Ouachita Baptist University’s Elrod Center for Family and Community honored Ouachita alumnus Rex Nelson with the Community Service Excellence Award and Ella Faye Barfield with the OBU Foster Grandparent of the Year Award at its recent University Community Service Awards banquet. Dozens of Ouachita students, faculty and staff were also recognized for their service during the past year.
“It’s very symbolic for us always each year to honor someone who has served the community well,” said Ian Cosh, OBU vice president for community and international engagement, addressing Ouachita students in attendance. “This is another way of showing you that you can serve all of your life and serve well.”
Rex Nelson, president of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges & Universities since 2011, is an Arkadelphia native and a summa cum laude graduate of Ouachita. He has served as the “Voice of the Tigers” for 30 years as the radio play-by-play announcer on the Ouachita Football Network.
Prior to his current role with AICU, Nelson served as the senior vice president for government relations and public outreach at The Communications Group, a Little-Rock based marketing, advertising and public relations firm. Prior to that, he spent 13 years in government. He was named Gov. Mike Huckabee’s director of policy and communications when Huckabee took office in July 1996 and was a member of the governor’s senior management team for more than nine years. Nelson was named by President George W. Bush in 2005 as one of the president’s two appointees to the Delta Regional Authority, a regional planning and economic development agency that serves 252 counties and parishes in parts of eight states.
Nelson had a long career in journalism prior to entering government service. He was the political editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette during President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and Clinton’s first term. He earlier had served as the Washington bureau chief and the assistant sports editor of the Arkansas Democrat. Nelson still writes a weekly column for the Democrat-Gazette and is the author of a blog known as Rex Nelson’s Southern Fried at www.rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.
“As you can see, this man is widely known and respected and utilized for the good of Arkansas and certainly Arkadelphia,” said Ouachita Chancellor Dr. Ben Elrod. “He is truly an Arkansas treasure and a Ouachita treasure and an Arkadelphia treasure. It is real pleasure to name him tonight for this community service award.”
“I am deeply honored. I feel unworthy when I hear of the thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours of service that have been given in this room,” Nelson said. “To be with you and to see what you have done really touches me and really lifts me, and I can tell you that seeing what you’ve done, I’m going to be on a cloud for the rest of the week, certainly, if not longer.”
Reflecting on the recent Boston Marathon bombings, Nelson noted, “When we face times of crisis and times of trial and times of tribulation, there are really two kinds of people: there are those who rush in, and there are those who run away. You all are being honored tonight because all of you rush in when there is a void to be filled. And I hope you will continue to be among that group that rushes in for the remainder of your life.”
Shirley McMillan, director of the Foster Grandparent program, presented Ella Faye Barfield with the Foster Grandparent of the Year Award for her outstanding work at Gurdon Elementary School. Barfield has served nearly 19,300 hours of service over 22 years in Gurdon.
“Every child who is in her class, at least once during the year, receives a gift that she has handmade,” McMillan noted. “That one-on-one relationship that they grow makes a huge difference.”
James Taylor, director of Campus Ministries at Ouachita, also recognized the service of Ouachita student L.J. Brooks, who died unexpectedly this fall, saying, “He served this campus with such a spirit of servanthood and humility, and we’ll miss him a lot.”
Other Ouachita faculty, staff and students honored during the banquet include:
America Reads: Chelsea Ariola, Kaitlyn Belk, Amanda Bunting, Tayler Koller, Rebecca Sanchez and Sarah Talley.
America Counts: Sarah Liz Carter, Kelly Cortez, Clay McKinney, Marissa Selden, Amy Simon, Chelsea Villanueva and Seth Wilson.
America Reads Senior Awards: Nikki Kambanis (2011-2013), Whitley Poole (2011-2013) and MyLisa Speer (2012-2013).
America Counts Senior Awards: Jordan Snook (2012-2013) and Lauren Telford (2011-2013).
Missionary-in-Residence Award: Lee and Deb Miller.
