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Featured | News | AlumniFebruary 19, 2022

2022 Alumni Award Winners Roar

Written By: Dr. Judith Hansen

As the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith celebrated Homecoming 2022 The Wild Roarin’ West last week, the Alumni Office recognized alumni and special non-alum with awards.

“All our alumni are special to us, but some grads go above and beyond to make sure today’s students have the best possible experience,” Alumni Director Jasmine Smith said. “Whether they support students through mentorship or work to ensure students have the financial support they need to succeed, we appreciate all they do to help our students succeed.”


Distinguished Alumni Award

In 1928, the first graduating class of Fort Smith Junior College adopted the phrase “Through Diligence to Victory.” In the spirit of this motto, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest alumni award bestowed by UAFS. Recipients embody this inspiration and have distinguished themselves through outstanding leadership in their professional lives or through service to the university, community, state, or nation.

The 2022 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award is Christopher Cluck, ’06. A partner in Landmark CPAs, Cluck was an active member of the Alumni Advisory Council from 2017 to 2021, serving as Council Chair for his last two years. He served as both a young alumni and an executive mentor in Mentor Connections, providing valuable advice and guidance to both UAFS students and young alumni in the program. Cluck also has supported the UAFS Alumni Legacy Scholarship Endowment through his philanthropy.

“As a husband, father, businessman, mentor, and alumnus, Chris exemplifies the motto of the class of 1928,” a nominator said.


Young Alumni Award

The Young Alumni Award recognizes two alumni younger than 40 who are strong leaders within their career fields and have distinguished themselves through service to the university, community, state, or nation.

Kaci Collins, 2012, and RC Sims, 2017, received the Young Alumni Awards in 2022.

Kaci Collins has an English and speech degree, and she is an owner of Card + Cloth boutique on Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith and on Chad Colley Boulevard at Chaffee Crossing. A nominator described her as an outstanding business owner and an outstanding person.

“She is supportive of other small businesses and leads by example,” a nominator said. She has hired many fellow UAFS grads who describe her as an important role model. “She is willing to do the small, seemingly unimportant things and going the distance to succeed,” a nominator said.

RC Sims, an accounting graduate, works at Edward Jones as he prepares to become a financial advisor. A nominator noted that not only is he preparing for a new role professionally, but he also has launched ab online business as a personal coach for clients who want to “live their best life,” a nominator said. He is an active volunteer at community events, and he has served as an allocation panel member for the United Way of Fort Smith area. He has been a member of Mentor Connections, which connects a current student with two mentors, a young graduate and an executive mentor from a Fort Smith business.

“Looking into the future, I have no doubt RC has a great future of making the UAFS name proud,” a nominator said.


Outstanding Faculty/Staff Alumni Award

The outstanding Faculty/Staff award recognizes a current or previous faculty or staff member who consistently goes beyond expectations to prepare students for success in their studies, careers, and lives.

The 2022 recipient of this award is Jennifer Holland, executive e director of student retention. A nominator described Holland as wanting to see students thrive, not just survive. Students are grateful for her encouragement and advocacy.

“No matter what Jennifer does, you can be guaranteed that she is going to do it with all of her heart and passion,” a nominator said.


Service & Support Alumni Award

The UAFS Alumni Advisory Council established the Service & Support Alumni Award to recognize individuals who did not attend UAFS, groups, or businesses who have demonstrated extraordinary support of the university by giving their time, money, or advocacy.

Tim Shields, the Community & Business Relationship advisor for Arvest Bank, is the recipient of the 2022 Service & Support Alumni Award. Shields was cited for his lengthy and active tenure as a member of the UAFS Foundation Board and his service to the Family Enterprise Center.

His philanthropy has had a significant impact on foundation resources. He and his wife established the Lori and Tim Shields Geoscience Scholarship Endowment at UAFS. He spearheaded an effort to bring together a group of energy sector leaders to create the Arkoma Basin Scholarship Endowment and the Arkoma Basin Endowment and funding for other personal, named endowments to support the geoscience program.

A nominator wrote, “Tim’s friendship and generosity benefit the university. He shaped significant foundation business, invested personal resources, brought new donors and dollars to the table, stayed engaged in the Family Enterprise Center, and is willing to leverage personal and professional relationships to benefit the university and the students we serve.”


Following the awards presentations, Smith called up a special returning alumnus, Rick Goins, whom she presented with a plaque honoring his dedication to the alumni assiciation, and the seven years he spent building the it from the ground up. A two-time alumnus (class of 1974 and 2007,) and twice-retiree, Goins said working for UAFS was the best second career he could imagine, and thanked the the crowd, and all alumni far and wide, for making UAFS such a special place to attend and to work, and such a beautifully difficuly place to leave. 

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Rachel Rodemann Putman

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