Paul Nolte, a veteran entrepreneur of the election industry and a dedicated volunteer of the UALR Alumni Association, recently received the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s 2016 Presidents Award.
“I am very honored to be this year’s Presidents Award recipient, but I was very surprised,” Nolte said. “There are probably a lot of people who went to school with me in the ’60s who would have been very surprised.”
Nolte, a 1967 graduate of UALR, received the honor during a May 13 luncheon at the Great Hall in the Clinton Presidential Center.
Nolte described himself as a “free spirit and not a serious student.”
Nolte recalled how his fellow UALR Alumni Association volunteers heckled him about his time as a student.
One committee member said she would have expected “the Paul Nolte I knew back in the ’60s” to be the one making the license plates, rather than selling them to raise money for the Alumni Association.
The Presidents Award is bestowed on individuals with career success and a profound dedication to the university.
Nolte has modernized the Alumni Association’s scholarship application process and investments, ensuring that the association will be able to provide scholarships for generations of future Trojans.
“The Presidents Award winner, Paul Nolte, has achieved remarkable success in his career and has donated hours upon hours of time and talent to the university and to Little Rock,” said Christian O’Neal, UALR vice chancellor for advancement. “He has remained in touch with the university as one of our lead volunteers.”
After coming from a background as a not so serious student, Nolte has been impressed by the hard work and dedication of the incoming UALR students who have received scholarships from the Alumni Association.
“These young people know exactly what they want to do,” he said. “All of these students are very serious students who are involved in their community. They give their time to tutor kids, and they do other things. It’s just very impressive.”
Nolte graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a minor in advertising. By 1971, Nolte had a growing interest in printing election materials. He met Margaret Erim, who was the secretary of the Pulaski County Election Commission at the time, and began printing election proclamations and absentee ballots.
After the 1976 elections, Nolte wanted to find a way to break into the election printing business full time. Voters in Pulaski County used Automatic Voting Machines that required a large pack of carbonized paper. Nolte thought that there must be a better way, so he redesigned the paper pack using carbonless paper.
“I got the bright idea that we could make this out of carbonless paper. I was out in the garage redesigning this voting form. My wife, Diana, was getting worried. She asked me if I should be out making some sales, which was my real job at the time,” he said.
Nolte called this new business Election Forms and Systems Corporation, which he sold to Roberts & Son in 1980 after establishing customers in 22 states. After the sale, Nolte worked for Robert & Son until that business was purchased by Business Records Corporation (BRC) in 1987.
Forming a new business
Phil Foster, the former owner of Roberts & Son who worked with BRC, invited Nolte to work as a sales representative covering Florida, and that is when Nolte got his next great idea to design a touch screen voting system. The two went into business together, but later split. Foster took the rights to the touch screen voting system, while Nolte retained ownership of the election management/ballot printing system and formed Election Resources Corporation (ERC).
After the split, ERC continued developing the ballot printing system, which was ultimately licensed to county election officials in 10 states and commercial printing companies in eight states.
Nolte found success with the company, but the controversial Florida vote during the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore brought the media spotlight to his door.
For a man who hardly had his name in newspapers prior to 2000, Nolte spent six weeks appearing in publications like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post to respond to allegations that the butterfly ballots used in Palm Beach County, Florida, produced an unexpectedly large number of votes for third-party candidate Patrick Buchanan. Nolte was even slated to make an appearance on The Today Show, but he got bumped for singer Ricky Martin.
In 2003 Sequoia Voting Systems purchased Election Resources Corporation. Nolte spent the next four years with Sequoia as vice president of software development and certifications. Once Nolte retired from Sequoia, he focused his efforts on helping Saline County with its elections and is currently developing a website that handles candidate filing and other election-related services.
To keep up to date with technology, Nolte returned to UALR in 2009 to pursue courses in technology, databases, and computer coding. The experience was far removed from his first time as a student. He recalled that the most advanced technology course he took as an undergrad involved learning how to use a 10-key calculator.
After he re-enrolled, Nolte began volunteering at the Alumni Association and was soon serving on the board of directors. He has since served two three-year terms, and is the immediate past chair of the Scholarship Committee.In his role as chair, he completely automated the scholarship system for the association, modernizing the application and interview processes, as well as planning and budgeting the scholarships through 2024.
Previously, the association gave out one-time scholarships to students. Thanks to Nolte’s dedicated work, the association now awards an increasing number of continuing scholarships that follow students through their entire academic career at UALR.
“I really enjoy working with the students. These kids that come through UALR are so focused, goal-oriented, and know what they want to do and how to get there,” Nolte said. “If I had been as focused as these kids are back in the 1960s, there is no telling what I might have done. I am so impressed with these kids.”
Nolte is also a beekeeper as well as a Master Gardener, whose current project is the Governor’s Mansion Vegetable Garden. He and his wife, Diana, are avid travelers who love to spend time with their three daughters, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
In the upper right photo, the Presidents Award recipient, Paul Nolte (center), is congratulated by UALR Alumni Association President Don Riggin (right) and the Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Elaine Eubank (left). Photos by Lonnie Timmons III.