Richard Edwards understands what it means to be dedicated to the cause. Academically, he was a devoted student who plunged head first into the world of architecture. Professionally, he has made a name for himself as an architect and business owner. And personally, he devotes his time outside of work to student recruitment and advocating for the University of Arkansas and the Houston Chapter of the Arkansas Alumni Association.
Growing up in Jonesboro, the opportunity to attend the U of A was an “exciting adventure,” he remembers. Knowing from a young age that architecture was his calling in life, he spent one year at Arkansas State before transferring to the U of A.
“There was a firm in Jonesboro and I really liked the lead architect. He was a true pillar of the community,” he said, regarding his decision to study architecture. Realizing that he enjoyed creating things and seeing that each project was different, he enrolled and took great interest in his classes. Edwards remembers Fay Jones being the head of the department at the time, but gives credit to professor emeritus Ernie Jacks for the real world experience he presented within the classroom. “He was a real practicing architect and I had a great respect for him,” Edwards admits.
After graduating in 1971, he took the knowledge he learned from professor Jacks and moved to Houston. Now, as an architect with his own business, Edwards Associates, PLLC, he still enjoys that basic skill of creating things, saying, “The most rewarding part of the job is creating a space that people will use and making it inviting so that in the future, they will come back.”
While Edwards encourages his clients to come back, the U of A has done the same for him; however, through his involvement, it is as if he never left. Through the Houston Chapter, he admits it to meeting new people and being among a group who enjoy cheering on the Razorbacks. “When I first got here, there were always games down here and we’d take buses to the A&M game and there would be a pre-game party with the cheerleaders and the pep band. Once we left the southwest conference, we had to find ways to get people involved again,” he said.
As a way to draw in the crowds and raise money for the chapter scholarship, the group started a golf tournament. According to Edwards, the scholarship started in 1982-83, and the amount was close to $1,200. In 1992, the golf tournament was born, complete with a tournament, silent auction, dinner and speaker. Since its beginnings, Edwards and other members of the board have built a list of names of people who participate each year. However, the one constant that remains is the urgency to draw in young alumni. “It is a constant battle. Houston’s size is the real challenge. If we get groups of young alumni to come to an event, we may have a better chance of getting them to come back,” he stressed.
Although they may not be young alums yet, his efforts to advocate and recruit students from Houston-area high schools are impressive. Not only has Edwards served as president, vice president, social chairman and student recruitment chair for the Houston Chapter, but he has served on the Alumni Association’s National Board and been involved in academic recruiting through the U of A Admissions office. Recruiting volunteers to work up to 30 college nights at area high schools, he views it as an opportunity to inform students about the U of A and the quality education they can receive.
“It is amazing how many people don’t know about the U of A. These college nights are a great way to get into the school and inform those who know so little about us,” he said.
When he isn’t advocating to potential U of A students, Edwards advises current students to “spend the time and you will get the rewards.” Of course, for those who are recent graduates, he encourages them to become part of the Houston Chapter, saying, “Come join us and give us a chance. You’ll meet life-long friends and hey, it’s a great way to call the Hogs!”