Judge Morris Arnold, Johnelle Hunt Among Speakers at University of Arkansas Commencement 2009

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Federal Appeals Court Judge Morris S. Arnold and noted businesswoman and philanthropist Johnelle DeBusk Hunt will receive honorary degrees from the University of Arkansas and speak at the 2009 All-University Commencement Saturday, May 9, at Walton Arena. The ceremony begins at 8:45 a.m.

Judge Arnold will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws, LL.D.; Mrs. Hunt will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, L.H.D.

They will be among a group of distinguished professionals and students who will address commencement ceremonies on campus.

Hon. Morris S. Arnold

Morris S. Arnold was born in Texarkana, Texas, and attended the University of Arkansas, first as an undergraduate, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree, and then as a law student, earning his Bachelor of Laws degree, graduating first in his class.

He was appointed to the U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas in 1985 and then to the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in l992. Last year, the chief justice of the United States designated him to sit on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court of Review.

Judge Arnold has published eight books and numerous articles, mostly on the subject of legal history and the history of colonial Arkansas. His most recent book, The Rumble of a Distant Drum: The Quapaws and Old World Newcomers, 1673-1804, was published by the University of Arkansas Press and won the Worthen Literary Prize and the Ragsdale Prize. He was awarded the Porter Literary Prize for his body of work, principally his three books on colonial Arkansas.

In 1994, the French government named him a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques for his writings on 18th-century Louisiana.

Johnelle D. Hunt

Johnelle Hunt, from Heber Springs, is credited with helping her late husband, J.B. Hunt, build one of the largest publicly traded trucking companies in North America. They began working as a business team in Stuttgart in 1961 with the founding of the J.B. Hunt Co.: He was the entrepreneur and salesman; she was the organizer, manager and tough businesswoman who made sure the debts were collected and the bills were paid.

In 1969, the couple started J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. in Lowell with five trucks and seven refrigerator trailers. The company now employs some 16,000 people. Mrs. Hunt recently retired from the company’s board of directors.

Johnelle Hunt has led or served on numerous state, university and philanthropic organizations, including the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the university’s Campaign for the Twenty-First Century. She and her husband were instrumental in the creation of the J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. Center for Academic Excellence at the University of Arkansas.

Hunt has received many honors for her work over the years. She was named to the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, received the Eagle Award for Outstanding Health Leadership from the Washington Regional Foundation, and in 2008 was recognized as Volunteer of the Year by the University of Arkansas.

Additional Commencement Ceremonies and Speakers, Saturday, May 9

Sam M. Walton College of Business, 12:30 p.m., Barnhill Arena

  • Speaker: Lt. Gen. Martin R. Steele, USMC (retired), CEO, Steele Partners Inc., and Uncommon Leadership LLC

Martin R. Steele was raised in Fayetteville and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1965. He rose from private to three-star general, serving three tours of duty on two continents and was the longest serving chief operating officer in the history of the Marine Corps. He culminated his military career as the deputy chief of staff for Plans, Policies and Operations at Marine Corps Headquarters in August of 1999. He is a recognized expert in the integration of all elements of national power with strategic military war plans.

Steele attended the University of Arkansas while in the Marines, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1974. He has been recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. He also holds master’s degrees from Central Michigan University, Salve Regina College and the Naval War College.

Steele retired from active duty in 1999 and served as president and chief executive officer of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, the largest naval museum in the world and located in New York City. Under his leadership, the museum has developed near-iconic status among educators, historians, international visitors and military veterans. 

Steele is currently the chairman and CEO of Steele Partners Inc., a strategic advisory company, and president and CEO of Uncommon Leadership LLC, a leadership consulting company. The mission of these companies is to develop business leaders who understand how to translate strength of character and high ethical behavior into bottom line success. Uncommon Leadership has also developed a free program to help Marines leaving the service to transition into private sector jobs. The success of the program, which participants have described as “life changing,” has led Steele to research ways to expand the program to other services over the next year.

Steele serves on half a dozen boards across the country, including the board of directors of the University of Arkansas Alumni Association.

Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, 1 p.m., Randall Tyson Indoor Track Center

  • Speakers: Kacie Liana Schack and Brittany L. Peyrot, graduating seniors and first ranked senior scholars; Ginger L. Graham, Outstanding Alumna

Kacie Schack is a human development and family science major with a psychology minor who earned a 4.0 grade point average. She contributed to two research projects, one with the psychology department at the University of Arkansas and the second with the human development and family science department at Oklahoma State University. She has worked as a volunteer at Loving Choices Pregnancy Center and The Gardens at Arkanshire retirement community. After graduation she plans to study social work in a master’s program at the University of Georgia. She is the daughter of Bernard and Tammy Schack of Edmond, Okla.

Brittany Peyrot is a human development and family sciences major who earned a 4.0 grade point average. She received a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship grant from the Arkansas Department of Education and presented her research findings at the National Council on Family Relations. Other undergraduate activities included an internship with a local afterschool program and two study abroad experiences in Italy. She plans to pursue a career in secondary English education. She is the daughter of Nicky and Kathy Peyrot of Kingston.

Ginger L. Graham grew up in Springdale and received a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Arkansas in 1979. She also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard University and recently served as Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard.

She is a public speaker and health care consultant specializing in executive leadership development and strategy. She is the former president and chief executive officer of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company in San Diego, Calif., with two first-in-class medicines for people with diabetes.

Graham is also the former group chairman, office of the president, for Guidant Corp., a world-leading cardiovascular medical technology company. She started her career at Elanco Products Co., a leading agricultural chemical company, and in her diverse career has worked in agriculture, cosmetics, investment banking, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biotechnology.

