UAFS announces alumni award winners

·4 min read

As the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith celebrated its 2022 homecoming 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, class of 2006. A partner in Landmark CPAs, Cluck was an active member of the Alumni Advisory Council from 2017-21, 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 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.

Christopher Cluck
Christopher Cluck

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, class of 2012, and R.C. Sims, class of 2017, received the Young Alumni Awards in 2022.

Collins has an English and speech degree and is an owner of the Card and Cloth boutiques in Fort Smith. A nominator described her as an outstanding business owner and person.

"She is supportive of other small businesses and leads by example," a nominator said. She has hired many fellow UAFS graduates who describe her as an important role model.

Kaci Collins
Kaci Collins

R.C. 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 an 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 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.

R.C. Sims
R.C. Sims

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 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.

Jennifer Holland
Jennifer Holland

Service & Support Alumni Award

The UAFS Alumni Advisory Council established the Service & Support Alumni Award to recognize individuals who did not attend UAFS, and 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."

This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith announces alumni award winners