ElderServe: Kristen Barnard, Bridget Bloxom, Stephanie Butcher, Molly Bowman, Amy Campbell, Jennifer Coon, Kendra Coyle, Kristi-Paige Danielson, Hanna Dean, Adam Dodd, Kelsey Finney, Katy Firmin, Rachel Gaddis, Kaycee Giammarco, Libby Gracia, Emily Hastings, Sara Huneycutt, Alyssa Jones, Michelle Lackey, Neelie Lee, Chelsea Morehead, Maddie Myers, Hannah Pinkerton, Nicole Plott, Rebekah Raine, Allie Smith, Emily Speer, Shannon Talley, Alex Trevino, Jillian Turner, Joel Ubeda, Logan Webb, John Whitmore, Kaitlin Williams, Tyler Williams, Holly Wray and Rebecca Zandstra.
ElderServe Senior Awards: Kiley Gamble, Hollyn McCarty, Chase Rackley, Brittney Reynolds, Meghan Savage, Elyse Senteney and John Teed.
International Student Service Award: Michelle Perez.
Fifteenth Anniversary Kluck Student Enrichment Grant, Fall 2012: Nicole McPhate and OBU’s Rogers Department of Communications and student Photo lab for Arkadelphia Smiles.
Kluck Student Enrichment Grants, Fall 2012: Stacy Beck and Sigma Tau Delta international English honor society for an Arkadelphia High School writing contest; Katelyn Bell and Alpha Chi for books for Fun Time Learning Center; Adam Gosnell for marries student groups; Shelby Pierceall and Tri Chi Women’s Social Club for teddy bears for Arkansas Children’s Hospital, a tea party for the Big Sisters program and work with Promise House; and Carrington Tillery and Enactus for work with the Boys & Girls Club of Arkadelphia.
Kluck Student Enrichment Grants, Spring 2013: Molly Bowman and Tri Chi Women’s Social Club for the Little Free Library in Arkadelphia, Franklin Featherston and the Department of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies for a One-Day Basketball Camp, Jessica Lamb and Sigma Tau Delta international English honor society for an Arkadelphia High School writing contest and Alex Young and Campus Ministries for Camp Wamp.
Campus Ministries Leadership Team: Backyard Bible Clubs – Jessica Stanley and Alex Young; Big Brothers – Daniel Richardson; Big Sisters – Hannah Pilcher and Kaiti Walker; Christian Focus Week – Abbey Jamieson and Aubree Fry; Christian Focus Week Leadership Team – Kate Cody, Connor Goad, Emily Harris, Steven Rutherford, Jamie Thompson and Hunter Threadgill; Women’s Discipleship – Bridget Bloxom, Phebe Pruett and Callie Yeager; Freshman Family Groups – Amy Campbell and Clay McKinney; Missionary Kids – Meg Hart; Monticello Children’s Home – Erin Edge; Noonday – Jared Carlin, Karis Crosby and Kelsey Frink; Off the Broadway – Kelly Cortez; Outreach – Kendra Coyle; Photography – Kristen Barnard; Prayer – Kate Dodge; Promise House – Lauren Shawver; Publicity/Missions – Jennifer Coon and Devan Malone; Refuge/Speaking – L.J. Brooks and Taylor Lamb; Refuge/Music – Noah Mitchell; Special Events – Amberly Green and Mary Castleman; and Tiger Tunes – Rusty Butler and Lacey Brooks.
Tiger Serve Day Leadership Team: Bridget Bloxom, Jeremy Dixon, Drew Farris, Rachel Gilmer, Katie Hopmann, Jasper Jackson, Ben Lange-Smith, Coleson Lechner, Dawson Pritchard, Treslyn Shipley, Anna Sikes, Jessica Stewart, Sara Walker, Garet West, Rachel Wicker, David Willhite, Rachel Williams and David Winkler.
Tiger Serve Day Senior Leadership Awards: Daniel Aylett, Jake Edwards, Lauren Jackson, Ryan James, Abbey Jamieson, Caleb Knight, Rebekah Poynor and Courtney Puddephatt.
Transerve Awards (150 or more hours of service for the academic year): Claudia Brizuela, Jerezano Briquela, Mary Castleman, Ryan James, Devan Malone, Emily Payne, Hannah Pilcher, Allie Smith, Hunter Threadgill, Carrington Tillery, Sara Walker and David Winkler.
Ouachita Baptist University established the Ben M. Elrod Center for Family and Community in 1997 to encourage, coordinate and facilitate public service, volunteerism and community engagement throughout the state and region. For information about the programs of the Elrod Center, visit www.obu.edu/elrod or call (870) 245-5320.
By Brooke Zimny