Ed Anson met UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson 41 years ago when their sons played on the same Little League baseball team in the summer of 1975.
“The first time I met him I was sweating like a pig,” said Anson, a UALR professor of history. “Joel was in a suit and not sweating at all. He is always cool and collected. I don’t think I have ever seen him stressed about anything.”
Anson was among hundreds of people gathered to celebrate Anderson during a May 3 luncheon at UALR’s Cooper Fountain featuring the chancellor’s favorite foods: pizza, barbecue sandwiches, and fried chicken. Anderson particularly enjoys Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza.
“This event makes real the fact that it is about to happen,” Anderson said in May. “I’m honored to have so many people walk by here, shake my hand, and hug me today.”
Anderson retired June 30following a 13-year tenure as chancellor and a 45-year career at the university. During his final day on the job, faculty and staff members sent Anderson notes and email messages thanking him for his time at the university. Numerous others shared theircongratulations and thanks through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
During the weeks leading up to Anderson’s retirement, the UALR campus community described him as a caring leader who is willing to listen and made great strides in advancing the university.
“He is the best chancellor I have ever worked with,” UALR Police Chief Regina Carter said. “He always has an open-door policy, and he will do whatever it takes to get you answers. He is truly dedicated to his employees.”
Anderson began his career at UALR in 1971 as an assistant professor of political science. Prior to becoming chancellor, he served UALR as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and as founding dean of the Graduate School.
Among the numerous highlights of Anderson’s service as chancellor are the recent partnership with eStem to build a new high school on the university’s campus; 15 fully online degree programs; the expansion of doctoral programs; completion of a $103 million comprehensive fundraising campaign; the creation of the George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center; and the creation of UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity, which has since been renamed in his honor.
How do you measure the contributions of a man who has spent the past 45 years devoted to the university?
For Bob Johns, professor emeritus of history, the measure of a man can be found in the way he treats others.
“I show up every once and a while with an ax to grind, but Joel is a very accessible person,” Johns said. “He is willing to have a dialogue with the university. In my view, we will be lucky to get someone like that next time.”
Prior to Anderson’s retirement, those with connections to UALR lauded the way the campus has grown during the chancellor’s tenure.
Julie Shelby came to UALR in 1996 as a student. Now a student support services adviser, she points out the numerous new buildings on campus as a sign of the chancellor’s contributions to UALR.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth in this university,” she said. “There have been huge changes on campus. The chancellor has made all the difference, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
During Anderson’s tenure as chancellor, the campus completed several major building projects, including the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology, the Donaldson Student Services Center, the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences, the Coleman Sports Complex, the Jack Stephens Center, the University Plaza shopping center purchase, the Coleman Creek Greenway Project, and three residence halls.
Having worked for him for the past 32 years, Sandra Robertson, director of budget and strategic initiatives, knows Anderson quite well. She summed up Anderson’s career by saying “UALR is his heart.”
Perhaps it is his deep devotion to UALR that led to Anderson’s decision to not accept a raise in recent years due to the university’s budget issues.
Student success is another issue that has always been important to Anderson, whose signature appears on more than 26,000 diplomas for UALR students.
In fact, Anderson spent more than one week a semester meeting with UALR’s deans, department chairs, and coaches and the athletic director to discuss the academic progress of students who have declared majors and of student athletes.
Judyth Swingen, professor emerita of accounting, points to Anderson’s honest nature and ethics as his best traits.
“One thing I would say about Joel is that he is very honest and ethical,” Swingen said. “When you see scandals at other schools, I know we would never see that at UALR, because Joel is such a deeply faithful man.”
Chancellor Anderson is also a dedicated family man. He and his wife, Ann, have three sons, three grandsons, and two granddaughters.
Upon retirement, Anderson said he and his wife will do all the usual activities for retired couples.
“We will visit grandkids, and we will travel some,” he said. “I want to catch up on a stack of books I have been wanting to read, and I am going to linger over my coffee and the newspaper every morning.”
Anderson knows what he will most miss in retirement.
“My favorite thing about UALR, it’s the wonderful people that work here. That is what I am going to miss,” he said.