Several women associated with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock were honored during the fourth annual Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame Ceremony held Aug. 30 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
The goal of the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame is to honor women whose contributions have influenced the direction of Arkansas in their community or the state. It is dedicated to preserving the history of accomplishments and recognizing women across the state of Arkansas. It also provides women encouragement and inspiration from stories shared by these great women.
Linda Holzer, UA Little Rock professor of music, accepted an award on behalf of inductee Florence Price, a Little Rock native who was the first black woman recognized as a symphonic composer and first to have a composition premiered by a major orchestra.
Price composed more than 300 works in her lifetime, including chamber music, choral works, solo vocal compositions, and commercial jingles for radio. In 1932, she won first place in the Rodman Wanamaker Music Competition for her “Symphony in E Minor,” which was performed during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Price passed away in 1953.
“Florence Price was a gifted pianist-composer, in the tradition of Beethoven, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff,” Holzer said. “Her music is inspiring to play and feels good in the hands. She connected with leading artists of her day, drew on the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance, and composed American music with tremendous beauty. Once published scores of her concert works became more readily available in 1998 and rediscovered manuscripts were published after 2009, it opened the door to more opportunities for performers to share her music with audiences again.”
Price also will be inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Oct. 27 at the Robinson Center Performance Hall in Little Rock. Two of Price’s descendants will accept the award on her behalf, and a string quartet will perform some of her music.
The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas is the only “organization inductee” of 2018. Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, interim dean of the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences, serves on the foundation’s Board of Directors as first vice president.
TheWomen’s Foundation of Arkansas is devoted to improving the economic viability of women and girls through education and introducing girls to careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Founded in 1998, the organization is the only one in the state focusing solely on women and girls. It was created by a group of the “Top 100 Women in Arkansas,” selected by the Arkansas Business Publishing Group. The 100 honorees challenged themselves to make a difference in Arkansas and the foundation idea emerged. The founders put out a call for funds and more than 150 women responded, while 82 donated more than $1,000 to create a permanent endowment.
In 2002, the organization acquired 501(c)(3) status. Programs include Girls of Promise, an annual two-day STEM conference for eighth-grade girls; First Person Plural, which gathers the life stories of 20th century women; an Arkansas Women’s Organization directory for those wanting to support women-oriented groups and organizations; and the annual Women Empowered Leadership Conference.
Last but certainly not least, another honoree, Dr.Raye Jean Jordan Montague, is the mother of Dr. David Montague, director of eLearning and professor of criminal justice at UA Little Rock. Raye Montague is an internationally registered professional engineer with the U.S. Navy, credited with creating the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship. The process had previously taken two years. She accomplished the task in fewer than 19 hours, when her department had been given one month to finish the job.
Montague held a civilian equivalent rank of captain and was the U.S. Navy’s first female program manager of ships. Among many other honors, Montague was awarded the U.S. Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1972, the navy’s third-highest honorary award. She also was recognized as a real-life “hidden figure” on the Feb. 20, 2017, live episode of Good Morning America.
After her 30-year naval career, Montague is now a mentor, volunteer, and motivational speaker in Little Rock. She’s active with LifeQuest, The Links Inc., the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and the American Contract Bridge League. She volunteers with students at the eStem Elementary Public Charter School in Little Rock and works with inmates through a community re-entry program at UA Little Rock.
The night’s other honorees included Dr. Carolyn Blakely, lifelong educator and chancellor emeritus of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; Karen Flake, president and chief executive officer of Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock and founder of Karen Flake & Associates market research and consulting firm; Dr. Sue Griffin, a pioneer in the research of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions; Bessie Moore, who piloted a program for economic education in public schools and created the Ozark Folk Center State Park; Mary Steenburgen, Academy Award-winning actress; and Annabelle Tuck, the first woman elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
“If one of these stories creates a spark in a young female mind and leads her to achieve her hopes and dreams, we’ve done our job,” said Holly Fish, chairman of the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame. “We draw inspiration from those who have come before us.”
In the upper right photo, Linda Holzer (center) accepts Florence Price’s award for being inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame. Also pictured are Holly Fish (left), board chairperson, and Kristina Garlington, Girl of Promise awardee.