Dr. Johnny Dillard has been successful as an educator, administrator, military officer, and entrepreneur since graduating from University of the Ozarks in 1970. And, he is quick to point out that it all might not have been possible without Ozarks.
"I’d hate to think where I might be if I hadn’t attended Ozarks," said Dillard, a Clarksville native who will be the featured speaker during the Alumni Weekend 2013 Lecture Series, set for 1:30 p.m., Friday, April 19. "I came very close to not going to Ozarks, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it through college anywhere else because I just didn’t have the academic preparation or maturity. Ozarks gave me the personal attention and extra help that I desperately needed at the time."
Dr. Johnny Dillard, CEO and president of Central Research, Inc., in Northwest Arkansas, will be the featured speaker during the University of the Ozarks’ 2013 Alumni Weekend Lecture Series, scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Friday, April 19, in Baldor Auditorium.
Dillard, who will receive the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award from the Ozarks Alumni Association during the Alumni Weekend Awards Banquet on April 19, is the CEO and president of Central Research, Inc., a small company based in Lowell, Ark., that provides contract support services to state and federal government agencies. Some of their services include, identification and verification of deceased and incarcerated individuals, data cleansing, administrative support, document conversion to digital files, and Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act support.
Founded in 1999 by Dillard and his son, Scott, the company has grown from three employees to more than 60. Last year, Central Research was named by Inc. magazine as one of country’s fastest-growing private companies and the Small Business Association named the company the recipient of the 2012 Veteran Small Business Champion of the year for the region.
"We were fortunate enough to find a need in an area that we were familiar with," Dillard said of his company’s success. "We put in a lot of time and sweat equity into the company, and we made our share of mistakes. But we’ve seen the company grow each year. I think it’s a testament to what a good idea and a lot of hard work can do."
After graduating from Ozarks, Dillard attended U.S. Marine Corps officer training and fulfilled his tour duties. After he was discharged, he joined the Army National Guard and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring in 1994. Over the years he has also worked as a teacher, coach, school administrator, defense contractor at the Pentagon, college professor and as a senior instructor with the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He has also continued to pursue his education goals, earning a master’s degree in education administration and an Ed.S., both from the University of Arkansas, as well as an ABD from University of Mississippi and a PH.D from Southwest University.
"I’ve always felt you have to continue to learn and grow, and I think that goes back to my days at Ozarks," Dillard said. "Ozarks and the professors and mentors I had there like Fritz Ehren, Lonnie Qualls and Jerry Wagoner showed me the importance of an education and gave me the confidence that I could go on and do these things."
Dillard, who served in the Vietnam War, has been a tireless and dedicated champion of disabled war veterans. He has hired several veterans and disabled veterans in his business, and in 2012 Central Research was recognized as one of the top 100 disabled owned businesses in America by one publication. It was also honored with the 2011 Mentor Protégé Team of the Year by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
"When Scott and I established this company, we had one single goal: to create a strong, vibrant business that employs veterans and disabled veterans," Dillard said. "I think it’s important to give our veterans an opportunity to work, because I think there’s still a lot of discrimination out there when it comes to military veterans. But we don’t hire people just because they are veterans; we hire them because they are veterans and because they can do the work."
The Alumni Lecture Series will be held in the Baldor Auditorium in the university’s Boreham Business Building. The lecture is free and the public is invited to attend.