Stepping Up for Ouachita
Stepping Up for Ouachita will be held on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, at Chenal Country Club.
This year, Ouachita will honor two outstanding women, including Former First Lady of Arkansas Janet Huckabee and Arkansas Governor Sarah Sanders.
Stepping Up for Ouachita is a premier event that helps raise money to assist with scholarships for Ouachita women. Each year, the university serves an average of 1,700 students, more than half of whom are female. With over 95% of Ouachita students qualifying for financial aid, the continued need for scholarships is great.
If you have questions about the 2023 luncheon, contact Carrie Roberson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-4278.
JANET (MCCAIN) HUCKABEE
Janet (McCain) Huckabee served as First Lady of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 alongside her husband, former Gov. Mike Huckabee. The couple met in elementary school in Hope, Ark., and dated into their time in college at Ouachita. They were married on May 25, 1974, and now have three adult children: John Mark, David and Sarah, who became the 47th governor of Arkansas in 2023.
Early in their marriage, Huckabee was diagnosed with spinal cancer, which left her unable to return to Ouachita. Near the end of her husband’s time as governor, she completed her undergraduate degree through John Brown University. Huckabee was an active member and two-term president of the Texarkana Parent Teacher Association and has worked as a substitute teacher, a pharmacist’s assistant and as a manager for a construction company, among other roles. She was an active campaigner in her husband’s various political pursuits.
While her husband was governor, one of Huckabee’s priorities was helping to modernize the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. The subsequent renovation included the addition of a grand hall, later named the Janet M. Huckabee Grand Hall. Huckabee was inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame after helping to pass Amendment 75, a sales tax that benefited the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the Department of Parks and Tourism and the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission.
Outside of politics, Huckabee became known for her work with the American Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse and Habitat for Humanity, which she served for more than 10 years on the international board. She led an effort to immunize children in Arkansas and visited every state health department site to promote immunizations against childhood diseases. She also has been an active volunteer in church activities and enjoys gardening, raising chickens and looking after two dogs and seven grandchildren.
GOV. SARAH (HUCKABEE) SANDERS
Gov. Sarah (Huckabee) Sanders is the youngest child of former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Janet Huckabee. The two made history as the first father and daughter to be governor of the same state. Sanders also is the youngest governor in the nation currently serving and Arkansas’ first woman governor.
A graduate of Little Rock Central High School, Sanders was a political science major at Ouachita. Named to the Homecoming Court and Who’s Who Among American Colleges & Universities, she served as president of the Ouachita Student Senate and was chosen Outstanding Senior Woman by faculty and staff.
Her involvement in presidential politics began in 2004 when she served as field coordinator in Ohio for Pres. George W. Bush’s re-election campaign. In 2008, she was national political director for her father’s presidential campaign and later served as his campaign manager during his 2016 run. She joined Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as a senior adviser and transitioned to a role on the White House communications staff upon his election, eventually becoming the third woman, first mother and first Arkansan to serve as White House press secretary.
Sanders left the White House in 2019 and returned to Arkansas, where she announced her candidacy for governor in 2021. After her time in Washington D.C., she was a Fox News contributor and served on the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Sanders is the author of the New York Times bestseller Speaking for Myself and was recognized in Fortune and TIME magazines’ “40 under 40.”
NANCY HASSELL BENTON
Nancy Benton (’83) grew up in Little Rock and North Little Rock until the 10th grade, when her dad became pastor of First Baptist Church, Stuttgart. Even though her parents were graduates of Baylor University, they had a strong love for Ouachita and were proud of Nancy’s decision to transfer to Ouachita in 1980. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree; classes toward her minor in accounting gave her the opportunity to know the late Dr. Margaret Wright, professor emerita of accounting and the 2011 Stepping Up honoree.
At the time, Nancy says, she was struggling with her faith, her decisions and her grades, and she learned a lot from Dr. Wright. Nancy considers Dr. Wright a mentor who instilled in her students a strong work ethic and a high standard of professionalism.
After graduation, Nancy lived and worked in Little Rock, where she met her husband, Murray, at church. In June 1987, the couple married and moved to Helena. Murray worked for Mid-South Sales Inc., a company his grandfather founded and his parents owned. The Bentons moved Mid-South Sales and their family to Jonesboro in 1998; Murray ran the company and Nancy raised the couple’s three children, Murray Jr., Meredith and Maggie.
Murray, Jr., and his wife, Dr. Sarah Holland Benton, are parents to daughter Holland and are expecting a second child in Summer 2022. Murray works for Outdoor Properties and Sarah is an audiologist. Meredith has two undergraduate degrees in education and nursing and owns her own wedding photography business. Maggie, former Miss Arkansas, and her husband, Andrew Counce, live in Little Rock where Maggie is the junior high girls pastor at Fellowship Bible Church and Andrew teaches high school math and coaches 7th grade boys basketball at Little Rock Christian Academy.
