Though they’re doing it in markedly different ways, 2016 graduates Liliam López and Debora Castro are each using their University of the Ozarks business degrees to make a positive impact in their respective Central America countries.
The two former Walton International Scholars visited campus recently and talked about their professional careers.
López, (pictured, left) a marketing and management/business administration major living in Choluteca, Honduras, is an analyst coordinator for the Agrolibano Group, one of the top cantaloupe-producing companies in the Americas. Castro, an international business and management major living in San Salvador, El Salvador, is a partnership/advocacy technical assistant for a USAID project called Bridges to Employment, which helps at-risk youth in the country gain training and find employment.
The Agrolibano Group exports more than 4,000 large shipping containers of melons each growing season, which runs from December to May. While the fruit is shipped around the world, about 50 percent of the melons head to either the United States or Europe. López is the coordinator of the Great Britain account, handling financial reports, quality control and customer service.
López, who has worked for the company for almost three years, said it is especially satisfying to know that she is helping to promote and advance Honduras through her work.
“I’m really proud when I hear about melons from Honduras that are eaten around the world,” she said. “People will send me pictures of the stickers and it’s really neat to see. I know the passion that the growers in Honduras have for their melons and I know the work that is done to produce them, so I’m especially proud to play a small role in producing something that is in demand all over the world.”
López credited Ozarks’ diverse student population for helping her prepare to work for a global company.
“At Ozarks, you learn to get along and interact with so many different cultures and that’s been very beneficial to me,” she said. “I work with clients from all over the world and I strongly believe that my time at Ozarks has helped me in my daily interactions with my clients. Ozarks helped instill in me a cultural sensitivity and openness to others.”
Castro has worked for almost three years for the non-profit Bridges to Employment project, which is funded by USAID and implemented by DAI Global, LLC. The program works with at-risk and vulnerable youth between the ages of 16-29 in El Salvador to “successfully integrate them into the workforce as fully qualified and productive citizens to help boost the economy, lower crime, and reduce illegal immigration.”
Castro said the type of work she is doing is what she envisioned when she first came to Ozarks as a Walton Scholar.
“When I was selected as a Walton Scholar, I had dreams of going back home and helping my country, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like or how I could do that,” Castro said, “Now I’m working with a program which uses national and international cooperation that, working together, we actually change things for the better. It’s very fulfilling, professionally, for me because I’m contributing to the development of my country and actually making an impact. That’s exactly what I wanted to do.”
Castro said her time at Ozarks and her involvement in service-oriented organizations like Enactus, PBL and Alpha & Omega helped her understand and appreciate the importance of giving back.
“The volunteering and service opportunities I had at Ozarks really opened my eyes to the impact that we all can have on others,” Castro said. “My desire to help others was definitely boosted at Ozarks and now that’s what I do for a living. My education and experiences at Ozarks prepared me perfectly for this.”
Justin McCormick has joined University of the Ozarks as the new associate director of alumni engagement.
McCormick will be a part of the University’s Advancement and Alumni Engagement Office and, working with the director of development and alumni engagement, will lead Ozarks’ alumni relations efforts. He brings experience in event planning, fundraising and managing volunteers.
He most recently served as events and tours manager for the Peel Compton Foundation in Bentonville, AR. Before that he was the coordinator of Parent and Family Programs at the University of Arkansas from 2017 to 2019. He also served as a graduate assistant in the Office of Greek Life at the University of Missouri from 2015 to 2017. In all of these capacities, McCormick engaged in fundraising and relationship building.
“I am honored and excited to work with the amazing network of alumni who have established their commitment to Ozarks, while assisting in the expansion of alumni engagement opportunities for future graduates,” McCormick said. “My hope is to bring my knowledge of working with students, alumni and families from other institutions and apply it to a University that means a great deal to the area that I love.”
McCormick earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri.
