by Tisha D. Arnold | Photo by Richard Redus
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – More than 70 people gathered in the lobby of the Administration Building at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for a surprise celebration to honor Mrs. Liz Strickland and Mrs. Charlene Kelley for their years of outstanding service at the institution. When they came down the stairs, they proceeded to stand with the rest of the crowd until they were escorted to the center of the lobby as everyone cheered. The look of surprise on their faces and the smiles that followed set the jubilant tone of the event.
Mrs. Strickland has served as assistant to every chancellor since Dr. Herman Smith, the second person to hold that title when the institution joined the University of Arkansas System. Mrs. Kelley worked with Dr. Calvin Johnson when he served as Dean of the School of Education and came to the Chancellor’s office when he served as Interim. Their service to UAPB totals more than 50 years combined.
“This is an awesome opportunity to say farewell to two individuals who have worked so diligently over the years,” said Dr. Calvin Johnson as he presided over the program. “I have had the privilege of working with both of them together over the last 13 months.”
Accolades were also extended by Mr. Elbert Bennett, Administrative Coordinator for Student Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Thomas, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration and Dr. Mary E. Benjamin, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
The surprise celebration was the brainchild of newly appointed Chancellor Dr. Laurence Alexander. He personally witnessed and experienced their contributions and wanted to be sure they were honored for it.
“The kind words heard here today ring so true,” he said. “I can attest that in the short period of time I have known you, I have observed all of the qualities that have been described by the speakers today.”
Chancellor Alexander talked about the honor of Emeritus status given to retired faculty and administrators and desired to give the same honor to staff. He announced to the crowd that the title of Assistant Emeritus has been bestowed upon each of them.
“It was a total surprise and I am so appreciative,” said Mrs. Strickland. She noted that she could hear people talking in the lobby and had no idea of the reason for the occasion. Although her retirement was effective July 1, she has been volunteering her time to help Mrs. Janet Broiles in her new position as Assistant to the Chancellor. Mrs. Broiles assisted Dr. Alexander for six years while at the University of Florida.
“I am so surprised I’m almost speechless,” said Mrs. Kelley. “I really sincerely appreciate this.”