Nancy says that serving on the Board of Trustees at Ouachita has been an incredible honor and blessing in her life. “Witnessing each and every person work together for God’s glory to make Ouachita the best it can be is an incredibly gratifying experience,” she says. “Also, seeing the Lord’s hand guide and direct the finances, building projects and the growth of many programs and majors, all during the pandemic, has been miraculous and humbling. I can’t think of a better way to serve and give than through Ouachita.”
Nancy also serves on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Baptist Memorial Healthcare Foundation of Memphis and The Community Foundation of NEA Baptist Hospital, Jonesboro.
The Bentons attend Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, where they taught the young married Sunday School class and Murray served as a deacon.
TONI KITTERMAN THRASH
Born and raised in Jonesboro to a family of educators, and having worked at her mother’s daycare and kindergarten for many years, Toni found the teaching profession to be a natural and joyful trajectory for her.
When Toni was growing up, her family attended First Baptist Church, Jonesboro. She says that coming from a family that loved the Lord and gave to the church and others is one of the greatest gifts she’s received. Seeing her dad’s white envelope in his hand each Sunday morning, demonstrating the importance of giving to the church and helping others, made a lifetime impression upon her. She gave her life to Christ at age 11 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church Camp, outside Jonesboro.
Toni earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in early childhood education from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She taught for 34 years in the private and public school sectors in Arkansas, retiring in 2020. A highlight of her teaching career was being named the 2013 PTA Arkansas Teacher of the Year.
Toni became a Ouachitonian when she married Tom Thrash (’77) in 1981. Tom played football at Ouachita and credits his success in life to Ouachita and Ouachita’s legendary Coach Buddy Benson. The couple’s many investments in Ouachita include their gifts of the turf field and electronic scoreboard at Cliff Harris Stadium.
After marrying and moving to Little Rock, the Thrashes joined Immanuel Baptist Church, where Toni spent many years teaching children’s Sunday school and serving in the nursery. When Toni wasn’t teaching, she also volunteered through the Junior League of Little Rock and served on the boards of the Arkansas Heart Association and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The Thrashes have two sons, Thomas and Adam. Thomas and his wife, Morgan, are parents to daughters Tyler (4) and Tommie Rose (1). Adam and his wife, Isabelle, have two sons, Johnny (4) and Bobby (1). Toni says that being “Honey” to her four grandchildren is one of life’s greatest blessings.
SARAH SHELL TEAGUE
Sarah Shell Teague (’83) earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and French from Ouachita. She earned a master’s degree from Arkansas State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi, bearing three sons in four years and moving to El Dorado while completing her Ph.D. She has taught writing at the college level, led various book discussion groups, served as the associate editor of El Dorado Insider and Cloud 9 magazines and taught elementary art through Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. She also has published essays, short stories, nonfiction and a holiday memoir, “Have Yourself a Hamster Little Christmas.” In her 30s, she competed in triathlons and, according to her, impressed no one with her times.
Sarah is the daughter of Rev. Frank (MA ’60) and Carolyn Southerland (’58) Shell; all her siblings graduated from Ouachita, as well. She became a Christian at age 7 at First Baptist Church of Walnut Ridge. She met her future husband, Jeff (’78), when he purchased a car dealership there in 1981. The couple moved to El Dorado in 1990, where they raised their children. They sold the dealerships in 2021 and relocated to Fayetteville. Both are still involved with Citizens Bank, co-founded by Sarah’s grandfather and headquartered in Batesville.
Sarah is a past president of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries Board. She has also served on the Ouachita Development Council, the Arkansas Committee for the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian Curiosity Council, the El Dorado Service League and the El Dorado Boys and Girls Club. She is a patron of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Crystal Bridges and the Smithsonian Institution and serves as a trustee at Williams Baptist University. Sarah is a Master Gardener, plays the piano when nobody’s listening and annoys French people by practicing her college major. She has been nourished and ministered through First Baptist Church of El Dorado. Sarah and Jeff are members of First Baptist Church, Fayetteville.
The Teagues are parents to Justin (’09), David (and wife Sara) and Jeff II. She especially appreciates Ouachita mentors Fran Coulter, Bill and Snookie Dixon, Betty McCommas and her Carl Goodson Honors Program professors. She recognizes relationships—with her family, EEE pledge sisters and longtime friends—as one of her life’s greatest treasures.