“I am looking forward to finding engaging ways for our alumni to stay connected to Ozarks and bring innovative ideas to the table,” he said. “Working with diverse individuals in a higher education setting is my passion. This position will allow me to work directly with current students and alumni so that they know how important they are to the University and its mission.”
A native of nearby Altus, McCormick and his husband, Jerred, have been married for a little over a year and have one son, Hayden. His hobbies include, being outdoors, hiking, four wheeling, kayaking and traveling to new places with his family.
He is also an animal lover, with three dogs and two cats. He is an advocate for children in foster care and children with disabilities and also dabbles in event planning, photography, interior design and florals in his spare time.
The University of the Ozarks’ Alumni Association Board of Directors mixed business with a dose of community service during its recent board meeting on July 27 in Clarksville.
Following its annual summer meeting, several board members took part in a community service project to paint the outside store front of a downtown business, Master Printing of Clarksville, Inc.
It’s a new tradition for the board to give of their time to benefit the University and the city of Clarksville. Last summer, board members volunteered in the University’s Food for Thought Garden.
“As alumni of the University, it is a pleasure to give back to a community that meant so much to us while we were students at Ozarks,” said Shannon Huggins ’91, president of the alumni board. “We appreciate the Alumni Engagement Office and the Chamber of Commerce for connecting us with Master Printing to provide this volunteer opportunity. We come together for the Alumni Association board meetings a few times a year so it provides us a chance to give as a group. Last year we pulled weeds in the garden, and this year we painted a downtown store front. Who knows what we will be doing next time.”
Master Printing owner Danna Schneider said she “cannot fully express my appreciation to the University of the Ozarks Alumni Association board members for painting the front of my shop.”
“They worked tirelessly and professionally until the job was completed and I couldn't be happier with the outcome,” Schneider said. “What a privilege to have U of O alumni who volunteer their time to the community they called home while attending school here. Clarksville is fortunate to have a University that produces such civic-minded graduates. A special thanks also to Jessica Gunn with the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Arkansas for pulling it all together. They are making an impact on our downtown, with help from University graduates and others.”
Gunn, executive director of the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, said the board members’ assistance in painting the store front is part of a larger plan to revitalize downtown Clarksville.
“I am so grateful to have had the U of O Alumni Association volunteer in our community revitalization project this past weekend,” Gunn said. “It was especially interesting that many of the volunteers had moved and no longer live in the community. To see them working hard for their alma mater's home speaks volumes for the University’s ability to build connections.”
Among the board members who helped with the project included, Huggins, Cori Dyson ’97, Lisa Gruben-Inness ’93, Scarlett Morris ’86, David Morris ’83, Wendy Blackwood ’90, Courtney Taylor ’09, Elizabeth Allcon ’91 and George Pittenger ’91. Also helping was alumnus Dan Dooley ’90.Six alumni have been selected to be inducted into the University of the Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. The University’s Sports Hall of Fame committee selected Bill Ballard ’56, Ronnie Cookson ’66, the late Charles Daniel ’71, Mandi (Carter) Koch ’07, Robby Finnell ’08 and Olivia (Fisher) Bickford ’09 to join the hall during the Ozarks Awards Ceremony in October, part of Homecoming 2019. It’s the largest induction class for the exclusive club since 1991 when six alumni were also selected. The additions bring the total of Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame members to 57 individuals and one team, the 1983-84 men’s basketball team. The Sports Hall of Fame committee is made up of Jimmy Clark, director of athletics; Lori McBee, vice president for advancement; Dr. Deb Sisson, associate