The David F. Rankin College of Business at Southern Arkansas University is pleased to announce its inaugural Hall of Fame class honoring three inductees all who demonstrate outstanding professional achievement, remarkable leadership among peers, and exceptional support for the Rankin College of Business.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony and luncheon sponsored by the Rankin College of Business Advisory Council will be held at noon, September 14, 2019, in the Grand Hall of the Reynolds Center. The inaugural inductees include the late Mr. Louis Blanchard, Dr. Ron J. Ponder, and Peoples Bank.
According to Dr. Robin Sronce, Dean of the Rankin College of Business, the Hall of Fame “recognizes and memorializes remarkable business leaders and organizations for professional success, community service and dedication to SAU and the College of Business.”
Blanchard came to SAU (then Southern State College) in 1956 as a professor of accounting. An outstanding and memorable teacher, he was selected as Honor Professor by his SAU peers and named Professor Emeritus. The Arkansas Society of CPAs named Blanchard as the Educator of the Year in 1998 and also awarded him the Lifetime Achievement Award in Accounting. Blanchard retired in 1998 after teaching for 42 years in the School of Business and serving as chair of the accounting department. After retirement he continued to be active in the University, serving on the SAU Board of Trustees, the SAU Foundation Board of Governors, and the Mulerider Club Advisory Board. In 2017, SAU and the SAU Foundation honored Louis and Martha Blanchard by naming the SAU business building Blanchard Hall.
Ponder graduated from SAU in 1965 with his BBA in Industrial Management. He subsequently earned his MBA from Louisiana Tech and PhD from Mississippi State University. During his career he served as a senior information technology executive in several Fortune 100 companies across a variety of industries. He held senior leadership positions at Federal Express, Sprint, AT&T, and WellPoint. He helped Federal Express introduce its worldwide package tracking and tracing systems, oversaw the modernization of Sprint and AT&T’s voice and data networks and during his tenure as executive vice president and CEO helped WellPoint become the nation’s largest medical insurance carrier in the U.S. In 2006 he founded an information technology consulting firm that specializes in managing large-scale business and government technology program implementations, information technology group transformations, and provides leadership on troubled projects.
Peoples Bank is a locally owned community bank founded in 1910. The bank and its owners, including D.J. and the late Harold Fincher, maintain a strong commitment to the Magnolia community and SAU. The bank and its staff participate in the Relay for Life, Magnolia Blossom Festival, Circle of Friends, Leadership Magnolia, and the Magnolia Junior Charity League, among other community activities. Peoples Bank provides support for SAU and the Rankin College of Business in a variety of ways. These include projects that help students in the form of scholarships for tuition and travel, faculty through a professorship and, most recently, the University’s first Endowed Dean’s Chair. The bank employs many SAU graduates and provides internship opportunities for students.
Sronce believes recognizing these outstanding inductees will inspire students, faculty, and the business community. Plans are underway for a permanent display honoring Hall of Fame members in Blanchard Hall. The Hall of Fame will be an annual event with the call for nominations circulated each year.
The public is invited to attend the Hall of Fame luncheon and induction. Tickets are available at web.saumag.edu/business/hof-tickets/ or by contacting the Rankin College of Business at (870)235-4301 or TamiUnderwood@saumag.edu.