SHEILA POWELL STRICKLAND
Sheila Powell Strickland (’74) serves as financial analyst at The Strickland Group, Inc.. a petroleum consulting, IT infrastructure and software firm in Fort Worth, Texas. Sheila her husband, Richard, are among the founding partners of the company, which was founded in 2001. The Strickland Group offers consulting services to the oil and gas industry and legal community worldwide concerning matters of reservoir engineering, specializing in solving unique and complex oil and gas matters. She also owns Welcome Home Retreat in Weatherford, Texas, which hosts almost 30 ladies each weekend for scrapbooking, quilting and crafting.
After graduating from Ouachita with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Sheila went to work for Phillips Petroleum Co. in Bartlesville, Okla. There she met her future husband, Richard, who was working for Phillips as a summer engineer. The couple married one year later and moved to College Station, Texas, where Richard finished his doctorate in petroleum engineering and taught at Texas A&M University. The Stricklands’ two children Mark and Sandra were born there, and Sheila began a long career of volunteering in church administration while serving at First Baptist Church, College Station. She later worked at Wedgwood Baptist Church and The Church in Cityview, both in Fort Worth.
For Sheila, ministry to women has been a strong missional family value. She has opened her home to individual women throughout the years, providing shelter for days or months at a time. She mentors and provides financial advisement as part of her service and assistance to women.
Sheila has served on the executive advisory board of Ouachita’s Hickingbotham School of Business since 2003 and has established the Richard & Sheila Strickland Endowed Scholarship at Ouachita. Eleven members of Sheila’s family attended Ouachita, including her brother and sister-in-law, Anthony and Marcia Majors Powell; her sister, Karen Powell Johnson; and numerous cousins, aunts, and uncles.
Sheila guided The Strickland Group’s financial resources as the firm’s comptroller until 2021, when she scaled back to semi-retirement to enjoy the retreat business and the couple’s four grandchildren: Zane, Cate, Alex and Logan.
Dr. Jana Crain ('92) currently serves as medical director for imaging centers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Colorado. As a partner of California Advanced Imaging Medical Associates Inc., she is a consultant for collegiate and professional players and teams including the San Francisco 49ers, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Santa Clara Broncos and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard teams. Dr. Crain has given numerous musculoskeletal (MSK) MRI lectures including subjects of turf toe, sports hernia and pediatric sports injuries, and her most recent publication is “Imaging of Turf Toe” for Radiology Clinics of North America.
After graduating from Ouachita with a degree in biology, Crain received her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1996 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she also trained as a resident in internal medicine and pediatrics as well as diagnostic radiology. Dr. Crain later completed her fellowship in MSK imaging with the National Orthopedic Imaging Associates (NOIA) in San Francisco. She holds medical licenses and is board certified by the American Board of Radiology, and she belongs to such professional societies as the American College of Radiology, Arkansas Medical Society and Society of Skeletal Radiology, among others.
Originally from Star City, Ark., Dr. Crain is the daughter of Kathleen and the late Robert Crain. Among her philanthropic efforts, Dr. Crain supports the Precious Child Foundation in Tulsa, Okla.; The Call in Little Rock, Ark.; and Help One Child in Los Altos, Calif. She also recently set up the Lori Partridge Jeremiah 29:11 Scholarship at Ouachita.
Debbie Kluck serves as the office manager in the Arkadelphia Clinic for Children and Young Adults satellite clinic located on Ouachita’s campus. She also works on campus to serve students and student-athletes alongside her husband, Dr. Wesley Kluck (’77), Ouachita’s vice president for student development and university physician. Debbie holds a bachelor's degree in medical technology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. Ouachita, Debbie said, is special to her not only because of the tremendous impact that Ouachita has had and continues to have directly on Arkadelphia, but also because she saw the difference it made in her daughter’s life.
Debbie and Wesley are active members of Second Baptist Church in Arkadelphia, Ark. The Klucks have led college Bible studies since 1984, ministering to both Ouachita and Henderson State students, “because of the influence of Bible leaders on our own lives in college,” Debbie said. She also leads a women's Bible study and enjoys serving and fellowshipping with her family.
The Klucks’ daughter, Jennifer Hopkins (’08), and her husband, Seth, live in Benton where she is an educator, and he is a Benton police officer; Debbie is grandmother to their two daughters, Carli and Mackenzie. Debbie’s brother, Robert Hicks, lives in Baton Rouge, La., and her sister, Cindy, is a 1968 Ouachita graduate.
Sherrie Sharp Thomasson serves as divisional vice president for Select Rehabilitation, a company based out of Glenview, Illinois. Select Rehab manages and contracts therapy services in skilled nursing facilities, assisted and independent living facilities, schools, and outpatient locations across the country. For the past several years, Sherrie's primary responsibility consists of managing therapy services in more than 400 assisted and independent living communities, more than 2,500 employees and $40 million in revenue per year.
