UALR to honor DoD official, others, during annual luncheon

A Department of Defense official, a distinguished attorney, and a Donaghey Scholar are among the recipients who will be honored at the annual 2014 University of Arkansas at Little Rock Alumni Awards luncheon May 16.

The UALR Foundation Fund Board and the UALR Alumni Association will host the luncheon, which will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

The luncheon is an opportunity to honor recipients of the UALR Alumni Association’s top awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award, the President’s Award, and the Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award.

For more information about the luncheon, contact Christian O’Neal at 501.569.3142 or

This year’s honorees:

Jon RymerJon T. Rymer is the 2014 UALR Distinguished Alumnus, the highest and most prestigious award the association can bestow on its alumni. The award is given each spring to an outstanding UALR graduate who has attained extraordinary distinction and success in their chosen field of endeavor.

Rymer serves as the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Defense. Before joining the DoD, Rymer served as the inspector general for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Concurrent with his service at FDIC, Rymer served as interim, and later, permanent inspector general of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was instrumental in pointing out the critical disconnect between the U.S. Treasury and the FDIC when they failed to act quickly on the impending failure of a major national bank, the first pillar to fall during the financial crisis.

Rymer served for more than 30 years in the active and reserve components of the U.S. Army. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s Inspector General School, Rymer holds an MBA degree from UALR. Senator Mark Pryor is scheduled to deliver remarks about Rymer’s successful tenure in Washington, D.C.

Tjuana ByrdTjuana Byrd is the recipient of this year’s Alumni Association President’s Award, given to an individual who has experienced career success along with demonstrated dedication to the university.

Byrd, a UALR graduate with a private law practice,  has volunteered numerous hours at UALR and served as two-time chair of the UALR Foundation Fund Board of Directors. She earned her juris doctorate from the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law.

A large part of her practice involves working with juveniles and their families, where she has earned a reputation for treating young people with care and compassion. Byrd began her legal career in the Pulaski County Public Defender’s office. She is the city attorney for Wrightsville, assistant city attorney for North Little Rock, Sherwood public defender, and a dependency neglect attorney ad litem.

Mackie O'Hara, UALRSenior Mackie O’Hara is this year’s Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award winner, given each year to an outstanding graduating senior who has demonstrated excellence in scholarship, leadership, citizenship, and character.

O’Hara earned a Mark Hartmann Student Fieldwork in Anthropology Fellowship and a research travel grant to finance a trip to South Africa, where she joined an excavation team from the University of Wisconsin. The trip inspired her honors project at UALR, the development of a process for preserving fragile fossils as they are being removed from soil so that valuable data is not lost.

O’Hara, an anthropology major and biology minor, has presented two conference posters on her research focusing on a three-dimensional technique that reconstructs the human diet based on “wear patterns” on fossilized teeth. After collaborating with Vanderbilt University to compare two-dimensional and three-dimensional microwear analysis techniques, she was listed as a co-author in an academic journal and received numerous acceptances to top-tier graduate programs, including one at The Ohio State University, where she will be attending this fall.

Learn more about UALR’s Alumni Association.

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