Sharon Winn, ’60, held more than one title in her professional life in Fort Smith, but that’s OK: Her employer had more than one title too.
Starting in 1963 and continuing through 2004 (not counting a 7-year absence from Fort Smith), Winn worked for Fort Smith Junior College, Westark Junior College, Westark Community College, Westark College, and the University of Arkansas – For Smith.
She believes she may be the only faculty member who taught at the institution in every one of its iterations.
In 1963, she was one of four full-time members of the business division, and one of 29 faculty members on campus.
“It was such a small faculty then; everybody knew each other,” she said. “There were only about 1,500 students, so we could know them all really well.”
The campus today, she thinks, is not so tight-knit, but she has enjoyed watching the university grow.
You may be surprised by Winn’s choice of the most significant change in the institution.
When she started at the school, it was a private college with funds from tuition, fees, and private gifts only. A major landmark was reached, she believes, in 1966 when the private junior college became Westark Junior College, a public institution that was able to accept state and local funding.
Winn remembers faculty and staff gathering signatures to enable a public vote, and on Nov. 2, 1965, voters approved the creation of a community junior college district funded by a millage.
“Oh, that was wonderful when we began to have some outside funding,” Winn said. “We were able to do so much more. It was a true blessing.”
Then, of course, there was that other change, the New Year’s Eve 2001 change, which made official the creation of a four-year-degree granting institution known as the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.
Although Winn regrets the loss of a local, elected board of trustees – UAFS has a chancellor-appointed board of visitors, and the UA System has a state-wide board of directors – she supports the growth the university has seen.
“There’s just so many opportunities for the university to grow, and I’ve always enjoyed watching the changes,” she said.
Remaining a part of the Alumni Association has allowed Sharon and Jim Winn to stay connected. Jim Winn taught real estate classes at the college for 15 years.
Although she misses the beauty of Old Main, the student union in a Quonset hut, and the close community feeling that made yearbooks a fun part of college life, Sharon Winn also admires today’s university.
“The school is now a larger regional university, and it looks like everything is terrific.”