Growing up in Little Rock and as a member of Immanuel Baptist Church, it was a “given” that Sherrie would attend Ouachita. Much of her family – her parents, aunts, uncle and sister, as well as her brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law all attended Ouachita. During her sophomore year, Sherrie met her husband, Paul (’75), who played baseball and football for the Tigers. They were married soon after and celebrated 34 years together until his unexpected passing in 2012. Sherrie received her degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Central Arkansas as Paul was hired there during her senior year at Ouachita. She later earned a Master of Science degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Central Arkansas.
Sherrie has two children, Aaron (’05) and Adam (’08), who followed in their father’s footsteps and played golf and football at Ouachita. Aaron and his wife Tiffaney, as well as, Adam all live in Little Rock. Sherrie married Robert Thomasson in 2018 and added additional family members Melanie and Alex Dawson and Kara Thomasson. She is also “NuNu” to seven grandchildren.
Tammy Young (’88) serves as the CEO and founder of Nutrition Consult Services, Inc., a dietetic consulting business. For the past 30+ years, she has worked as a registered dietitian in a variety of healthcare settings, including skilled nursing facilities, neonatal ICU, home health, hospice, small rural hospitals, long-term care facilities, behavioral and psychiatric care, rehabilitation centers and outpatient diabetic management clinics.
Tammy has held various positions with the Arkansas Dietetics Association, including vice president of the Northwest Arkansas district and secretary, and she is a member of the American Diabetes Association, Arkansas Dietetics Association, Commission of Dietetic Professionals and Oklahoma Dietetics Association. She is also on the board of directors for Encompassing Hope, a Northwest Arkansas organization that provides support for behavioral and mental illness.
Born and raised in Nashville, Ark., Tammy graduated from Ouachita with a degree in dietetics and went on to complete her dietetic internship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. While at Ouachita, Tammy met her husband, James (’88). Tammy and James later settled in Springdale, Ark., where they have attended Crosschurch for 20 years and served at its various campuses in Fayetteville, Springdale and Pinnacle Hills in Rogers. Together they have two children, Justin (’14) and Katelyn (’18), both of whom graduated from Ouachita. Tammy is also a grandmother to Justin’s three children: Brecken, Ava Joy and Judah.
Livia Dunklin is surrounded by Ouachitonians in each generation of her family. Her father-in-law, George Dunklin, Sr., was a member of Ouachita’s Board of Trustees, and her daughter Lauren and son-in-law Hunter Heird are 2014 Ouachita graduates.
During Lauren’s Ouachita years, Livia and her husband, George, could be seen at most every football game watching Lauren cheer on the Tigers and loved watching Lauren and EEE women’s social club in Tiger Tunes every year. The new press box at Cliff Harris Stadium was provided by the Dunklin family in honor of George Sr. and his service to the university. Livia said she believes that the smaller campus Ouachita offers radiates a feeling of community and family.
“It is like being home even for someone who didn’t even go there,” she said. “You are always sorry when you have to leave.”
After watching Lauren’s experience at Ouachita, Livia believes it was the best place to prepare Lauren for real-world experiences through the opportunities, challenges, service opportunities and the small faculty-to-student ratio Ouachita provides. She noted that a favorite Ouachita moment was seeing the professors stand for every student walking across the stage as they received their diplomas at Lauren’s graduation.
Livia was born and raised in Manhattan and later moved to Memphis, Tenn. Livia attended Memphis State University and was working at the Racquet Club of Memphis, where she met her future husband, George, a member of the Memphis State tennis team and racket stringer for the club. Livia and George have three daughters, Megan, Hillary, and Lauren.
George was the past President and Chairman of Ducks Unlimited, Inc., which kept them both busy for several years. George also is founder and owner of Five Oaks Duck Lodge near Stuttgart, and it has been a family affair. In the off season, Livia helps with planning events at the lodge.
Livia’s faithfulness to the Lord is seen through her strong heart to serve children.
She has served through Easter Seals, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and her local church.
On Monday nights, Livia also enjoys Bible study alongside other sisters in Christ,
which includes several Ouachita alumni.
Betty Tollett was introduced to Ouachita through her children, Terri and Gary. Terri is a 1984 graduate and serves as a member of the Ouachita Board of Trustees. She and her husband, Jimmy, are the parents of two children, Tracey (’15) and Nathan (fs ’14). Gary is a 1989 graduate, played basketball under legendary Coach Bill Vining and serves on Ouachita’s President’s Advisory Council. Gary and his wife, Michele (Rector f’89), have four sons: Trenton, Travis, Turner and Truitt.
