Former student helps center extend gifts beyond writing

Phyllis Keltner wants to make sure UALR students who suffer from writer’s block or trauma related to red-marked composition papers always have a place to go for help.

Her gift of $50,000 to endow a fund for the operation of the University Writing Center (UWC) at UALR will assure students continue to receive services just as Keltner did.

“We’ve had many students who have had negative experiences with writing that occurred at various times in their lives, so when they come to college they sometimes

Phyllis Keltner (left), posing here with Allison Holland, director of the University Writing Center, endowed her generous gift.

Phyllis Keltner (left), posing here with Allison Holland, director of the University Writing Center, endowed her generous gift.

feel they can’t write,” said Allison Holland, director of the UWC, a student fee-supported resource in its 24th year and affiliated with the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. “We don’t edit, proofread or do the things that the students should be doing themselves. We do model what they need to learn and encourage them to take things one step at a time. Our motto is we work with people, not with papers.”

The center is open 40 hours a week each semester, and approximately 3,000 students visit each year. The center is staffed with 20 to 25 students who excel in writing and collaborative learning. These student coaches, recruited from a variety of academic disciplines, earn credit for themselves while helping to boost the confidence and skills of the students they see. “That’s what they did for me,” said Keltner, a financially secure single mother of two and grandmother of one who describes herself as a lifelong learner. “When students see they can succeed in writing, they’re more inclined to stay in school. Writing is essential for everyone in college or wherever you are in life.”

Keltner said she worked as an intern in the UWC briefly and was touched by the comments students made about her “changing their lives by restoring their confidence.” In the fall of 2004, she made the decision to help the UWC and gave Holland a check for $10,000. About a month later, Keltner gave Holland an additional $15,000, saying that a $25,000 endowment would more solidly support the writing center. Keltner presented Holland with additional checks in March and June 2005, bringing her total gift to $50,000.

“I was floored,” Holland said. “We’ve had a few small donations before, but nothing compared to this. Now we have this $50,000 endowed account we’ve named the Phyllis A. Keltner University Writing Center fund. The yearly interest will benefit our clients as we improve the UWC and provide much needed funds to help send our writing interns to training seminars and conferences.”

“I am happiest in school and that’s where I started my love of learning,” said Keltner, who now wants to see others gain from her power of positive thinking and belief in the education process. She also takes time to mentor recipients of several of the single-parent scholarships she funds at UALR.

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