Graham is a member of the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors, the Harvard Business School Health Industry Alumni Advisory Board, the University of Arkansas Board of Advisors, the University of Arkansas Alumni Association Board of Directors and the University of California-San Diego Health Sciences Advisory Board. She serves on the editorial advisory board for the Journal of Life Sciences, frequently speaks at business schools and has written for Harvard Business Review.

Graham has received numerous awards and honors including the American Diabetes Association’s Woman of Valor award in 2006. She was included in Pharma VOICE’s “100 of the Most Inspiring People” list in 2006. World Pharmaceuticals magazine named her number 10 on a list of 40 most influential people in the industry in 2007.

J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciencs, 1 p.m., Walton Arena

  • Speakers: Greg Karber and Homa Quazilbash, graduating seniors

Greg Karber, from Fort Smith, is graduating with a double major in mathematics and English, with an emphasis in creative writing, and a minor in psychology. He attended the University of Arkansas as a Bodenhamer Fellow and is a four-year Honors Scholar. He studied abroad for two summers, first in Galway, Ireland, as part of the University’s International Writers’ Program, and then in London, England, as part of Theatre in London, another university program. He co-directed the winning documentary in the 2008 Art Amiss 24-Hour-Film Festival and placed first in this year’s student stand-up comedy competition. He recently served as story editor for a Canadian feature film, Aftermath, currently in pre-production. He plans to pursue writing professionally.

He is the son of Greg and Sherri Carver of Fort Smith and graduated from Southside High School in 2005.

Homa Quazilbash was born in Calcutta, India, and raised in Tulsa, Okla. She is graduating with a combined major in broadcast journalism, Middle East studies and political science. She received a Chancellor’s Scholarship to study at the University of Arkansas and is a four-year Honors Scholar. She worked as a volunteer at UATV and was president of both Al-Islam Students Association and Muslimas of UArk. She studied Arabic in Cairo during the summer of 2007 and European politics and conflict in London during the fall semester of 2008. She interned at CNN’s Election Center with Campbell Brown. She currently interns at KFSM News in Fayetteville and the university’s Sustainability Council. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a career as a reporter before entering graduate school in 2010.

She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Shehnaz Quazilbash of Tulsa and graduated from Union High School in 2005.

Fay Jones School of Architecture

  • Speaker: Davide Vitali, architect, director of the University of Arkansas Rome Center for Architecture and the Humanities

Davide Vitali is a native Roman architect. He obtained his first professional degree from the University of Rome, La Sapienza, and earned a Master of Architecture degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1984.

Vitali’s affiliation with the University of Arkansas began in 1985. He developed a full architecture program as director of the university’s Rome Center, which is located in central Rome. The center offers University of Arkansas students the opportunity to study and live in Rome for a full semester as part of their university curriculum. His service to the University of Arkansas and his collaboration with the Università degli Studi Roma Tre contributed to the development of the Cooperation Agreement between the two universities, formalized in 2001.

As a professional architect, Vitali practices in Rome and throughout Italy. His work, mainly oriented toward private residence interiors and furniture design, has been published in Architectural Digest, Arte, Brava Casa, Elle Décor, Grazia Casa, La Repubblica, and Vogue Maison.

College of Engineering, 3:30 p.m., Barnhill Arena

  • Speaker: Adm. Jack E. Buffington, associate director, Mack-Blackwell National Rural Transportation Study Center

Adm. Jack E. Buffington served 34 years in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, rising to the position of chief of engineers and commander of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in charge of Navy contracting and public works worldwide.

His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal with Gold Star, the Legion of Merit with three Gold Stars, the Navy Achievement Medal and the Vietnamese Medal of Merit. Under Buffington’s leadership, his construction battalion was awarded the Best of Type and the prestigious Peltier Award as the top Seabee battalion in the Navy.

As associate director of the Mack-Blackwell Rural Transportation Center, Buffington oversees studies for government agencies and private companies concerning highways, bridges, waterways, railroads and other issues affecting rural America. He is also a research professor in the department of civil engineering, where he teaches construction management. He developed a high quality job search program in the department to ensure all students have access to jobs after graduation. He has received the 1999, 2002 and 2004 “Outstanding Service to Students Award” from the College of Engineering. 

Buffington was selected as the 2002-2003 State of Arkansas Professional Engineer of the Year. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is a past president of the National Academy of Construction. He was honored recently by the Society of American Military Engineers with the prestigious Golden Eagle Award.

Buffington is a recognized expert in public works and transportation engineering. He has chaired the Federal Facilities Council, served on the Department of Energy's Greybeard Committee, and acted as an adviser to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Arkansas River Commission.

College of Education and Health Professions, 4 p.m., Walton Arena

  • Speaker: Sharon L. Gaber, incoming provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, University of Arkansas

Sharon L. Gaber will join the University of Arkansas as provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs on May 1. She is responsible for academic policy development and oversight of the university's 10 colleges and schools, as well as the offices of student affairs, admissions, registrar, financial aid, the libraries, the Air Force and Army ROTC units, the Teaching and Faculty Support Center, and the offices of institutional research and summer sessions. She also serves as professor of sociology in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Gaber came to the University of Arkansas from Auburn University, where she was the senior associate provost. She had previously served as associate provost for academic administration and as associate dean and professor in Auburn's College of Architecture, Design and Construction.

Gaber holds a Doctor of Philosophy in city and regional planning from Cornell University, a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Southern California, and baccalaureate degrees in economics and urban studies from Occidental College.



Steve Voorhies, manager, media relations
University Relations
479-575-3583, voorhies@uark.edu



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