When Randy Wewers, a 1958 graduate of Fort Smith Junior College, began trying to reconnect with his alma mater 20 years ago, he had one simple reason: he wanted to do something to recognize a professor he’d had by the name of Miss Lucille Speakman.
He wasn’t sure exactly how to honor her, though; she wouldn’t have cared much, he knew, about having a building or a fountain named after her. But, as he became more deeply involved with the University—eventually joining the Foundation’s Board of Directors—an idea started to percolate.
What if he could do something to perpetuate Speakman’s legacy of great classroom teaching—the vivid, evocative lectures; the devotion to her students’ success; the clear-eyed fascination with her world that generations of alumni still talk about?
With time, that idea evolved into the Lucille Speakman Legacy Endowment—a fund to help current UAFS faculty members do the same kinds of things that made Speakman so admired. Current faculty will be able to apply for grants for self-guided travel, international study, curricula development, and research—all with the specific goal of improving their classroom teaching.
Wewers is leading an effort to raise $100,000 to establish the endowment, which, he emphasizes, is intended to honor not just Speakman, but all of the professors who have similarly distinguished themselves in the eyes of those whose opinions matter most—their students. Alumni can make gifts in the name of any faculty member, past or present. A plaque placed on campus—a sort of “faculty hall of fame”—will bear their names.
In November 2010, Wewers and the Foundation reached out to approximately 20,000 alumni with a personal letter (below) and a card celebrating the achievements of Speakman and other revered UAFS, Westark, and Fort Smith Junior College faculty members.
Certainly, though, the effort to honor and perpetuate the tradition of teaching excellence at UAFS need not be limited to alumni. To learn more about the campaign or to find out how you can help, call the Foundation at (479) 788-7020
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
. Further information about the campaign and a response card may also be downloaded below.
Each of us carries in our memories that special teacher who led us, pushed us, admonished us, and in so many ways molded us as only great teachers can do. We were awakened from mediocrity, captivated by what those who went before had done, emboldened to excel in our life’s endeavors.
For me, that teacher was Lucille Speakman, who taught at Fort Smith Junior College and then Westark from 1945 to 1976. She brought her courses to life, instilled in many of us the values we have retained since then, and served as an example to be emulated by the teachers who have come after her. Her teaching literally changed the course of my life.
For years now, I’ve wanted to do something to honor both Lucille and the many other fine professors who have made the same kind of difference in the lives of other students—from 1928, when Fort Smith Junior College was founded, to the present. After discussions with the folks at the UA Fort Smith Foundation, I believe I’ve found a fitting way to do that.
You see, Lucille wouldn’t want a building or a fountain named after her. Teaching and her students were her life. I believe if she were here today she would say the best way we could honor her—and the many others who taught in the same tradition—would be by perpetuating her legacy of excellent teaching and devotion to her students’ success.
That is exactly the intent of the Lucille Speakman Legacy Endowment. It will honor the legacy of teaching excellence at FSJC, Westark, and UA Fort Smith by helping today’s faculty inspire their own students the way Lucille inspired me, the way another professor likely inspired you. The enclosed card will tell you more about how the endowment will be administered.
Please consider joining me in recognizing our University’s long tradition of teaching excellence and honoring the many fine professors who have been a part of it. We seek to raise $100,000 to establish the endowment. I’m confident that if every one of you whose life was changed by a special teacher like Lucille gave $100, we’d far exceed that goal.
Of course, you may make your gift in the name of any faculty member you wish, past or present, with the opportunity to have his or her name added to a prominent plaque—a sort of “Faculty Hall of Fame”—to be placed on the campus.
Together, we as alumni can make a meaningful difference in the future of our University while at the same time keeping its past alive.
Randy Wewers '58