Hundreds from the community gathered to honor University of Central Arkansas President Tom Courtway during a reception Friday in McCastlain Hall.
Courtway will officially step down as president on Dec. 16. UCA’s Chief of Staff Kelley Erstine will serve as interim president until Houston Davis, the recently appointed 11th UCA president, takes office on Jan. 23.
Courtway was first appointed interim president in 2011. The board of trustees voted in October 2011 to remove interim from his title. Courtway said he plans to teach in the UCA College of Business.
"This is a little bit of a bittersweet day for many of us here," Christina Madsen, UCA’s associate vice president for communications, said. "While we are happy for President Courtway and excited for his family, we are very sad to see him go."
Board of trustees chair Sheila Vaught said Courtway came into his position when UCA needed stability, integrity and a role model for the students.
"Boy did we hit the jackpot," she said. "He has been perfect in every one of those fields."
Vaught said Courtway has served as an exceptional leader for the UCA community and a dear friend to many.
During the reception, a tribute video was played that featured well wishes to Courtway from students, faculty and more, including board member Brad Lacy.
"Tom is one of the funniest people you will ever meet in your life," he said. "You look at Tom’s administration and you see stability, but then you probably see the foundation being built for another period of growth for the campus and I think we can attribute that to him."
Bunny Adcock, UCA board member, said everyone in Conway knows Courtway and he doesn’t have an enemy.
"[Tom] is just a perfect gentleman and has done a tremendous job representing the university anywhere he goes," he said. "Thank you for the years that you’ve given to this university."
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was pleased to recognize Courtway for the extraordinary contribution and leadership that Courtway provided to UCA over the years.
"You came into this position during a tough time, but under your leadership the university has seen tremendous success," Gov. Hutchinson said. "Because of your diligence and devotion, UCA has become financially stable, the campus has expanded and the integrity to the school is alive and well. During your time at UCA, you have been one of the most liked presidents and I commend you for your hands-on involvement with UCA students and faculty alike. The state of Arkansas is fortunate to have leaders like you."
Courtway thanked everyone, especially his wife and family, for supporting him along the journey.
"I never thought in a million years I would have this job," he said.
Courtway said he has been fortunate to be surrounded by men and women who are leaders with integrity, but who also care about UCA. Because of that, he said, it was easy to follow their lead.
Interacting with the students is one of the things Courtway said he was going to miss the most.
"I’m going to miss you guys a lot," he said. "It puts a spring in an old mans step to walk across this campus and interact with you guys. That’s really the joy of the job."
Courtway said it was also important to recognize and thank his parents, Bob and Betty Courtway, for the way they raised him to "wake up every morning, to go to work, that hard work is good, that your word means everything and that you have to protect your name at all costs."
Houston Davis, UCA’s 11th president will step into the position in January.
"He is a wonderful man," Courtway said. "He is highly qualified to [handle] this office and he will do a fantastic job. He will do a great job leading UCA because of what you do on a daily basis. [It’s] a great day for my family, [but an] even better day for UCA."
During the ceremony, Kale Gober, the vice president for institutional advancement, also reminded the room about a $100,000 challenge gift Rush and Linda Harding made in October to the university, for the President Courtway Endowed Scholarship Fund, to encourage the UCA community to match.
Gober said he was happy to report that UCA not only met its goal, but managed to exceed, it raising $127,250 from the executive staff, board members, faculty, students and more.
"That’s fantastic," Courtway said.
Gober said in addition to the Harding’s original donation of $100,000, they gave another $100,000, bringing the total of the fund to $327,250.
Gober said the fund would have an immediate impact because students in the next academic year would begin to receive that money.
"Your presidency will go down in UCA history as one of passion, honesty and integrity," he said.
Courtway said he could not thank the Harding’s enough.
"They have supported this institution in good times and in bad and they have done a phenomenal job helping our students," he said.
(Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)