CLARKSVILLE, Ark. ---Kenneth R. McFerran, a United States Marshal, and Penn Thomas, a certified public accountant, have been chosen by the University of the Ozarks Alumni Association to receive two of its most distinguished awards this week.
McFerran, of Charleston, Ark., will receive the 2001 Alumni Achievement Award, and Thomas, of Corpus Christi, Texas, will be honored with the 2001 Alumni Merit Award. The awards will be presented during the Alumni Awards Luncheon, scheduled for noon on Saturday, April 21, in the Seay Student Center during Alumni Weekend 2001. McFerran, a 1963 Ozarks graduate, was appointed U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas by President Clinton in 1997. Based in Fort Smith, McFerran supervises 16 employees, a district office and five sub-offices. Among his job responsibilities are the Witness Protection Program, federal prison transfers, court security, asset forfeiture and foreclosure sales. When McFerran was nominated for the position by former Arkansas Sen. Dale Bumpers in 1997, Bumpers called him, "a distinguished public servant. His appointment ensures that the U.S. Marshal’s Office in western Arkansas will be led by one of the most respected and experienced lawmen in the state." McFerran served 22 years with the Arkansas State Police, during which time he commanded three of the force’s major divisions: highway patrol, criminal investigations and administrative services. He retired from the ASP in 1988 and became chief of police in Ozark, Ark., from 1989 to 1992. McFerran is also a U.S. Army veteran and served for 39 years in the Arkansas National Guard. He was raised in Charleston and received a degree in business administration and political science from U of O. "To be honored by my alma mater is very special," McFerran said. "I grew a lot as a person in my years as a student at the college. It gave me a lot of confidence, especially in public speaking. I went from being very quiet and unsure of myself in high school to student government president at Ozarks. I think Ozarks really helped bring out the best in me." McFerran’s wife, Bernice, also attended Ozarks and worked for several years at the college. Thomas, a 1983 graduate of Ozarks, served on the U of O Board of Trustees for seven years in the 1990s and was the chair of the board’s finance committee for several years. He has had a private CPA practice in Corpus Christi since 1989 and also is involved in the insurance business. "I am honored by the award the university has so graciously awarded me," Thomas said. "During my years at U of O, I gained not only an education, but also a great sense of family and community. I came away with the desire to give back to others in the same ways that Ozarks’ faculty and administrators gave to me. I’m very appreciative of this honor." Thomas’ wife, Toby (Colvett), is also a 1983 Ozarks graduate, and they have two children, Morgan and Paige.