professor of business and athletic faculty representative; Sydney Key, student-athlete representative; alumnus and hall of fame member Sylvester Benson; alumnus and hall of fame member Don Kessler; and alumnus Ian Bryan. The 2019 inductees for the University of the Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame include: Bill Ballard ’56 was a three-year letterman in both basketball and baseball at Ozarks. He earned Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference Pitcher of the Year honors in 1956, leading Ozarks to the conference baseball title. He coached basketball at Ozarks from 1957-60 before moving on to Little Rock University (now UA-Little Rock). As a 30-year-old, he helped UALR start its basketball program as its first head coach and athletic director from 1960-1965. He also helped the university establish its first baseball program. He was inducted into the UALR Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. Ronnie Cookson ’66 won a total of 15 state championships in a stellar 27-year career as the boys basketball coach at Scott County Central High School in Missouri. He led the Class 1A Braves from 1970-1995, retired, then returned from 2007-09. His overall record was 694-137 (.835 winning percentage) and was a remarkable 28-2 in state final four games. Along with 15 state titles, Cookson led his program to 22 conference titles and 22 district titles. He was named Missouri’s Coach of the Year five times by the Missouri Sportswriters Association and nine times by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Charles Daniel ’71 played baseball, football and basketball at Ozarks and in 1957 became the only former Ozarks baseball player to play in a major league baseball game, according to the Society for Baseball Research. Daniel pitched for Ozarks in 1952 and five years later reached the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers. He signed a professional contract with Detroit in 1952 for $4,000 and pitched a total of eight seasons in the minor leagues before retiring in 1961. In a late-season matchup at Kansas City in 1957, Daniel pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and striking out two. It was Daniel’s only appearance in a MLB game. An elbow injury suffered in a minor league game in 1959 eventually forced him out of baseball. The hard-throwing right-hander’s fastball was once clocked at 95 mph. He returned to Ozarks in the early 1970s to complete his degree and had a 38-year career with International Trucks. He passed away in 2008 at his home in Hot Springs Village. Mandi (Carter) Koch ‘07 was an all-around athlete and one of the most prolific scorers in U of O women’s basketball history, finishing second all-time with 1,538 career points. Her 826 career rebounds were also second-most in program history. An athletic 6-foot-1 forward, Carter racked up four all-conference awards, capping her senior season with all-region honors from D3Hoops.com. Following her junior season, she was voted to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team. For her career, she averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and over one block per game. Additionally, Carter lettered in soccer three seasons and earned multiple academic awards in both basketball and soccer. Robby Finnell ’08 starred for the Eagles baseball team from 2005-08 and remains the program’s all-time modern era leader in career games started (160), home runs (31), RBIs (159) and walks (73). He is also among the career leaders in hits (2nd), runs scored (3rd) and slugging percentage (3rd). He also holds the season mark in RBIs (56) and is second in home runs (13). He was a three-time All-ASC selection, including first team in 2008. He was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America first team and the D3baseball.com All-America second team in 2008. Helped the Eagles to a program-best 32-11 record in 2008. Olivia (Fisher) Bickford ’09 was a three-sport standout for Ozarks from 2004-09, starring in basketball, tennis and soccer. As a four-year starter in basketball, Bickford earned All-ASC freshman honors in 2004-2005 and All-ASC All-East honorable mention honors following both her junior and senior seasons. She is fourth in career rebounding (817). In soccer, she was also a four-year starter, starting every game from her freshman to senior seasons. She was a team captain and midfielder and in 2006 assumed goalie duties for an injured