It’s hard for Dr. Timothy Kral and his wife, Dr. Connie Hendrix-Kral, who have been A+ Life Members of the Arkansas Alumni Association since 1991, to recall just one fond memory at the University of Arkansas.
For Tim, the memories that stand out the most involve Connie. In 1995, after leaving a Razorback basketball game they saw their adoption attorney leave the arena and jokingly said to each other, “He better be leaving to get us a baby.” Upon returning home, he had indeed called to ask them to come to Washington Regional Hospital to meet their new daughter. “Nothing compares to that,” Tim said.
For Connie, growing up in Arkansas with a father who was active in University of Arkansas Alumni Club, she really couldn’t imagine going to any other university. As she toured the journalism department, she felt even more excited to come to the University of Arkansas because of the comfort she felt in meeting professors such as her mentor, Ernie Deane. She loved working for the Arkansas Traveler student newspaper as a reporter, assistant copy editor and features editor.
As the first female student to receive the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Scholarship and selected for Phi Beta Kappa, Connie realized she could accomplish any goals she set for herself. “I knew I could compete with anyone, regardless of where they had gone to school,” she said.
Connie’s greatest accomplishment was the completion of her Ed.D. “Our daughter was born in January of that year and with much pushing from my committee, defended my dissertation in December. I give my husband a lot of the credit because he understood how tedious the completion of a doctorate becomes at that point.” Connie currently serves as the executive director of The Peel Compton Foundation, formerly Peel Mansion and Historic Gardens, as well as Compton Gardens and Conference Center.
Tim became a professor in the Department of Botany and Bacteriology (now the Department of Biological Sciences) at the University of Arkansas in August 1981 after finishing two years of postdoctoral work at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. As a faculty member, Tim has been a member of Faculty Senate since it was revived on campus in 1996, was the Liebolt Chair of Premedical Sciences, a charter member of the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Science, has served on 65 university, college and departmental committees and chaired 14 of them. He is also a charter member of the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arkansas.
The opportunity to serve as a faculty member later led him to one of the most pivotal moments in his career. As a researcher dealing with the bacteria that causes dental cavities, he had always dreamed of being involved in space biology, doing research involved with the search for life on other worlds. In 1992, an opportunity presented itself that changed his life.
The Arkansas Space Grant Consortium was created and they put out a call for proposals. One requirement was that you had to have a contact at NASA. Tim didn’t know anyone at NASA, but a year earlier at an American Society for Microbiology meeting, he heard Chris McKay, one of the leading astrobiologists in the world from NASA Ames, give a talk. “I took a chance and called Chris. Chris rarely answers his phone, but this time he did. He told me that he would be happy to collaborate with me,” Tim said. McKay faxed him a copy of a proposal and told him to use whatever he needed from it, which began an18-year collaboration along with tremendous support from the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium.
The University also brought Connie and Tim together. They met at what was most appropriate for them – a banquet on April 14, 1988. Doris Cordes, the senior advisor to Mortar Board, introduced Connie, serving as the junior advisor, to Tim Kral, the professor being honored that evening. “I asked her out and she said yes. Our first date was a lunch date on Monday, April 18th at Hugo’s. We celebrate every April 18th.”
Despite their busy schedules, they always take the time to support for the University of Arkansas. Connie feels it is so important to be a supporter of the education she received so as to keep the brightest students here. She said, “For so long, you had to leave the state if you wanted to advance. That is no longer true. I found that I could compete with the students who had gone to the so-called more prestigious universities.” Tim confirms this desire to be involved and feels honored to be a Life Member of the Alumni Association. Even though he did not attend the University of Arkansas, he refers to it as “my university now.”