“I feel this world needs Ouachita,” Betty said. “It is a bright light in this dark world. I am so glad that my children and some of my grandchildren attended Ouachita.”
Betty Ruth Blew Tollett grew up in Farmington, Ark., and attended church “every time the doors were open.” It is no surprise that she met her husband, Leland, at Calvary Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Betty earned a degree in elementary education from the University of Arkansas.
Betty is a gracious servant. Simply put, she has spent her life pouring herself into her church, her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and her community. In addition to teaching elementary school, Betty taught third grade Sunday School for more than 25 years at Cross Church.
During Leland’s more than 50-year career at Tyson Foods, Leland helped lead the company from one processing plant to the world’s largest producer of chicken, beef and pork, and second-largest food production company in the world. When he was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2011, he edified Betty for being the perfect corporate wife while he was building Tyson Foods. Her strong faith, cooking skills, uncanny ability to remember people’s names and capacity to love others has served countless people well.
Betty and Leland have always attributed their happiness and success to the Lord. As
parents, they taught their children to honor the Lord, to respect others, to live
a life of kindness and to be humble. Their strong faith has sheltered them through
difficult times, too, including Betty’s breast cancer journey. Betty is a survivor
and served as the honorary co-chairman of the 2008 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
Kathy Whisenhunt entered the Ouachita family through marriage. She married Gene Whisenhunt (OBU ’83) who had served on the Board of Trustees, the Hickingbotham School of Business Executive Advisory Council and currently chairs the President’s Advisory Committee. Through her husband, she was engaged in Ouachita in many ways and grew to love the school. Kathy and Gene sent all three of their children to Ouachita.
Kathy’s early childhood was in Texarkana until her family moved to Little Rock when she was a teenager. After completion of her education she joined Allstate Insurance and enjoyed a successful career until she started a family. At that time, Kathy felt a clear calling to be at home for her family. Since that time, she has served as a dedicated mother and wife.
Kathy has a heart to serve others. At Geyer Springs First Baptist Church (where she and Gene met), she served in numerous areas including the music ministry to children, Awana, Sunday School, choir, the coffee shop, numerous youth trips and several search committees. She served many years as a volunteer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and also at Baptist Health Hospital. However, much of Kathy’s service goes unnoticed as she quietly meets the needs of many others behind the scenes when they have times to celebrate or are in times of need. Her greatest fulfillment is when she can serve others.
Kathy’s greatest pride is her family, which includes Haley (‘12) and husband Barry (’10), Mary (’13) and husband Bubby (’13), and Jared (’15). She loves her grandsons, Hayes and Noah, who will be joined by another grandchild this year.
Cathryn Berryman graduated from Ouachita with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history in 1988. She then went on to earn her juris doctor degree from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1991. Berryman currently serves as a shareholder in Winstead’s Intellectual Property Practice Group. Her practice focuses on domestic and international intellectual property licensing and transactional work.
While at Ouachita, Berryman was recognized as Outstanding Senior Woman for her involvement on campus. She served as vice president of Ouachita’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta history honor society and was a member of Chi Delta women’s social club, Ouachi-tones vocal ensemble, International Relations Club, Young Democrats, Debate Team, Academic Exceptions Committee and Alpha Chi National Honor Fraternity.
Berryman now serves as a member of the American Bar Association, the Dallas Bar Association, the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the Dallas Regional Chamber and Park City Baptist Church, to name a few.
Among her many professional recognitions, D Magazine recognized her as one of the Best Lawyers in Dallas for 2018 and one of the Best Women Lawyers in Dallas in 2010. She has been recognized in Woodward/White Inc.’s The Best Lawyers in America from 2011-2019 and also was named 2015 “Lawyer of the Year” in Dallas Trademark Law by that publication.
Mary Pat Cook Anthony is a 1981 graduate of El Dorado High School and holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from Ouachita. A lifelong resident of El Dorado, she served as a fourth grade teacher at Hugh Goodwin Academy for the Arts, director of education at South Arkansas Community College, and first grade teacher and fine arts coordinator at Southside Elementary School. She also has served as a fitness instructor and swimming instructor. She retired in 2012 after a 26-year career in education.
Anthony has been a member of Ouachita’s Board of Trustees since 2013 and currently serves as Board Secretary. She was honored in 2015 with a Ouachita Alumni Milestone Award. She also has been a member of the South Arkansas Arts Center and South Arkansas Regional Health Center boards of directors. Other service includes South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra soloist, Sing for the Cure director and producer, and Arkansas Girls State music director.
