Two impactful community leaders spoke to graduates at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s 101st commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 11, 2019, urging them to fully commit to a life of continual learning and bettering their community as they embark on their next endeavors.
Steve Clark addressed at the 10 a.m. ceremony and stressed the importance of intentionality, and in building the tower of your career and the tower of your life on a firm foundation. “Your foundation must be rooted in hope, in love, in service, and in self-discipline,” he said. “What are you building your life upon? Because if it isn’t built on those things that sustain you, it will weather not the storms that come.”
Clark went on to encourage graduates to give back to their community and build the city they aim for by casting aside cynicism and affecting each day. “Help those who are least among us,” he charged, “Because what comes with knowledge is great responsibility. What you are doing is not exclusively for yourself. You are now charged with making things around you better.”
Clark is the founder and owner of Propak, a transportation and supply chain management company; Noble Impact, an education venture in partnership with the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service; Future School of Fort Smith, a public and tuition-free charter high school; and 64.6 Downtown, a community development organization; and co-founder of Rockfish, a globally recognized digital innovation firm, who has earned numerous awards and accolades for his dedication to enhancing the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas Community, and his expertise as an innovative entrepreneur.
Bill Hanna, president of Hanna Oil and Gas, urged graduates to say “I’m in” to all of their pursuits, recounting the unexpected turns of life and trade that led him to this moment.
“Take a look around you right now,” Hanna explained, “opportunities are sitting in front of you, beside you, behind you, to bring you where you’re going next.”
Hanna also urged students to keep Arkansas on their mind as they search for greener pastures. “If you go out in the world, consider your past and bring ideas back with you,” he said. “And if you want to affect change, ask yourself, ‘Why not here?’ Create your own culture.”
“Fort Smith is hungry for change, searching for identity, and it’s yours to create,” he said in closing.
Hanna is president and CEO of Hanna Oil and Gas Company and partner in KMW Properties. He serves on the boards of the UAFS Foundation, First Bank Corp., Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Boys and Girls Club, the United Way, Central Business Improvement District, and the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.
Dr. Edward Serna, interim chancellor at UAFS, also spoke before both ceremonies and encouraged students to celebrate not just the “endings,” but the beginnings as well.
“Your place at this ceremony came with challenges – sometimes severe. You have each looked adversity and uncertainty in the face and not just survived them, but thrived in your pursuits,” Serna said. “Each of you arrived at UAFS with dreams of how your lives would be changed because of your commitment to this endeavor. So, we join you in a toast to a well-earned ending.”
Serna implored graduates to stay curious in their endeavors, and strive for continual exploration, just as Clark and Hanna have done in their lives and careers.
“The air is charged today,” Serna continued, “You are excited, and relieved, and nervous for the future, and I hope that you take all of that energy and use it to move forward.”
Dr. Michael Moore, vice president for academic affairs of the University of Arkansas System, also spoke briefly during the ceremony.
In addition to Chancellor Serna, UAFS administrators presenting candidates were Dr. Georgia Hale, provost and senior vice chancellor; Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology; Dr. Ashok Subramanian, dean of the College of Business; Dr. Carolyn Mosley, dean of the College of Health Sciences; Dr. Paul Hankins, dean of the College of Communication, Languages, Arts and Social Sciences; Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Dr. Norm Dennis, senior associate dean for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville; and Wayne Womack, registrar.
The ceremony included a musical prelude by the UAFS Symphonic Band; a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key; a call to order by Mitzi Jones, chief marshal and bearer of the mace; the presentation of the colors by the UAFS ROTC; and a welcome to the Alumni Association by Christopher Cluck, chair of the Alumni Advisory Council at UAFS.
Pre-ceremony music and a post-recessional bell peal were performed on the Donald W. Reynolds Bell Tower Carillon by Dr. Stephen Husarik, head carillonneur.