Guests wouldn't have been surprised to see Jay Gatsby himself come strolling out of the Reynolds Room on Leap Day 2020 as UAFS alumni and guests gathered for the annual reunion dinner. In keeping with the Roarin' 20s homecoming theme, the room looked like the scene of one of the great Gatsby's famous parties, with art deco designs and flapper dresses all around. In addition to sharing fine dining and great conversation, guests enjoyed updates from Chancellor Terisa Riley and Alumni Director Rick Goins.
Then it was time for the evening's main festivities, the Alumni Association Awards.
Speakman Endowment Award
The Speakman award is the brainchild of Randy Wewers, a 1958 graduate of Fort Smith Junior College. While looking for a way to honor the instructor who had a profound effect on him, Wewers hit on the idea of an endowment to promote classroom excellence among today's faculty. Students always remember the vivid way Speakman brought her travels alive. In that spirit, the Lucille Speakman Legacy Endowment offers grants for self-guided travel, international study, curriculum development, and research.
Dr. Mohammad Halim, assistant professor of chemistry, received the 2020 award. He requested money for himself and four students to attend the American Society for Mass Spectrometry conference in Houston. It was replaced by a virtual conference at which he spoke. The students will present their work at the Arkansas IDeA Network in November.
Halim accepted the award from Wewers.
Honorary Alumni Award
To honor friends and supporters of the university who are not alumni, the Alumni Advisory Council established the Honorary Alumni Award in 2018. Recipients are individuals who demonstrate their outstanding support of the university through service or monetary gifts, showing they are Lions at heart.
The late Joel Stubblefield, sixth president and first chancellor of UAFS, was this year’s winner.. He was named president of Westark Community College in 1983, and he oversaw the college's growth and development through the establishment of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. His vision, persistence, and determination are credited with transforming a community college into a four-year-degree granting member of the University of Arkansas System.
Last year's Honorary Alumnus, Bill Hanna, presented the award to Marilyn Patterson, who accepted in on behalf of the family.
Young Alumni Award
The Young Alumni Award recognizes alumni younger than 40 who have distinguished themselves through service to the university, community, state, or nation and who are strong leaders within their career fields. Brittany Slamons, a graduate of the UAFS class of 2009, is director of the Academic Success Center and TRIO director at the university.
A statement nominating her for the award described her as the true "embodiment of a Lion in all that she does," and said "she never settles for less than her best. Maybe most importantly, she shows her pride and love for UAFS by continuously helping to make it a better place for new Lions."
Diligence to Victory
The Diligence to Victory Award is the highest alumni honor bestowed by UAFS. Its name comes from the motto of Fort Smith Junior College’s first graduating class in 1928: "Through diligence to victory." Recipients are alumni who have distinguished themselves through service to the university, community, state, or nation or whose outstanding leadership in their business or professional lives exemplifies the motto.
This year's award went to Judy and Larry Loux, both 1960 graduates of Fort Smith Junior College and long-time teachers in Fort Smith Public Schools.
The Louxes served on the College of Education Advisory Board for many years. They established The Judy I. and Larry D. Loux Scholarship Endowment for junior and senior education majors because they knew beginning teachers sometimes struggle financially. Because they believe in the importance of education outside the classroom, they are enthusiastic boosters of UAFS Athletics, and they also established Larry D. and Judy I. Loux Women's Basketball Endowed Scholarship.