Giving back to the hometown area that gave him his start inspired a Southern Arkansas University alumnus to endow a scholarship that will provide access to a quality education for Union County students.
John Dews, former Simmons Bank of El Dorado chairman and CEO, and his wife, Beverly, a 1985 graduate of SAU-El Dorado, have generously funded the John and Beverly Dews Scholarship Endowment at $25,000 to benefit Union County students who demonstrate a financial need. The scholarship also gives preference to first-generation students.
“I was the first to go to college in my family,” Dews said. “SAU was transformational. It opened doors we would love to see open for others.”
A graduate of Mount Holly High School, Dews won a Readers Digest Valedictory Scholarship to help pay his way through college. “I worked to provide the rest,” he said. “The total amount of my financial aid was $200.”
He offered praise and gratitude for his education at SAU, recalling the many business professors who impacted him academically as well as professionally.
“I had amazing classroom instructors,” Dews explained. “I went to SAU intending to transfer to the University of Arkansas but quickly realized I was receiving the best education I could right here. I became part of that amazing accounting class of 1977.”
Dews began his career in the oil and gas industry before migrating into banking, “and the rest is history,” he said. Now retired in Hot Springs, Dews started at Simmons First Bank of El Dorado as the institution’s first chief financial officer before advancing to chairman and CEO.
“I was one of the youngest bank presidents in the state,” Dews said. “I have no doubt that my accounting degree was a significant factor in my progressing to the presidency.”
He served the El Dorado bank from 1985-2010. Dews also served as president and CEO at Citizens Bank of Batesville.
He and Beverly feel a strong desire to make a difference in future generations. “We want to help our home and the towns that made the difference for us,” he said. “SAU made this possible.”
Their endowment is part of a long history of support for SAU. “We’ve never lost touch,” said Dews. “We will always find ways of helping our alma mater.”
As a young student, SAU provided Dews a quality, affordable choice for his education. “I ask those considering their first college home to look at the value and quality produced by this institution. SAU truly delivers on its promise to feel like home.”
This gift was a part of the University’s Love and Loyalty Campaign, an effort which is in its fifth and final year seeking to raise $22.275 million. Increasing the number of scholarship endowments available through the SAU Foundation is a major focus of the campaign. For more information on the Love and Loyalty Campaign, please visit www.sauloveandloyalty.com or contact the Division of Advancement at 870-235-4078.