MAGNOLIA – The Southern Arkansas University Alumni Association will recognize eight alumni for outstanding accomplishments during its annual Distinguished Alumni dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 24. The event takes place in the Grand Hall of the Donald W. Reynolds Campus and Community Center on the University’s campus. Tickets may be purchased through the Office of Alumni Relations by calling (870) 235-4079.
Alumni will be recognized in three categories, according to Ceil Bridges, director of alumni relations. Those being honored as Distinguished Young Alumni are Joe Pieratt ’92, Jason Ellen ’95 and Amy Freedman ’95. Distinguished Alumni honorees are Joan Avalyn Dempsey ’81 and Dr. Samuel Smith ’77. Those honored as Distinguished Golden Rider Alumni are Dr. James Tollett ’57 and Dr. Charles Beeson ’41. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Norman Huneycutt ’58.
A resident of Magnolia, Joe Pieratt serves as the director of network services at Murphy Oil Corporation in El Dorado. He serves as a member of the SAU College of Business Advisory Council, the South Arkansas Community College Computer Technology Advisory Committee, the SACC Computer Engineering Tech Advisory Committee, the Magnolia Planning Commission, the Magnolia Economic Development Corporation and the SAU Foundation Goodheart Society. He also serves as a Cub Scout den leader, a baseball coach for the Magnolia Boys and Girls Club, a volunteer coach for the Upward Bound program and a volunteer for the Magnolia Blossom Festival. He and his family attend the First Baptist Church of Magnolia.
While a student at SAU, Pieratt served as president of the Student Government Association in 1991 and as vice president for membership in Phi Beta Lambda. He was also a member of the Alpha Chi honor society and Phi Lambda Chi fraternity.
Pieratt and his wife, Angela Grafton Pieratt ’92, have developed the Deer Creek subdivision in Magnolia. The couple has two children, Abigail and Adam.
Dr. Jason Ellen earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from SAU before graduating cum laude from Northeastern State University College of Optometry in Tahlequah, Okla. He currently lives in Tulsa, Okla., where he works as an optometrist and is a partner and clinical director in a multi-specialty ophthalmic disease and surgery practice.
Ellen has been involved with local, state, and national optometric associations. While attending NSUCO, he served as president of the NSUCO Optometric Student Association and as a student liaison to both the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians and the Arkansas Optometric Association. He also served on the American Optometric Student Association’s National Student Leadership Council and represented AOSA as spokesperson to the American Optometric Association’s House of Delegates.
Upon graduation from NSUCO, Ellen received the Outstanding Clinician Award. He had the honor of becoming the first optometric resident in the nation to perform laser refractive surgery. He is active in the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians and serves as the chairman of the executive board of the congress committee. He was recently honored by his peers by being selected as the Young Optometrist of the Year by the OAOP.
While a student at SAU, Ellen was active in Biology Club, the Wesley Methodist Student Center, and Chemistry Club. He is married to Rona Bandy Ellen, and they have three children.
Amy Freedman is an attorney in Texarkana and has worked as an adjunct professor in the master of public administration program at SAU. After receiving a bachelor of business administration from SAU, she attended the University of Arkansas School of Law.
While a student at SAU, Freedman was a member of the Heritage Singers, the Madrigal Singers, Students in Free Enterprise, Phi Beta Lambda, the Student Government Association, and Alpha Chi. She is a lifetime member of the SAU Alumni Association and is a member of the Junior League of Texarkana board, the Leadership Texarkana board, and the Arkansas Bar Association Board of Governors. She is a Fellow of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and chair of the Arkansas Bar Association Young Lawyers Section. She also served as the 2009-2010 president of the Southwest Arkansas Bar Association.
Joan Avalyn Dempsey is a senior vice president at Booz Allen where she leads the firm’s intelligence business in central Maryland. She previously led the firm’s intelligence business in the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
During a 25-year career in the federal government, Dempsey held two political appointments. She was first appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Community Management. She was later appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as the Executive Director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. She spent 17 years as a senior civilian in the Department of Defense as Deputy Director of Intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency, as Director of the General Defense Intelligence Program, and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. She also served for 25 years as a naval reserve intelligence officer and was on active duty as a U.S. Navy cryptologic technician.
