus.
Diligence to Victory Award
Named for the motto of the Fort Smith Junior College class of 1928, “Through diligence to victory,” the highest alumni honor bestowed by the Alumni Association was awarded to Lap Bui, ’93.
Bui was among the Vietnamese refugees who spent time at Fort Chaffee before being sponsored by a family or organization. Bui and his family left for Michigan, where a Catholic church sponsored them, but they returned to Fort Smith when he was 15, and his parents purchased a gas station and grocery store.
While he attended Westark Community College, he worked as an intern at Baldor Electric Company. He is now international director of business for Baldor, which is a member of the ABB Group.
Karla Jacobs, ‘95, nominated Bui, whom she said she met when they both agreed to serve on the UAFS Alumni Advisory Council.
As Jacobs recounted, “We were being guided by an ambitious, hard-working director to get the Alumni Association started, and we needed the same in council members. Lap came on board with a determination to succeed.
“Not only did he have great ideas, but he worked hard to implement those ideas. After serving on several council committees, Lap was elected chairman in 2015. The council continued to move forward under his leadership.”
Jacobs noted that Bui is in his second year as an executive mentor in Mentor Connections, a program that teams a student, a young alumnus, and an executive mentor. Also, she says, “Lap supports, works on and attends all alumni-sponsored events and many UAFS programs and activities.”
Young Alumni Award
Jeremy May, ’07, was named the inaugural recipient of the Young Alumni Award. Created in 2016 by the UAFS Alumni Advisory Council, it is the second highest alumni award bestowed at UAFS. It honors a graduate younger than 40 who is distinguished by service to the university, community, state, or nation and who is a strong leader within his or her career.
May is co-owner of ClueMasters, a live-gaming site for the adventurous in downtown Fort Smith. When explaining his motive in creating the business, May referred to his mentor, Steve Clark, CEO of Propak Logistics.
“He told me we often compare ourselves to other cities. And while we may not be able to match them financially, we can certainly meet or exceed their wit and creativity as well as show a greater passion for our city,” May said.
According to Megan Smith, one of the people to nominate May for the award, he’s got that last character trait down cold.
“I have never met someone with such a big desire to make not only the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, but also the entire city a better place,” Smith wrote about her young alumni mentor. “His passion about making Fort Smith a better place to live was so contagious that it was one of the reasons I stayed in Fort Smith after graduation!”
Dr. Margaret Tanner, who first met May when he was a student in the College of Business, wrote that as an alumnus he is always willing to help with activities on campus like Professional Development Day functions and has been involved with the Mentor Connections program since its inception.
Tanner, associate provost for Academic Affairs also noted his professional success: “Jeremy has been successful in his career with ArcBest, and he progressed rapidly as the management team there discovered his talent and commitment to the company.”
May’s wife Sarah, who has seen the dedication first-hand, agrees.
“Jeremy’s drive, work ethic, and charisma led him to five promotions in as many years at ArcBest,” Sarah May wrote. “Since 2012 he has also bought, sold, and/or started 10 small businesses. While pursuing his career and numerous entrepreneurial endeavors, he always manages to find time to volunteer both at the university and in the community.”
She sums up her nomination this way: “Jeremy epitomizes giving back and paying it forward.”
Lucille Speakman Legacy Endowment
The Lucille Speakman Legacy Endowment was founded by Randy Wewers, ’58. It honors the memory of one of Wewers’ favorite professors, Lucille Speakman. He wanted to honor the legacy of the institution’s great teachers from 1928 to the present.
Under the terms of the Lucille Speakman Legacy Endowment, current faculty members can apply for grants for self-guided travel, international study, curriculum development, and research.
As announced at homecoming, Dr. Mary Shephard, assistant professor of art history and humanities, will receive $2,500 to travel to Spain and study the artistic legacy of Jewish-Christian-Muslim interaction and co-existence.
In her application for funds, Shephard wrote, “As educators, it has never been more important to demystify and destigmatize faiths with which our students may not be personally acquainted. Objectively discussing the shared Abrahamic heritage that links Jews, Christians, and Muslims is one important way that students can become conversant with non-familiar religions, thwarting these faiths from being perceived as the ‘Other.’”
Shephard wants to see cathedrals, synagogues and mosques in Spain.
About her hopes for the trip, Shephard wrote, “I am keen to more effectively offer a historical perspective of multicultural artistic interface and collaboration. The medieval cities of Córdoba, Grenada, and Toledo offer a unique opportunity to explore this dynamic with students.”