teammate and had 175 saves in 19 matches. In tennis, she played No. 1 singles and doubles for four years and remains third in career singles victories (22), fourth in career doubles victories (18) and forth in singles winning percentage (.564). She was a two-time U of O Female Athlete of the Year. Dody Pelts has been named as the new director of the Jones Learning Center at University of the Ozarks, effective July 1 Pelts has worked in the JLC for the past 18 years, including the last 12 as the center’s assistant director. She replaces Julia Frost, who announced her retirement in April after serving the past 25 years as the director. “I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve Ozarks and the JLC,” Pelts said. “By building upon her rich history and sturdy foundation crafted by many dedicated professionals who served before me, the JLC is well-prepared to launch into the future.” Pelts, who has also served as the JLC’s school psychology specialist, said that unemployment and underemployment for students with learning disabilities, specifically for those impacted by social skills challenges, will be an area of emphasis for the JLC staff. “Helping graduates gain skills beyond those of the classroom to obtain meaningful employment will be a focus of our efforts to support students as they seek to truly live life fully,” she said. Pelts worked as the school psychology specialist for the Dover Public Schools in Dover, Arkansas, before coming to Ozarks in 2001 as the school psychology specialist. She started teaching developmental classes in the JLC a few years later and was named assistant director in 2007. Pelts has presented at various state and national level learning disability association conferences and is a nationally certified school psychologist, a psychological examiner, and a certified school psychology specialist in Arkansas. She is married to Jeremy and has two children: Macy, who will be a freshman at Ozarks in the fall, and Ike, a senior at Lamar High School. “I am delighted that Dody will be taking on the new role of director of the Jones Learning Center,” said University Provost Dr. Alyson Gill. “I know that the JLC will continue to grow under her leadership and she brings with her new ideas that I am excited to explore with the group. I look forward to working with her as we think about how best to use this incredible resource.” Frost has served as the director of the JLC since 1994. Her 30 years in the JLC included a stint as director of assessment from 1986-91. “It has been a joy to work with Dody as the JLC assistant director for the past 12 years and to watch her become a highly respected colleague not only in the JLC, but also campus wide,” Frost said. “I am confident in her leadership abilities as she builds on the JLC past successes and looks forward with a new vision for its future.” The Jones Learning Center is a comprehensive support program for students with documented learning disabilities, Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with average or above average intellectual abilities. It was established at U of O in 1971 as one of the first of its kind in the country. University of the Ozarks conferred bachelor degrees upon 131 graduating seniors during its 2019 Spring Commencement ceremony, held on Saturday, May 18 on the campus mall. The Class of 2019 is the largest graduating class in the University’s 185-year history. More than 2,000 family members and friends attended the ceremony. The University awarded 92 bachelor of science degrees, 32 bachelor of arts degrees and seven bachelor of general studies degrees. Alumna Dr. Jeannie Oliver, an educator and evangelist from Horn Lake, Mississippi, served as the keynote speaker. Oliver is a professional academic advisor at Arkansas State University and the founder of the Women Without Walls nonprofit ministry. Graduating senior Angie Castro-Flores, a strategic communication major from El Salvador, provided the senior’s welcome address and Emilie Williams, a religion and philosophy major from Keller, Texas, led the seniors in the Turning of the Tassel ceremony. The Class of 2019 includes: Olivia Lorraine Allard, Rogers, AR Alma Elena Arredondo Lopez, Paris, AR Melissa Wmanda Stessyka Augustin, Port au Prince, Haiti Emily Grace Autry, Fort Smith, AR Vincent Orazio Barber, Highland, NY Jonathan Henry Barham, Emmet, AR Skyler Bleaux Barnes, Farmington, AR Lamara Bazashvili, Moscow, Russia Shayanah Ortance