A major gift in honor of a Ouachita Baptist University alumnus who graduated more than 100 years ago was announced during Ouachita’s Dec. 11 board of trustees meeting on the university’s Arkadelphia campus.
The $800,000 gift from the Rogers Foundation of Great Falls, Va., will be used to renovate the portion of Lile Hall that will house Ouachita’s speech communication department. The department will be named in memory of William F. “Fenna” Rogers Sr., who graduated from Ouachita in 1907; his wife, Emily; their son, William F. “Bill” Rogers Jr., who established the foundation; and Bill Rogers’ second wife, Ethel, who led the family foundation following her husband’s death.
Ouachita President Rex M. Horne Jr. noted that the foundation had provided Ouachita previous gifts of up to $10,000 each over the past several years. As the Rogers Foundation prepared to dissolve, Ouachita was invited to submit a major gift proposal. As a result, Ouachita was one of several recipients awarded final grants by the foundation.
Noting that Fenna Rogers was a star baseball pitcher and orator at Ouachita in the early 1900s, Horne said Rogers played one year for the Pittsburgh Nationals before earning a master’s degree in theology at Princeton University and serving as a longtime Presbyterian minister.
“A fellow who graduated here in 1907 had an impact on us 100 years later,” Horne reflected. He reminded Ouachita trustees of the importance of being “mindful of what we can do” today and in the years ahead that will impact future generations.
According to Dr. Jeff Root, dean of the School of Humanities, “The grant from the Rogers Foundation makes possible a tremendous step in the development of the School of Humanities in general and the department of speech communication in particular. When speech and mass communications join English and modern foreign languages in a newly remodeled Lile Hall, the Humanities departments will have unique opportunities to grow and explore new projects together. Our students will benefit from the synergy.
“I’m grateful to the Rogers Foundation for this substantial grant,” Root added. “It was fascinating to learn about the historic connections between the Rogers family and Ouachita. I think they’ve discovered new facets of family history in the process, and Ouachita will be much stronger as a result.”
In other business, trustees elected officers for the coming year. Attorney Richard Lusby of Jonesboro was elected chairman for 2008-2009. A 1974 Ouachita graduate, he succeeds Mike Vinson of Corning who rotated off the board. Lusby, a member of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, also is a member of the Arkansas Bar Association and is a Special Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court.
“Richard Lusby has maintained a deep commitment to Ouachita since his college days,” President Horne emphasized. “He is an excellent and steady leader, a wise counselor and a trusted lifelong friend. He is the right man to lead us in these times.”
Trustees re-elected Ken Shaddox as vice chairman and Joe Bill Meador as secretary. Shaddox, a 1984 Ouachita alum, is pastor of Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock. Meador, a member of First Baptist Church of Fordyce, is a 1966 Ouachita graduate. He is a retired plant controller for Georgia-Pacific.
Board members also seated three new trustees, all of whom previously have served on Ouachita’s board: Taylor King, a 1983 Ouachita alum, is an attorney and a member of Second Baptist Church of Arkadelphia. Larry Kircher, a 1965 Ouachita grad, is president of Citizens State Bank and a member of Central Baptist Church in Bald Knob. Gene Whisenhunt, a 1979 Ouachita grad, is executive vice president and chief financial officer of Hickingbotham Investments, Inc. He is a member of Geyer Springs First Baptist Church.
In addition to Mike Vinson, trustees who rotated off the board are Ginger Morgan of Clinton and Paul Sanders of Little Rock. All three were honored by fellow board members for their service.
Trustees also heard reports from four of Ouachita’s vice presidents:
Dr. Stan Poole, vice president for academic affairs, highlighted OBU’s new “On the Ouachita” course taught by four professors from diverse disciplines.
Dr. Keldon Henley, vice president for student services, provided an overview of Ouachita’s Emergency Notification System which uses e-mail, text messaging, exterior loudspeakers and intranet websites to notify the campus community of emergency situations.
Trennis Henderson, vice president for communications, shared highlights of communications priorities and projects during his first nine months in the position, including TV and newspaper interviews, news releases, brochures, advertisements and other efforts designed to communicate Ouachita’s mission and message.
Terry Peeples, vice president for development, discussed a variety of special projects and alumni development events, including recent gatherings in Northwest Arkansas; Lexington, Ky.; and Washington, D.C.; as well as upcoming events in Nashville, Tenn.; San Antonio, Texas; and San Diego, Calif.
by Trennis Henderson OBU Vice President for Communications