Dempsey was the 2004 recipient of the Security Affairs Support Association William O. Baker Award. She also was granted an honorary doctorate from the Joint Military Intelligence College. She is a recipient of the National Intelligence Medial of Achievement, the Intelligence Community Seal Medallion, the Distinguished Civilian Service Award from the Secretary of Defense, and the American University Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership. She is a special advisor to the U.S. Strategic Command and chairs the Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Panel of the Command’s Strategic Advisory Committee.
Dr. Samuel Smith of Little Rock attended Southern Arkansas University from 1973-1974 before completing his education at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He now works as chief of pediatric surgery at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and as a professor of surgery at UAMS. Many of his former surgical students now work at hospitals throughout the state, including in Magnolia.
Smith has received the Attending Faculty Teaching Award from the Department of Surgery at UAMS, the Golden Apple Award for Teaching Medical Students, and the Best Doctor Award from Best Doctors in America. He and his wife, Nancy, have two sons.
Dr. James Tollett of Pittsburg, Texas, was a fixture on the Southern Arkansas University campus for nearly two decades. He retired from the University in 2008 after an 18 year tenure as a professor and chairman of the Department of Agriculture. He earned an associate degree from Southern State College (now SAU) in 1955, bachelors and masters degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He returned to SAU briefly in 1961 as an assistant professor and farm manager.
Before returning to SAU as a professor in 1990, Tollett held several positions at the Dow Chemical Company at various locations in the United States, Austrailia, the Pacific Rim, Mexico and Canada. After retiring from Dow, he spent five years as a professor and chair of the School of Technology at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant, Texas.
While a student at SSC, Tollett was president and treasurer of the Agricultural Students Association, a member of the College President’s Academic Affairs Committee and participated on the intercollegiate livestock judging teams and in intramural sports.
Tollett has served on a variety of boards and committees. He served as vice president and president of the prestigious American Association of Small Colleges of Agriculture and Renewable Resources, was appointed by Governor Mike Huckabee as an ad-hoc member of the state’s first Board of Agriculture, and was a member of the Summit Bank Board of Directors and Clark County Fair Board. An active community member, he was involved in the Magnolia Lions Club, the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce, and the First Baptist Church of Magnolia where he served as a deacon.
Tollett is married to Joann Lamiter Tollett. They have a daughter, Cheryl Tellett Jacobs, three grandsons and four foster granddaughters.
Born in Waldo, Dr. Charles Beeson resided in Carlsbad, N.M. until his death in January 2010. He attended Magnolia A&M (now SAU) from 1939-1941 and received his bachelor of science and medical degrees from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. A cardiologist, he has served as an adjunct professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of New Mexico, and the University of South Dakota. A veteran of World War II, he retired as a Captain in the medical corps.
While a student at Magnolia A&M, Beeson was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the marching band where he played trumpet. He also participated in the intramural sports of boxing and archery. In recent years, he has served on the New Mexico Commission on Alcoholism and has received numerous federal, state and local appointments. He has also been named a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.
Beeson and his wife, Jeanne Hayes Beeson, are the parents of six children.
Lifetime Achievement Award winner Norman Huneycutt is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of Employee Support Systems, Inc., a national management consulting firm specializing in organizational development, executive coaching and employee assistance programs. After graduating from Southern State College (now SAU) in 1958, he attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to receive a master of divinity degree. His post-graduate studies include time at Louisiana State University, the University of Houston, Teleometrics International, the University of Utah, and San Francisco School of Theology.
Before founding Employee Support Systems, Huneycutt held a variety of professional positions. He has served as commercial manager for Magnolia radio station KVMA, parter and corporate treasurer for Jacksonville, Texas, radio station KEBE, a parish pastor in the Presbyterian Church in Texas, Colorado and California, a regional manager and financial consultant for Presbyterian Ministers Fund, and a senior executive for the National Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse. He received honorable discharges after service in both the Arkansas National Guard and the United States Army Reserves. While a member of the National Guard, he was called to active duty by President Dwight Eisenhower for the integration of Little Rock Central High School.
Huneycutt has served on numerous corporate and institutional boards of directors. Some of those include the Executive Committee of the Chief Executive Round Table of North Texas, the Presbyterian Foundation, and the Advisory Board of the School of Industrial Social Work at the University of Southern California. He served as chairman of the board at the University of the Ozarks and vice chair of the Trustee Committee at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Huneycutt and his wife, Dr. Janet Huneycutt, have five children and eight grandchildren. They live in Kaufman County, Texas, near Dallas.