Bien Aime, Orlando, FL Paul Anthony Billings, Dallas, TX Hailey Elizabeth Bromley, Hensley, AR Christina Janean Burns, Memphis, TN Neyssa Maella Cadet, Port au Prince, Haiti Fantasia Carol Canady, Hartman, AR Shelby Lynne Carlton, Clarksville, AR Angie Nathaly Castro-Flores, San Salvador, El Salvador Katherinn Jamileth Chamalé López, Guatemala City, Guatemala Clay William Conley, Roland, OK Cristin Rhiannon Connor, Gunter, TX Maria De Los Angeles Corea Dubon, San Pedro Sula, Honduras Eleazar Nava Coronado, Jonesboro, AR Justin W. Crider, Dallas, TX Jeremy Brent Cripps, Paris, AR Ashton Daniel Davis, Clarksville, AR Derric Colton Davis, Mesquite, TX Haley Marie Deal, Fort Worth, TX Ny'Trell Je Qukian Dean, Amarillo, TX Emily Kathleen Dice, Houston, TX Lauren Josephine Dotson, Smithville, AR Bernis Dakota Ebarb, Nevada, TX Richard Travis Farrar, Plano, TX Brandi Rochelle Fischer, Dickinson, TX Makara Julise Frazier, Smackover, AR Duston Ray Furtick, Crandall, TX Sean Andrew Garcia, Fort Worth, TX Rosendo Garcia Cortes, Clarksville, AR Lance Martez Gardner, St. Paul, MN Jonathan Cody Gonzales, Austin, TX Diamond Chavae Goodwyn, Gladewater, TX Dylan Cole Gray, Siloam Springs, AR Christopher Shakur Green, Lewisville. TX Shanice Courtney Guzman, Corozal Town, Belize Bailey M. Hall, Sheridan, AR Benjamin Louis Hall, Fairbanks, AK Daniel Lee Hall, Sherwood, AR Haley Ann Marie Hanks, Carthage, TX Falon Kay Hanson, Fayetteville, AR Edladin Hensen Harmon, Dallas, TX Selena Alexandria Haunty, Belton, MO James Austin Hedgpeth, Frisco, TX Kaitlyn Elizabeth Henrietta, Aledo, TX Fernanda Hernandez Sanchez, Michoacan, Mexico Nathan Woodrow Hodge, Olive Branch, MS Mary Cathleen Hoiland, Clarksville, AR Chauzney Breanna Hooks, Texarkana, TX Spence Jean Baptiste, Tabarre, Haiti Kenneth Skylar Jewett, Bryant, AR Romeo Desmond Josey, Nassau, The Bahamas Brooklyn Nicole Keeling, Farmington, AR Claire Elisabeth Kennedy, Arlington, TX Adam Michael King, Memphis, TN Chance Arivann Koy, Haltom City, TX Grasyn Michelle Langley, Dallas, TX Sierra Nicole Lasher, Olive Branch, MS Gabriel Vincent Lavoi, Lake Charles, LA Tristian Dale Leonard, Fort Gibson, OK Rocky David Liveoak, Granby, MO Jada Kimecia Mack, Monroe, LA Maria Eugenia Marcia Mora, Rivas, Nicaragua Henry Aldair Marín Arias, Colón, El Salvador Fredy M. Martinez, Hot Springs, AR Andrew Reid Mashburn, Little Rock, AR Whitney Nicole McCrary, Mayflower, AR Kaci Reene McDonald, Traskwood, AR Ryan Carter McNeill, Rogers, AR Rodman Stewart Mena Cespedes, Medellin, Colombia Cheyanna Jordan Miller, West Plains, MO Emily Anne Miller, Gravette, AR Maggie Elizabeth Miller, Pittsburg, KS Julio Andres Molina Pineda, Tegucigalpa, Honduras Shelby Taylor Morales, England, AR Kimberly Lizbeth Moran, Danville, AR Kaija Javee’ Muldrew, Texarkana, TX Paige Michele Myers, Harrison, AR Krystle Desha Nicholson, Clarksville, AR Robert James Norton, Lamar, AR Ana Paulina Ojeda Gonzalez, Chihuahua, Mexico Riley Jackson Oliver, Bowie, TX Daniel Olvera Cruz, Garland, TX Carlos Israel Orozco Castillo, Jalapa, Nicaragua Hailey Nicole Ostrander, Alma, AR Tonya Michelle Palmer, Monticello, AR Stephanie Lynn Payton, Hackett, AR Regan Douglas Puryear, Gravette, AR Mitchell Dae Rains, Pangburn, AR Cody Alan Rea, Clarksville, AR Samantha Leann Reed, Wynne, AR Amada Maria Reeve, Memphis, TN Miguel Angel Reyes, Canyon, TX Bradley Dean Rice, Fort Smith, AR Edwin Antonio Rodriguez Matta, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico Rebecca Ann Rogers, Oologah, OK Oscar Rodrigo Roldan Leyva, Mexico City, Mexico Jasmine Nicole Rosales, Berryville, AR Brenda Gabriela Sandoval Hernández, Guatemala City, Guatemala Rhett Allen Sells, Wagoner, OK Jacob Ezekiel Sherrill, Katy, TX Rebeca Briana Silva, Rockwall, TX Emma Aubree Sisson, Clarksville, AR Hannah Nicole Smith, Blue Eye, MO Savannah Katelyn Smith, Perryville, AR Dalton Emerson Spurgeon, Lee’s Summit, MO Zachary Dale Stanley, Fayetteville, AR William L. Kaden Stuart, Keller, TX Samuel Jaden Swartz, Granby, MO Brady Andrew Taylor, Plano, TX Jamy Odeth Tení Beltetón, Cobán, Guatemala David Tyler Thomas, White Hall, AR Catherine Marie Thompson, Conway, AR Samuel Pearce Todd, Bentonville, AR Manuel Ray Torres, Keller, TX Mackenzie Paige Turley, Clarksville, AR Breyden Lee Varner, Collinsville, OK Shane Alan Walker, Fort Worth, TX Zachary Taylor Walker, Fort Worth, TX Georgia Warren, Wexford, Ireland Anicka Danielle Wilcox, Ola, AR Emilie