Surrounded by a capacity crowd gathered in the Stubblefield Center for the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s commencement ceremony Dec. 15, ArcBest CEO Judy McReynolds reflected on her own educational journey as a first-generation college graduate before advising graduates to make the most of the knowledge gained from their college education.


Her parents, both from small towns in Oklahoma, were unable to afford college for themselves but were determined to send McReynolds and her sister to college at the University of Oklahoma.


“My mom went back to work for the sole purpose of putting my sister and me through college,” she said. “But I had to do my part as well. I worked part-time at a law firm throughout my time at college. The combination of hard work, lessons learned, and a formal college education was then, and is now, a great foundation on which to build your life.”


She then went on to describe “the skill and the will” that ArcBest employees possess – the skill is their educational and technical training, but the will causes employees to “go above and beyond their expectations.”


“When I reflect on my career and think about the highly effective people I’ve known, it’s clear to me that they are successful because they have both the skill and the will,” she said.


Referencing Stephen Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust,” McReynolds outlined 13 behaviors of people who build trust: they “talk straight, demonstrate respect, create transparency, right wrongs, show loyalty, deliver results, get better, confront reality, clarify expectations, practice accountability, listen first, keep commitments, and extend trust.” These behaviors are also exhibited by people who demonstrate the will, she said.


“I want to encourage you to think about your path in this way: you now have the skill, which represents a critical portion of the foundation you need in life and for your career,” she said in closing. “But it’s only the beginning … In addition to your skill, you should strive to demonstrate the will. Being a person or employee who can be counted on by displaying Covey’s 13 behaviors is a terrific way to start. If you embrace the will, you will be more successful.”


Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor, spoke before McReynolds, where he implored students “to embrace change and make a positive difference in the world.”


“Today is indeed a special day for you … because two realities are now true for you,” he said. “First, you are now ready to really start the learning process by engaging change. Change is happening all around us at breakneck speed. Your education has provided a good many of the tools you need to keep up with the speed of the change. If you want real success, however, you have to anticipate the change and adapt to the change before the need for change even arrives. You have to move faster than the change. With your degree in hand, getting past the curve is now up to you and your success will depend on your own drive, ambition, motivation, and continued learning.”


The ceremonies also included the oath of office for two UAFS graduates commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army Reserves –Karl Kruskopp of Van Buren and Brittany Toney of Clinton. They participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at UAFS. Capt. Matthew Liebal administered the oath.


In addition to Chancellor Beran, UAFS administrators presenting candidates were Dr. Georgia Hale, provost and senior vice chancellor; Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology; Dr. Ashok Subramanian, dean of the College of Business; Dr. Carolyn Mosley, dean of the College of Health Sciences; Dr. Paul Hankins, dean of the College of Communication, Languages, Arts and Social Sciences; Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Dr. Norm Dennis, senior associate dean for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville; and Wayne Womack, registrar.


The ceremony included a musical prelude by the UAFS Symphonic Band; a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by alumna Harmony Chapin; a call to order by Dr. Becky Williamson, chief marshal and bearer of the mace; the presentation of the colors by the UAFS ROTC; and a welcome to the Alumni Association by Rick Goins, alumni director at UAFS.


Pre-ceremony music and a post-recessional bell peal were performed on the Donald W. Reynolds Bell Tower Carillon by D