Her professional recognitions include Teacher of the Year Award for El Dorado Public Schools, an International Reading Association/Arkansas Reading Association Promotion of Literacy Award, Outstanding Faculty Member of South Arkansas Community College, and the NISOD (National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development) Community College Leadership Program Excellence Award.
She and her husband, Aubra Anthony, Jr., live in El Dorado. She is a member of First Baptist Church where she has been involved in the Celebration Choir, Celebration Orchestra, and Handbell Choir, as well as directing the children’s choir, VBS preschool music, nursery and mothers’ day out program.
Marianne Gosser has a strong love for Ouachita. A 1955 graduate, Marianne and her husband, the late Dr. Bob Gosser (OBU ’56) sent all five of their children to Ouachita and the tradition continues today with their grandchildren.
Born and raised in Piggott, Arkansas, Marianne holds Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor
of Music Education degrees from Ouachita. While at the University in the 50’s, Marianne
served as President of Gamma Phi Women’s Social Club and was crowned the first Ouachitonian
Beauty. She was a member of the band, choir, the Ouachita Players, and Young Women’s
Auxiliary. Following graduation, she taught school in Hot Springs and Little Rock.
An active member of Second Baptist Church of Little Rock, Marianne has taught bible study; directed children’s choir and youth, youth married and adult Sunday school; and served as church outreach director and as a member of the adult choir. She directed “Branches of Fruit.” a play commemorating Second Baptist Church’s 100th Anniversary.
Active in the community, Marianne has served as president of North Little Rock School Board, and faithfully served the Junior League of North Little Rock, North Heights PTA and Ridge Road PTA, and served on Ouachita’s Alumni Advisory Board.
Her biggest pride is her family. Bob and Marianne were married for 58 years before he passed in 2013. Their five children, Jenny Gosser Turner (’82), Bobby Gosser, Jr.(’83) and wife Donna (‘89), Leigh Anna Askins (‘89) and husband Jonathan, John Gosser (’84) and wife Glenda (‘84) and April Cook (‘94)and husband Jared. The Gosser grandchildren include: Abby (’11), Molly Anne (’14) and Laura Leigh Turner, Trey (’13), Alex and McKenzie Gosser, J.J. and Jessica Askins, Megan, Gretchen (’15) and John Mark and Maleah and Adien Cook, Anna and Ava Weeks.
Born in Bluffton, Ark., Betty Ferguson and her twin brother, Billy, were the youngest of four children. Both graduated from Fourche Valley High School, where Betty never missed a day of school. In 1958 and 1959, respectively, she and Billy graduated from Ouachita Baptist University. It was there that she found her love for home economics.
Serving faithfully with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, Betty found herself in many Arkansas communities while finishing her master’s degree through the University of Arkansas. From 1969-2001, Betty served as staff chair in Pulaski County. During this time, the Pulaski County program had the largest staff and Extension Homemaker Club in the state. The program was so successful, upon retirement in 2001, Betty was asked to serve on a part-time basis as volunteer coordinator for the Arkansas Extention Homemakers Council, an organization composed of 5,000 members across the state. She continues to faithfully serve there; with 57 and a half years of service, she is the most senior professional in the entire University of Arkansas system.
Betty has served as president of the Arkansas Association of Home Demonstration Agents and vice president of the national association. One of her most valued awards was for housing work she conducted in Lonoke County. Betty was one of only three people to receive this award nationally. Other accolades include the Arkansas Home Economics Outstanding Education Award and the Sister Pierre Vorster Award for Outstanding Volunteer, and she was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2004.
She and her husband, Bob, reside in North Little Rock, and they are active members of First Baptist Church of Little Rock. Betty has served on the Ouachita Baptist University Board of Trustees for six years and was elected in November to serve another three year term.
Mary Shambarger has made investing in the lives of others her life’s work. For more than 30 years she served on the faculty of Ouachita Baptist University in the Department of Music. Mary has shown grace, leadership, integrity and faith, qualities she has also instilled in her students.
Mary was born and raised in Morrilton, Arkansas, by her parents, Clifford and Emma Lee Stobaugh. After graduating from Morrilton High School, she earned a Bachelor of Music from Louisiana State University, later earning her master's degree from the University of Arkansas.
Mary’s first teaching job was at Cassville (Missouri) High School, where she met her husband, the late Dr. Jake Shambarger, a basketball coach. As newlyweds, the two moved to Walnut Ridge to teach at Williams Baptist College, where they remained for six years before moving to Ouachita Baptist University in 1966.
While at Ouachita, Mary formed and directed The Ouachi-Tones, an all-female choral ensemble. The group traveled and performed extensively over Arkansas, the United States and abroad, serving as ambassadors for the university. In 1991, after 25 years, she chose to restructure the group and formed The Ouachita Sounds, an ensemble combining women and men.
