Three important members of the Southern Arkansas University family were honored at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, including a retired teacher alumnus who has gifted more than $2 million to SAU Engineering; an SAU professor since 2001 with a distinguished record of teaching, research and public service; and a Board member who has served multiple appointments and leadership roles since 2009.
The Board resolved that the Engineering Center be officially known as the Norvell-Cook Engineering Center in honor of Edna Cook Norvell, who has never forgotten her ties to southwest Arkansas and SAU. She graduated from Magnolia A&M (now SAU) in 1938 before launching into a 55-year teaching career across nine states and four countries: Japan, Libya, Germany and England. Her husband Major Robert Norvell (USAF, retired) was an engineer and served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Throughout their careers the importance and love of education was never lost. This passion has resulted in gifts and commitments of more than $2 million to fund Engineering scholarships. Mrs. Norvell stated that she chose to make an investment in SAU because of all the generous people who helped her while she was a student at Magnolia A&M.
“Her gifts are truly transformational, both for our Engineering students and all of SAU. We are blessed by her kindness and care for her alma mater,” said Dr. Trey Berry, SAU president.
The Engineering Center became possible when the National Guard Armory reverted to SAU, followed by strong industry support from throughout the region. The Center was remodeled to contain six labs, three large classrooms and a machine shop for hands-on instruction and training.
Dr. Ben Johnson was honored by the Board with an appointment to the rank of Distinguished Professor. Johnson became the first endowed professor of history in the state of Arkansas in 2012 when he was named the John G. Ragsdale Jr. and Dora J. Ragsdale Professor of Arkansas Studies. He has also served as dean of Liberal and Performing Arts for three years and as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs for the 2015-2016 academic year. He is an Arkansas historian and has written three books: Fierce Solitude – The Life of John Gould Fletcher, John Barleycorn Must Die, and Arkansas in Modern America 1930-1999 (currently in the process of being updated). In addition, he has had numerous articles published and has presented papers at state and regional professional meetings.
Outgoing chair Edgar O. Lee was honored for a decade of service on the SAU Board. Lee served twice as chair and as vice chair and secretary between 2009 and 2019. “On behalf of the students, faculty, staff and friends of SAU, the Board expresses its deep appreciation of the service of Edgar O. Lee,” read Berry from a Board resolution.
The Board approved two exciting new academic programs presented by SAU Provost Dr. David Lanoue – a Poultry Science option in the BS in Agricultural Science program and a BS in Cyber Criminology. Both programs will begin in fall of 2019 if they receive final approval by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board on April 19, 2019.
Poultry is the leading agriculture industry in Arkansas, and SAU’s Poultry Science program will prepare students for careers in the ever-growing and changing industry. SAU’s curriculum will include introduction to poultry science and lab; poultry diseases and health; poultry nutrition; and egg and meat technology. The program will also feature the First Financial Bank Poultry Education Facility. The complex will allow students to observe and interact with different aspects of poultry production from hatchery to processing.
SAU’s Cyber Criminology program will produce highly skilled graduates who possess a holistic understanding of cybercrimes. This program will not only emphasize computer science skills to investigate and study crime, but will also underscore theoretical human behaviors and victimization patterns that relate to cybercrimes. Careers in cyber criminology include cybercrime investigator, information security analyst, digital forensic analyst, and cybercrime security team member.
SAU Tech also had two new programs approved – a Nondestructive Testing emphasis under the Association of Applied Science in Industrial Sciences & Technology degree and a Public Health emphasis in the Associate of Applied Science in Health Sciences degree. These updates were presented by SAU Tech’s Chancellor, Dr. Jason Morrison.
SAU Vice President for Advancement Josh Kee presented the Board with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SAU and the SAU Alumni Association following successful completion of partnership initiatives, including residence hall construction projects and renovation of the Alumni Center. The Board approved the MOU, which outlines policies and procedures that will contribute toward continued coordination, collaboration and communication of mutual activities.
In other business, the Board elected David Nelson to serve as chairman, Lawrence Bearden as vice-chair and Therral Story as secretary. The Board welcomed Charley Jackson as its new member, replacing Lee. Her appointment expires Jan. 14, 2024.
Jackson is a human resources professional with Lockheed Martin in Camden. She has more than 25 years of experience in recruitment and human resources. Jackson is also the internship coordinator at Lockheed and is responsible for identifying, attracting and retaining engineering students to co-op or intern at the Camden Operations facility.
Jackson is the vice president for the South Arkansas HR Association and a steering committee member for Unity in the Community of Ouachita County. She is also a member of the Magnolia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., in Magnolia and sits on the Board of Governors for the Southern Arkansas University Foundation.
A new rural studies institute is being planned to examine “all aspects” of rural life in the region, Berry told the Board. It will be located in the 19th-century Alexander House, which was relocated to the campus last year and is now under renovation.
Berry was excited to announce that the construction of the new Arkansas Hall dormitory is on schedule and should be completed by the end of July, giving the University ample time to prepare the building for students to move in.
He also announced plans to construct a new building for the College of Education, bringing the entire College together under one roof for the first time. The University had originally planned to build a two-story addition onto Cross Hall. The building is to be constructed between the Wharton Nursing Building and Blanchard Hall, home to the Rankin College of Business. This new location will allow for the building to be one story instead of two, as originally planned, and reduce construction costs. Parking will also be available behind the building, Berry said.
Berry informed the Board that the College of Education has earned full accreditation for the next seven years thanks to the hard work of faculty. He looks forward to the Engineering and Nursing programs receiving accreditation this summer.
Spring enrollment for 2019 was higher than expected. Berry said applications for the fall are also on pace with the record freshman enrollment in 2018. The number of applicants who have been accepted has also increased.
“These are all very good signs for us,” Berry said.