Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who earned his juris doctor degree from UALR’s William H. Bowen School of Law, was honored as the University’s Distinguished Alumnus Friday, May 14, at the Alumni Association and UALR Foundation Fund Board’s Awards Luncheon.
The celebration at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center also honored 1951 graduate Betty Jo Stephens as the 2010 recipient of the President’s Award.
Ashley Fejleh, who received a bachelor of science degree in environmental heath science with a minor in biology at Saturday’s commencement, received UALR’s top student award, the Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award as the most outstanding senior.
Snyder, who earned his Bowen law degree while practicing medicine, has been central Arkansas’ congressman for 13 years, serving the Second Congressional District since 1997, following his service in the Arkansas Senate from 1991 to 1996.
A native of Medford, Ore., and Vietnam veteran serving as a corporal in Marine Corp’s fabled 1st Marine Division, Snyder studied chemistry at Willamette University and earned a medical degree from the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center.
He did his residency in family practice at UAMS and practiced for 15 years, while joining medical missions to under-developed countries, including work in the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand, the El Salvadoran refugee camps in Honduras, a West African mission hospital in Sierra Leone, and an Ethiopian refugee camp in Sudan.
Stephens, who attended UALR’s precursor, Little Rock Junior College, competed on the LRJC tennis team, played on city league softball teams, and officiated women’s basketball.
In 1967, she became a physical education instructor at Little Rock University and was promoted to associate professor in 1973. She went on to become the Athletic Department women’s coordinator. Throughout Stephens’ tenure on the faculty, women’s athletics developed from intramural to extramural, culminating with NCAA varsity teams.
The Betty Jo Stephens Fund established by UALR to support women’s athletic activities annually honors a woman athlete at the University.
A graduate of Rogers High School, Fejleh came to UALR as a student athlete. She graduates as a member of the UALR Nanotechnology Center.
She took part in cancer research using uniquely designed nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes as potential drug carriers and delivery vehicles for anti-tumor agents, as well as another tissue engineering project for bone growth. A knee injury ended her volleyball and track and field careers, but instead she became a Donaghey Scholar. She has co-authored three published articles regarding tissue engineering for bone growth and the cancer fighting research and mentors high school students interested in nanotechnology. She also volunteers at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
A four-year recipient of the Harambee Award for minority students who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement, Fejleh was recently awarded the Martha Couch Givens Memorial Award and the Environmental Health Sciences Outstanding Graduating Senior Award. And Fejleh was featured on UALR’s 2009-2010 “Difference of Degree” advertising campaign.
The faculty Student Honors and Awards committee makes the outstanding senior selection based on citizenship, scholarship, and leadership. The Whitbeck Memorial Award is the single greatest distinction the University can bestow on a graduating student.
As this year’s Whitbeck Scholar, Fejleh’s name will be engraved on a plaque at the Donaghey Student Center and she will wear a silver robe and medallion, leading her class during commencement ceremonies.
The Whitbeck Award was established by Frank L. and Beverly Whitbeck in memory of their son, Edward Lynn Whitbeck, who was a senior at Little Rock University at the time of his death in 1965.
More pictures of the event are available on Flickr.