Katelyn Williams, Keller, TX Bahar Yapal, Berlin, Germany Katherine Yosmeri Zamora Lagos, McKinney, TX Isaías Daniel Zapata Batista, Volcan, Panama Harvard or Yale? That was the win-win decision facing University of the Ozarks senior religion and philosophy major Emilie “Weave” Williams earlier this month on where to pursue a graduate degree after she was accepted into both of the prestigious Ivy league universities. The Keller, Texas, native who will graduate with Magna Cum Laude honors in May eventually chose Harvard, where she will enroll in the Master of Theological Studies program in the fall. Williams said she learned that she had been accepted to Yale’s Master of Arts in Religion program when she woke up one morning earlier this semester and checked her email. The Harvard acceptance email came a few days later in the middle of Dr. Bill Eakin’s Existentialism class. “I saw the email and I just kind of choked and lost my breath in the middle of the class,” Williams said. “Dr. Eakin stopped the lecture to ask what was going on and I just said, ‘Well, I just got into Harvard,’ and the entire class clapped for me. It was a really cool moment that I definitely wasn’t expecting to happen where or when it did.” Williams said she was just an average high school student and never dreamed of attending graduate school in the Ivy League until she was inspired by her professors at Ozarks, including Dr. Dave Daily professor of religion, and Dr. David Strain, professor of English and classics. “Everything changed for me when I came to Ozarks and found what I loved to study, and was surrounded by professors with top-tier respected degrees in their fields who loved what they did,” Williams said. “ Dr. Daily earned his master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School after graduating from a small private university similar to Ozarks, and Dr. Strain earned a Ph.D. from Harvard. As a freshman, getting one-on-one attention and advising from them was intimidating because I thought they were part of some elite club, but they believed in me.” One of the classes that inspired her to pursue religion and philosophy was Daily’s Approaches to the Study of Religion course. “That course transformed the way I think of religious studies and religion in general,” she said. “I’ve always been more interested in the function of religion in society than strict theology and hermeneutics, and I read things in that class that honestly made me question everything I thought I once knew in the best way. It gave me a newfound respect for the sciences and gave me a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s the reason I’m going on to study philosophy of religion, and I think it prepared me for so many other courses I went on to take throughout college.” Williams, who served as a coach for Interfaith Youth Core in 2018, began to seriously consider graduate school during junior year at Ozarks and remembers going to Daily for advice. “I went to Dr. Daily’s office with a list of potential graduate schools that were all academically mid-level, because I was certain those were the only schools that would even read over my application,” she said. “He read them over and, at the end of our meeting, said he wanted me to look at two more schools — Harvard and Yale. I laughed at him, but he said he was serious. He said that not only would they be a good fit for me, but that he legitimately thought I could get in. He was really the driving force for me to even think of looking to Ivy Leagues, and I’m so glad he did.” Williams then went about filling out the rigorous applications to both universities. “The application process itself was pretty standard, except there is no interview — you are assessed off your application alone,” she said. “The applications are much more mentally and emotionally draining than other graduate programs because most people go into ministry of some kind with the degrees they earn. These questions were very existential and required you to think critically about the world at large, your place in it, and why you believe you in that particular position are the right person to earn this degree to bring about change.” Once Williams learned that she had been accepted into the two highly competitive graduate programs, her reaction surprised herself. “I thought I would cry, but I didn’t. I think I had been anticipating that moment for so long that when it finally happened, it just wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it would be,” she said. “It was just like, ‘Cool, my hard work has paid off and I’m proud of myself.’ I was far from my family that lives in Texas, but they’ve just been telling all their co-workers how proud and excited they are for me, but they’ve been shockingly relaxed about it all. My friends, on the other hand, have been crazy excited. We had like three entire days of celebrations after everything was official. It’s been awesome to have so much support from my Ozarks community and to feel like I’ve made my professors and mentors here proud.” Williams, who was offered a full tuition scholarship from Yale and a 75 percent tuition scholarship from Harvard, said she decided on Harvard after taking her second visit to both universities in early April. “Both campuses had an admitted students’ day in early April so I booked a trip to go get a feel for the vibe of both places, now that the intimidation factor was gone,” she said. “I’m so glad I went back up. I met with several other prospective students who had also been admitted to both divinity schools and were weighing their options. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one going through that decision-making process, and that I wasn’t crazy for considering two schools that were incredibly different. Ultimately, with my interests in diversity and working with people of different racial and religious backgrounds was a higher priority, and Harvard happened to have that. Turning down a full scholarship to Yale was incredibly difficult, but I had to go with my gut.” Williams, whose career aspirations include attaining a Ph.D. and going into academia, said Ozarks has helped empower her to take on new challenges. “I’ve grown to trust myself and my capabilities,” she said. “When I arrived my freshman year, I was very insecure and would constantly compare myself to others. Now, I’ve become more competitive with myself and it has made a world of difference. Choosing a more ‘rare’ major with smaller class sizes pushed me to do this naturally. I loved what I was studying and wasn’t trying to impress anyone else. I was just simply doing the work for myself.” Local musician Ryan Harmon will highlight the second First Friday in downtown Clarksville, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 3. Presented by University of the Ozarks and the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, First Friday is a community event held on the corner of Main Street and the Spadra Trail. It will feature live music, a variety of food trucks and vendors as well as lawn games. There is no charge for admission and the public is invited to attend and encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Harmon is a singer-songwriter from Lamar. With musical influences like Travis Tritt, Ray Charles and Bob Seger, and lyrical influences like Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson and Roger Miller, Harmon carries on the long tradition of "three chords and the truth." Combined with a commanding stage presence and fun, lively performances, he seeks to push the boundaries of what a solo acoustic act can be. Though commonly categorized as country music, Harmon's music more specifically fits Americana, a sub-genre of country. He describes Americana by saying, "You can put Hank Williams, Bob Seger, Ray Charles and Bill Monroe all in the same room, and it makes perfect sense." In 2017, Harmon released his self-titled, debut album. Taking all modern production standards and throwing them out the window, Harmon created a stripped-down, low-fi recording that allows the songs to stand on their own, good or bad. "I hear so much stuff where it seems like they put more focus on the production than the song. I love listening to old Hank Williams or Robert Johnson records where the word 'production' didn't even come into it. Press the 'record' button, and off you go! Get a performance of the song and that's it," Harmon said. From the rocking, early Johnny Cash influenced "Hold On Sally," to the powerful "Ride The Wind," and the emotional "Find Your Heart," Harmon's songwriting focuses on real life and real people. One of the album's more prominent songs, the humorous, yet true, anthemic country heartbreak "You Left, My Dog Died, and My Heart Did Too," was featured on an NPR Music playlist of dog-themed songs in January 2018. In 2019, Harmon is continuing that same style of writing, with new music coming