While on the faculty at OBU, Mary also served as Chairman of the Applied Music Department, Coordinator of Voice, Arkansas Governor of NATS and was OBU’s representative for the Arkansas Women of Higher Education. At the time of her retirement from Ouachita in 1998, she was the Lena Goodwin Trimble Professor of Music, Emerita. The same year, the Mary Shambarger Competition for Singers was established and continues to be held on the OBU campus each February.
Mary’s other professional accomplishments include producing, writing and directing shows for Magic Springs Theme Park in Hot Springs, Ark.; Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, Ky.; and Frontier City in Oklahoma City, Okla. She has served as the Minister of Music for Baptist churches in Tuckerman, Piggott and Walnut Ridge, Ark.
Mary currently lives in Bentonville, Arkansas, enjoying family. She lives near her daughter, Susan, and son-in-law, Dr. Steve Goss (both graduates of Ouachita). She has two grandsons, Chad and Jake.
She is an active member of First Baptist Church in Bentonville, a member of P.E.O., and the Bentonville Garden Club. Other professional affiliations include the Andante Music Club, National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), American Choral Directors Association, Pi Kappa Lambda, Sigma Alpha Iota and the Governing Board of the Opera in the Ozarks.
Molly Kircher, a 1964 graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, is honored to be the 2012 Stepping Up for Ouachita honoree. She and her husband, Larry (’65), currently reside in Bald Knob where he serves as CEO of Citizens State Bank.
“I am very blessed with a wonderful husband who has a love for Ouachita that very nearly exceeds his love for me. Together, we enjoy the blessing of spreading the news about Ouachita wherever and whenever we can. We are so thankful that we can provide some financial assistance to Ouachita students and hope that those endeavors will bear fruit far into Ouachita’s future.”
Growing up in Piggott, Arkansas, Molly was raised in a single parent home. Her father, Lowell GoForth, served honorably in WWII, losing his life in 1945 when Molly was just 3 years old. “I was greatly loved by my mother and grandparents, I had a happy life growing up in the small town of Piggott.” In 1960, Molly enrolled at Ouachita. “I don’t really remember 'choosing' Ouachita, but as Mother had attended the halls of OBC, I was just always sure I would follow her right into Cone-Bottoms Hall. And that I did.”
In 1964, Molly met and married her husband of now 48 years. “My time at Ouachita was filled with many happy memories. I made lifelong friends. Of the three different roommates I was privileged to have over the time of four years, we four are still fast friends with which I communicate regularly.”
After receiving her BA in Sociology, Molly felt her calling was to be with family. “I was employed by the office of the Ladue Board of Education (St. Louis, Mo.) until the birth of our first daughter. I have been privileged to fulfill my heartfelt dream of becoming a full-time housewife and mother to Laura and Jennifer. I am still thankful, daily, that I was granted this opportunity.”
“Our years in Bald Knob have been rewarding, as we have served the community with a business that has benefited the citizens of Bald Knob.” Molly is very active in the community, serving on many boards throughout the years. She currently serves on the board of Friends for Life, a White County not-for-profit Christ-centered organization that ministers to individuals who face unplanned pregnancy. Molly is also active in the Bald Knob Garden Club, serving as President twice; she is Past President of the Bald Knob Country Club and has served on the Board of Directors for Citizens State Bank. The Kirchers are proud members of Central Baptist Church in Bald Knob, where Molly has served as organist for 40 years.
Margaret Wright, a member of the Ouachita Baptist University Class of 1967, graduated with honors with a major in accounting and a minor in economics. Margaret, a Certified Public Accountant, completed her graduate degree from North Texas State University in 1969 with a major in accounting and a minor in economics.
Margaret grew up in Pine Bluff where she married Charles Wright (OBU Class of 1960). Upon retirement in 2004, they moved to Little Rock where they joined Immanuel Baptist Church. They have one daughter, Kimberly Wright-Lawrence (OBU Class of 1985), who lives in Sausalito, Calif., with her husband, Mark. Kimberly is a member of the San Francisco Symphony and a former member of the Chicago Symphony.
Margaret was a member of First Baptist Church of Arkadelphia for 40 years where she served as a Sunday school teacher, four terms on the Finance Committee and held various other offices. While living in Arkadelphia, she served the community as a board member for the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, the Clark County Bond Facilities Commission and the Clark County Industrial Development Commission.
Margaret and Charles served Ouachita for 35 years and 40 years respectively. She began her teaching career at Ouachita in 1969 and retired in 2004. During most of her years of service, Margaret was Chair of the Department of Accounting and Chair of the Division of Business and Economics. From 1993-1999, she served as Director of Corporate and Foundation Programs. Upon her retirement, Margaret was honored as a Professor Emerita of Accounting.
