For Mauri Douglass, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock holds a special place. It’s where she laid the foundation for a 30-year career in gifted education. It’s where she met her husband, where many of her lifelong friendships first took root, and where her own children would later attend.
UA Little Rock is also where Douglass has remained engaged in community service and why she has been chosen to receive this year’s Presidents Award, which honors alumni who have achieved career success, donated time and talents to their community, and remained in touch with their alma mater as a volunteer and resource. The award will be presented at UA Little Rock’s Distinguished Alumni Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Friday, May 11, in the Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center.
Choosing UA Little Rock was an easy decision for Douglass (Class of ’74 and ’86). Both of her parents attended the former Little Rock Junior College, and three of her four siblings also attended. When her older sister, Vicki Draper, attended, the university was called Little Rock University.
Two of Douglass and her husband Lee’s three children have chosen UA Little Rock for their education. Middle child Jay Douglass has a computer science degree. Daughter Keri Douglass Walker earned an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and completed a master’s degree in business information systems at UA Little Rock in December. The couple’s youngest child, Sam, is a junior at UA Fayetteville.
Douglass completed two degrees of her own during her time at UA Little Rock – an undergraduate degree in elementary education in 1974 and a master’s degree in education in 1986 – as well as a certification in gifted education.
“Arkansas was on the forefront of gifted education,” Douglass said. “People were coming from around the country to see what we were doing. It was the place for gifted education, and I was fortunate I was educated here.”
Douglass taught for 33 years, including 25 years in gifted and talented education. All but two years of her career were spent in the North Little Rock School District, including Rose City, Boone Park, Amboy, and Crestwood elementary schools. She credits her long, successful teaching career to the education she received at UA Little Rock and to the connections she made.
Douglass retired from teaching in 2010, and husband Lee retired in December 2017 as chief legal officer at Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The couple may not have met had it not been for Greek life at UA Little Rock. Mauri was a Chi Omega, and Lee was a member of Kappa Sigma. When members are initiated, they receive a chapter pin number based on the order of initiation into the chapter. The couple have the same pin number – 141 – in their respective Greek organizations.
“We were meant to be together,” she said matter-of-factly. “We started dating my sophomore year, and we will be married 45 years in June.”
Greek life has remained a part of Douglass’ life long after college. After graduation, she served as a Chi Omega chapter advisor for 12 years the first time around. Then, in 2011, she returned for a second round as recruitment advisor and community service advisor. She retired from those positions in 2016 and is now alumnae liaison for the Chi Omega chapter at the UA Little Rock Alumni Association, her Gamma Zeta chapter sisters, and the Little Rock Chi Omega Alumnae Club.
“I know people across all 54 years of Chi Omega’s presence at UA Little Rock,” she said. “I can go into any age group and feel like I’m one of them.”
When the Chi Omega chapter began planning for its 50th anniversary in 2014, Douglass was asked to chair the event.
“The tradition for the 50-year celebration is a gift to the university. That’s how I got really involved at UALR,” Douglass recalled. “During that time, I got to know people in the Alumni Association. They helped us find missing sisters and helped us plan our courtyard.”
To raise money, the sorority sold bricks to help build and maintain Chi Omega Courtyard Plaza near Ottenheimer Library. Another fundraising campaign raised money for the Gamma Zeta Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship awarded each spring to a member of the Gamma Zeta Chapter of Chi Omega.
Douglass doesn’t foresee her family’s involvement ending any time soon.
“This is where we made so many friendships and connections that have been so helpful, both personally and professionally,” she said. “We love UA Little Rock and all that it has done for us.”
Mauri Douglass is the recipient of the 2018 UA Little Rock Presidents Award. Photo by Sara Reeves.