The Arkansas Alumni Association proudly announces its 2009 award recipients, all of whom personify the University of Arkansas’ tradition of excellence through service and leadership. All 11 honorees will be recognized during the 65th annual Alumni Awards Celebration on Oct. 30 at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House.
Three University of Arkansas graduates will receive the Citation of Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes exceptional professional and personal achievement and extraordinary distinction in a chosen field. The awardees include:
Gov. Mike Beebe, J.D. 1972, governor of the state of Arkansas. While serving in the U.S. Army Reserves, Beebe earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Arkansas State University in 1968 and then his law degree from the University of Arkansas. His law career, which began in Searcy, included being named Outstanding Trial Lawyer of Arkansas in 1982, serving as president of the White County Bar Association and receiving awards for distinguished service from the Arkansas Municipal League and the Arkansas County Judges Association. He was elected governor on Nov. 7, 2006, following more than two decades of dedication to Arkansas public service as a state senator and attorney general.
Cordia Harrington, B.S.H.E. 1976, president and chief executive officer of the Tennessee Bun Co.; Nashville, Tenn. Harrington has launched seven successful companies involving real estate, fast food restaurants and commercial bakeries. In 1996, she established The Tennessee Bun Company, which became the most automated, fastest bakery in the world, churning out 60,000 buns an hour. McDonald’s is the company’s biggest client but also supplies buns to Chili’s, KFC and Pepperidge Farm in 40 states east of the Rockies and the Caribbean.
Art Meripol, B.A. 1977, senior travel photographer for Southern Living magazine; Birmingham, Ala. Meriopol spends most of his time shooting photos in the South, the Caribbean and Mexico. His photos also have been published in the New York Times, the London Times, USA Today, People, Cooking Light, Sports Illustrated, Time and Coastal Living. He spent 13 years as a newspaper photographer, mostly at the Arkansas Gazette. From the early 1970s through the 1980s, he also shot music concerts featuring singers such as Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.
Other alumni who will be honored during the awards celebration include:
Brandon and Elizabeth Keener, both B.A. 1997, actor and casting director, respectively; Los Angeles, Young Alumni Award. These drama majors, who married during college, moved to the West Coast to pursue acting careers. Brandon’s professional acting career started with supporting roles in the movies Galaxy Quest, the Oscar-winning Traffic and He’s Just Not That Into You. He has guest starred on Without a Trace, The King of Queens and NYPD Blue among other TV shows. Meanwhile, Elizabeth moved behind the scenes in casting for shows like NBC’s Boomtown and Medium. She has earned three Emmy nominations for The Comeback, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and United States of Tara.
Lewis E. Epley Jr., B.S.P.A., 1961, LL.D., 1961, retired attorney, banker and businessman, Fayetteville; Andrew J. Lucas Alumni Service Award. For 48 years, Epley combined a career that included law, banking, business and public service – all with distinction. He retired from his Eureka Springs law practice in December 2005 but continues to work as a dedicated advocate for his community, the state and his alma mater. His current and past leadership roles include Cornerstone Bank in Eureka Springs, the Executive Committee of the University of Arkansas Foundation (former two-year chair), the University of Arkansas Board of Advisors and the Arkansas Alumni Association Board. He was appointed to the University’s Board of Trustees in 1989 and served as chair from 1996-98. During the University’s Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, he was a steering committee member and chair of the Razorback/University Bands fundraising committee. He was a founding board member of the Razorback Band Alumni Society.
Don Pederson, vice chancellor, Division of Finance and Administration, University of Arkansas; Fayetteville, Honorary Alumnus. Pederson is the longest serving University of Arkansas administrator at the level of vice president or vice chancellor since the first vice president was appointed in 1914. Having joined the university faculty in 1972, he is also a physics professor. Between the late 1970s and 1990s, Pederson served as chair of the department of physics, associate dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and vice chancellor for the Division of Academic Affairs, a position he held for 12 years (chief academic officer for 13 years). As the vice chancellor for finance and administration since September 1998, his responsibilities include business affairs, computing services, financial affairs, human resources, facilities management and the University of Arkansas Police Department. Master facility planning for the campus, including purchasing property, renovation and new construction also is coordinated through his division. More than 750 staff members work in the units that report to him.
Larry Bittle, B.S.B.A. 1971, insurance agent; Fayetteville, Community Service Award. Bittle is credited with launching the Holiday Hoops Basketball Tournament and establishing the Fayetteville Leadership Program as president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Board. He serves on the boards of the Civil Service Commission, Signature Bank and Northwest Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute. He is a former Arkansas Alumni Association Board member. Bittle served as chairman of the 1986 Citizens Advisory Committee, which established a strategic plan for local schools. He also led successful millage campaigns in 1993 to construct Holcomb and Vandergriff elementary schools and in 1994 to fund a comprehensive technology program.
Each year the Alumni Association also presents three Distinguished Faculty Achievement Awards for outstanding success. The 2009 recipients are:
Dub Ashton, associate professor of marketing and logistics, Sam M. Walton College of Business, for teaching. Encouraged by the late Sam Walton, Ashton joined the University of Arkansas faculty in 1981. He has also served the college as associate dean of graduate studies and associate dean from 1994 to 1999 when he was assigned responsibility for the design, construction and utilization of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development. In 2000, he returned to teaching full-time.
Laurent Bellaiche, physics professor, J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences, for research. Bellaiche joined the University of Arkansas faculty in 1999. Since then, he has established a world-class research program in computational condensed matter physics and nanomaterials and is considered a leading world expert in the subfield of ferroelectric nanostructures. He is a visiting faculty professor at Ecole Central in Paris, France, and was named the Twenty-First Century Endowed Professor in Nanotechnology and Science Education at the University of Arkansas in July 2006.
Amy Farmer, B.S.A. 1958, M.S. 1961, economics professor, Sam M. Walton College of Business, for service. Farmer spearheaded the Global Community Development Program, which takes students to Belize. The project exposes students to different cultural and social environments and involves teams of students from the Fulbright, Bumpers, Engineering and Walton colleges. Farmer also has developed two new courses during the past three years: a doctoral-level public policy course and Economics of Life. She is the holder of the Margaret Gerig and R.S. Martin Jr. Chair in the Walton College.
The Alumni Awards Celebration is by-invitation only.