Loris Fullerton of Little Rock considers herself somewhat of a super sleuth.
An early interest in forensics led her to twice attend the FBI Citizens Academy, a series of classes led by FBI professionals for qualifying community leaders who live and work in areas under the jurisdiction of any one of the FBI’s 56 field offices. She has also been three times to visit the FBI’s national training academy in Quantico, Va.
A fan of the long-running drama television series Law & Order, Fullerton’s ring tone for her fellow FBI classmates is the show’s distinctive opening notes: “dun dun.” (The sound is reportedly intended to sound like both a jurist’s gavel and a jail-cell door slamming.)
“I paid extra for that one,” Fullerton says about the specialty ring tone.
But even her trained sense of heightened awareness didn’t prepare her for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s pitch last year to make Fullerton the perpetual chairman of the the university’s annual Jazz & Juleps fundraiser, proceeds from which create scholarships for students in the school’s department of audiology and speech pathology, a joint program with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
This year’s event will be Thursday at Pleasant Valley Country Club. Until this year, it has been held at the Governor’s Mansion. Fullerton is a former Jazz & Juleps honoree and has served on the fundraiser’s planning committee since its inception seven years ago. This is her second consecutive of many years — hopefully — that she’ll serve as chairman of the event. May is celebrated as Better Speech and Hearing Month.
Fullerton is a traveler and travel agent, touching down only long enough for a recent weekday interview between a trip to Perdido Key, Fla., and attending a bat mitzvah in Michigan. She pledged her involvement after her niece, Sarah Kathleen Mayersohn, was found to have profound hearing loss when she was about 6 months old.
“She didn’t seem to be responding to sound,” Fullerton says. Sarah’s mother sensed something was wrong.
“Honest to God, she got some pots and pans and stood behind her and started clanging them together, and Sarah didn’t even turn around,” Fullerton says.
Sarah is now 30 and works as an archivist for Union Station in Washington, D.C. But when she was 3 1/2, her parents, Arnie and Betsy Mayersohn, moved to St. Louis so their daughter could attend St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf. It was there she received cochlear implants, which weren’t yet available at UALR.
“Rather than her just being able to sign, they wanted her to be able to talk,” Fullerton said of her brother and his wife. The couple also adopted a daughter, Rani, from India.
Sarah, who was eventually mainstreamed into schools with hearing children, graduated from high school and earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and double master’s degrees from Indiana University at Bloomington.
The UALR Speech and Hearing Clinic started as an undergraduate program in 1970, with a master’s program added four years later. It’s at University Plaza at Asher and South University avenues and has helped hundreds of adults and children with speech-language and hearing disorders, said Leah Thorvilson, director of development and external relations for the UALR College of Education and Health Professions.
UALR offers an Auditory Based Intervention Certificate that prepares speech and hearing professionals with knowledge and skills for developing or maintaining listening and spoken language in individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, Thorvilson said.
Jazz & Juleps starts at 6 p.m. with mint juleps and other alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, as well as heavy hors d’oeuvres and music by Mojo de Jazz. An auction conducted by KTHV, Channel 11, television anchor Craig O’Neill offers art by Jack East, as well as a private dinner for 10 in the home of Scott and Libby Davis with chef Peter Brave, a tamale and tequila family-style dinner for 12 at Big Orange and a vacation at the Hilton Grand Vacations hotel Elara in Las Vegas.
At least 40 items will be available during a silent auction, which is new to the event this year.
Last year, Thorvilson asked Fullerton to lunch and the volunteer knew something was up. When they sat down at the table, Fullerton’s immediate response was negative.
“I know what you’re going to ask, and I’m not doing it,” Fullerton told the development director.
“We hit it off right away, and by the end of the conversation, she said, ‘Well, OK, I’ll do it,'” Thorvilson says. At a later meeting, someone suggested that Fullerton chair the event indefinitely, and she agreed.
Fullerton and her crew are expecting 300 to 325 people to attend and hope to gross at least $100,000.
Money raised creates an endowed scholarship in the name of the event’s honorees. Last year, 11 Jazz & Juleps scholarships were awarded to audiology and speech pathology students. Honored this year are Lynn Coates and her daughter, Caroline Coates-Nelson, who was born with severe hearing loss.
Coates joined the UALR Speech and Hearing Clinic, served as executive director for eight years at the Arkansas Association for Hearing Impaired Children and was elected to serve on the parent section of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Coates’ initiatives also include the program at Camp Aldersgate for orally educated hearing impaired children and the Whitney Derrick Lending Library.
The event’s $50 tickets can be bought at the door or ordered online at ualr.edu/giving/event/jazz-and-juleps. Thorvilson has more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or (501) 683-7501.