soon. "It doesn't matter if it's a love song, a sad song, a funny song, etc. Life throws all of those different emotions at us. As long as people can relate to it and enjoy it, I feel like I've done my job." This will be the final First Friday of the spring semester. It will start again in September when the fall semester is underway. University of the Ozarks and the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce will present the inaugural First Friday in downtown Clarksville on Friday, April 5. The community event will be held on the corner of Main Street and the Spadra Trail and will run from 5-8:30 p.m. It will feature live music, a variety of food trucks and vendors as well as lawn games. There is no charge for admission and the public is invited to attend and encouraged to bring lawn chairs. The entertainment for the inaugural event will feature Arkansas singer-songwriter Shannon Wurst, whose musical style has been described as “indie folk country rootsy goodness.” A native of Alma who currently lives in Fayetteville, Wurst said her musical influences include Carol King, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, Elizabeth Cotton, Emmylou Harris and James Taylor. According to her website, “Blending classic country with traditional bluegrass, Wurst’s musical arrangements effortlessly push her style into new territory. This work has landed her national attention. The timeless, roots-based songs from her latest album Sugar and Kerosene (released in Spring 2018) like “Better Than Bourbon” and “Devil and Saint” have a yearning tension that she delivers with sweet smile.” A review from Sing Out Folk Music Magazine stated, “Shannon Wurst is among that rare breed who can make you sit upright and wonder aloud, ‘Who is that?’ She is unquestionably arresting. Shannon Wurst is a rising star who has opened for Robert Earl Keen, Railroad Earth and Carlene Carter.” The food trucks will also be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the same location on April 5. The grandchildren of long-time Clarksville residents Everett E. and Myrtle Mae Williams believe that their deceased grandparents would be happy knowing the house they built near the University of the Ozarks campus nearly a century ago is now a part of the University. The Williams House, located at 406 Brown Street, about three blocks west of campus, was recently donated to the University by descendants of Everett and Myrtle Mae Williams, who built the house in 1926. The 928-square-foot, two bedroom house was gifted by the family in memory of one of the Williamses’ grandsons, Keith Kilcrease, a 1964 U of O graduate who died in 1983. Keith’s sister, Susan, also attended Ozarks, as did numerous relatives. “This college has always meant a lot of our family and we feel great that it’s going to be a part of the University and that the family name will continue to be recognized with the house,” said Mitch Kilcrease, a grandson of Everett and Myrtle Williams. “Our family has a long history with Clarksville and the University and donating the home to the University was the right thing to do.” Everett, who died in 1971 at the age of 77, was a World War I veteran and a long-time butcher at a local grocery in Clarksville. Myrtle Mae, who died in 1999 at the age of 97, was a well-known seamstress in the community. “My grandmother would often sew and do alterations for the college presidents and other faculty and administrators,” Mitch Kilcrease said. “She would also board college students who needed a place to stay. C of O always meant so much to her and she would have a great big smile on her face now knowing that their home belonged to the college.” Everett and Myrtle Williams had four children — Evelyn Kemp, Robert “Spurlie” Williams, Jean Kilcrease and Kathryn Baskin, who lived in the house for most of the past four decades. Baskin moved to Nashville about five years ago and the house has been unoccupied since then. Mitch Kilcrease, an administrator at Florida State University, is one of eight children of Robert Lloyd Kilcrease and Jean (Williams) Kilcrease. In 1983, the family created a scholarship in memory of Keith Kilcrease for marketing students at Ozarks. “Our family is connected to University of the Ozarks in a lot of ways and this is just the next step,” Mitch Kilcrease said. “Our grandparents would be pleased.” The University is currently renovating the Williams House and it will be used for University housing.