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UA Little Rock School of Business honors Kelley, Burgess as Distinguished Alumni

Hank Kelley and Whitney Burgess
Hank Kelley and Whitney Burgess

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will honor two accomplished Little Rock business professionals at the School of Business Distinguished Alumni Luncheon on Oct. 16. 

Henry “Hank” Kelley Jr., CEO, partner, and executive broker of Kelley Commercial Partners, has been named the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. Whitney Burgess, vice president of client services and strategy at Team SI, will receive the Dean’s Award for Excellence.

The School of Business Distinguished Alumni Luncheon will be held at the Little Rock Marriott, 3 Statehouse Plaza. Registration opens at 10:45 a.m. with lunch served at 11:30 a.m. Tickets to the event are $125 each and are available at

The Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor granted by the UA Little Rock School of Business, is given to a graduate who has made a significant impact in business or a nonprofit organization and has served the Little Rock community and UA Little Rock.

“I’m honored to be the Distinguished Alumnus,” Kelley said. “I’m thrilled to have stayed connected with UA Little Rock and seen the changes in the institution since I graduated. I appreciate the efforts of the faculty and the administration to engage and stay connected to the business community. I believe promoting the university to central Arkansas residents is a very important thing for the community to do. UA Little Rock is a research institution that creates lots of different opportunities for businesses in the community.” 

Kelley graduated from UA Little Rock with an MBA in 1984, the same year he joined the company that is now Kelley Commercial Partners. He leads a team of 65 employees to deliver results to investors, developers, landlords, tenants, and prospects. The company manages approximately 7.4 million square feet of properties in Arkansas.

Actively involved in the community, Kelley serves as president of Rotary 99. Kelley is involved with the UA Little Rock Foundation, Baptist Health Foundation Board, Fifty for the Future, and the Downtown Little Rock Partnership Board. Last year, Kelley and his wife, Stephanie, donated $37,000 to A.P. Vibhakar Endowed Scholarship at UA Little Rock. Additionally, he previously served on the UA Little Rock Business Advisory Council and as an adjunct instructor with the School of Business.

“I would say the most important thing to focus on in a career is the Rotary theme of ‘Service Above Self,’” Kelley said. “Learning how to put the needs of others at the top of your to-do list as you go about your daily affairs. The process of getting an MBA at night taught me time management skills, and it also taught me that I needed to keep learning forever. I can never quit researching and reading and learning about what I do, because it changes so quickly.”

Dean’s Award for Excellence

Whitney Burgess, vice president of client services and strategy at Team SI, is the 2020 recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence. The award is granted to a graduate of the past 10 years who has shown promise as a leader in business or nonprofit work and who is actively involved in serving Little Rock and the university.

“I’m surprised and appreciative of receiving this award,” she said. “I went to the Distinguished Alumni luncheon this past year, and I remember being in the audience and hearing about the wonderful recipients. I put it on my list of goals to receive this award one day, and now I have!”

Burgess earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing from UA Little Rock in 2013.

“I really enjoyed my time at UA Little Rock and the support I received from the staff,” Burgess said. “When I was here, they brought back the Student Marketing Association, and I was president of that. We launched the Carnival of Clubs event for the first time, and we had such a good time that the College of Business had continued to have it. There were always people who were in my corner who served as my support team. I think that’s a really important part of what UA Little Rock gives to their business students.”

After graduation, Burgess began a career in digital marketing and later joined Team SI in 2015 in the automotive sector. She started as a senior account executive for a client in Minnesota whose company grew from 14 to 39 car dealerships in just one year. Since working in the automotive sector, she has become an award-winning strategist for her work with government agencies and Fortune 500 companies. Her passion for marketing and new ideas transpires in her work and is supported with a talented team that continues to grow in size as well as continued business growth and client retention. 

Burgess is a member of Rotaract Little Rock and a volunteer for the Lonoke 2022 Initiative, which is an effort to bring more economic growth to Burgess’ hometown. Last year, she co-chaired the Go Red for Women’s luncheon in central Arkansas, which benefited the American Heart Association. She is a former social media volunteer for Riverfest and a graduate of the 33rd class of Leadership Greater Little Rock. Currently, Burgess works with Chambers of Commerce, small businesses, and nonprofits across the state to provide online marketing training.

When asked to give one piece of advice for business students, Burgess advised them to find a great mentor, which she identifies as a key to her success.

“I think mentorship is a big part of being successful. Having a mentor can really give you great perspective, help influence what organizations to be involved in, and give you a valuable sounding board,” Burgess said.