Highlights of Margaret’s recognitions as a professor include being named Teacher of the Year by the Blue Key National Honor Society and being selected by the senior class of 1981 to deliver the spring commencement address. She was frequently recognized for her outstanding teaching. Upon her retirement, friends and former students raised more than $500,000 in her honor to establish the Margaret Wright Chair of Accounting.
As Chair of the Division of Business and Economics, Margaret was instrumental in laying the foundation for moving the division toward becoming a school of business. In 1988, she created the Business Advisory Council which was the precursor to the Business Executive Advisory Board for the Frank D. Hickingbotham School of Business. In 2010, the Business Executive Advisory Board elected Margaret to a lifetime membership.
A member of the Ouachita class of 1967, Sharon Heflin and her family have been faithful and generous supporters of Ouachita Baptist University. Sharon grew up in Little Rock, where she graduated from Little Rock Central High School in 1964. She married Johnny Heflin (OBU class of 1967) the summer after they graduated from Ouachita. They were married 39 years and have two sons, Jay (OBU class of 1993) and Marc (OBU class of 1995). Jay and his wife, Andrea (’94), have two children, Ben and Anna. Marc and his wife, Billie (’94), are the parents of two daughters, Grace and Sarah.
The Heflins have been gracious benefactors of Ouachita. Heflin Plaza was dedicated in 2010 in memory of Johnny Heflin, former chairman of the Ouachita Board of Trustees and a prominent Little Rock businessman, and in honor of the Heflin family. During the dedication service, Sharon told the crowd, “There are many aspects of Ouachita that we could point to as important in our lives. However, with us it comes down to the simple statement, ‘Ouachita means the world to our family.’
“Ouachita has helped us to provide a world of opportunities for our family and many others,” she added. “We are thankful to be able to support Ouachita as she continues to support so many.”
In addition to funding for Heflin Plaza, other major projects underwritten by the Heflin family include the Heflin Tennis Center, the Jay and Lynn Heflin Chair of Business and the Heflin Family Scholarship. Sharon also has served as a member of the Ouachita Baptist University Development Council.
During her years as a Ouachita student, Sharon was Homecoming Queen, cheerleader captain, treasurer of the EEEs and a member of Who’s Who and Alpha Chi. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business. She and Johnny worked together for several years at Terminix, a family-owned business. In recent years, she has worked with Bird and Bear Medical, Inc., a medical and respiratory equipment company established in 2001 by Johnny, Jay and Marc Heflin.
Always willing to give back to the community, Sharon’s vast community service leadership roles include serving as president of the Baptist Health Foundation Board, president of the Little Rock Central High School Alumni Board, vice president of the Alzheimer Arkansas Board and 2010 co-chair of Art and Soul for Easter Seals of Arkansas. She also is president emeritus of the Arkansas Hospice Foundation Board and has served on a number of other local and statewide boards.
According to Ouachita President Rex M. Horne, Jr., “The Heflin name and the Heflin family are such an integral part of everything good and noble that Ouachita Baptist University is all about. … They are advocates for Ouachita. They are encouragers to those of us who serve here. They are enablers to the students who attend here.”
For those reasons and more, it is a privilege for Ouachita Baptist University to honor Sharon Heflin at the university’s inaugural “Stepping Up for Ouachita” women’s luncheon in recognition of her life of outstanding dedication and service to her alma mater, her family and the community.
Presenting Sponsor ($15,000)
- Two tables of 10 (20 tickets) at luncheon with preferential seating
- Twenty invitations to President’s pre-luncheon VIP reception
- Full-page advertisement/acknowledgement in luncheon program
- Recognition from the podium
- Logo/name placement on Stepping Up for Ouachita webpage
- Name recognition in all press releases related to Stepping Up for Ouachita
- Logo/name placement on Stepping Up for Ouachita invitation
- Logo/name on event signage
Black Pump Sponsor ($12,000)
- Two tables of 10 (20 tickets) at luncheon with preferential seating
- Twenty invitations to President’s pre-luncheon VIP reception
- Logo/name placement on Stepping Up for Ouachita webpage
- Logo/name recognition on luncheon program
- Professional photography of event provided to sponsor
- Honoree video(s) given to sponsor after the luncheon
- Logo/name on event signage
Silver Sandal Sponsor ($5,000)
- One table (10 tickets) at the luncheon with preferential seating
- Logo/name recognition in luncheon program
- Logo/name placement on Stepping Up for Ouachita webpage
- Logo/name on event signage
Table Sponsor ($1,500)
- One table (10 tickets) at the luncheon
- Table signage
Individual ticket ($150)