From the first University of Central Arkansas interim president in 1929 to the most recent interim president in 2011, UCA has had six different people serve in this capacity on seven occasions.
In 1929, the second president of UCA, Burr Walter Torreyson, was diagnosed with hypertension. This downturn in health led to Torreyson asking the UCA Board of Trustees for a six month leave of absence, which they granted.
According to The Echo of Oct. 4, 1929, "Our president, Dr. B.W. Torreyson, has been granted a six months leave of absence by the board of trustees for the purpose of regaining his health. His recovery from an illness last spring was slow and he thought it best to obtain a leave from his official duties for complete rest and recuperation. He has been in Boulder, Colo., for the past two weeks."
At that time, there was little that could be done for someone suffering with high blood pressure.
Regarding hypertension, the following is from an article written by Dr. Herman Mosenthal of New York, that was published in the Oct. 1928, Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society,
"Specific cures there are none... . The best available means at the present moment to reduce the blood pressure in essential hypertension is to obtain nervous relaxation in the patient... . A good routine of relaxation is one or two hours’ rest after lunch and at least eight hours in bed at night. In severe cases, one day a week in bed may be recommended."
The 1928 article also discussed diet and research which during that time showed that 78 percent of persons who were 20 percent or more overweight suffered from increased blood pressure readings.
Torreyson left Boulder after several weeks and journeyed to Orlando, Fla., where he took advantage of more rest and recuperation. However, there was little if any improvement in his health and he returned to Conway in March 1930. He soon submitted his resignation in May, with an effective date of July 1, 1930. Not too long afterward he suffered a series of strokes and died approximately two years after he had resigned as president on May 29, 1932.
While Torreyson was away in Colorado and Florida, his replacement was Col. Heber McAlister.
McAlister was UCA’s first interim president and was also the commanding officer of the Arkansas National Guard. He served as acting president for approximately one year before being appointed full time president by the UCA Board of Trustees in May 1930, with an effective date of July 1, 1930. While he served as interim president, the Board of Trustees increased McAlister’s pay by $100 per month.
President McAlister led UCA through the Great Depression. When McAlister became president, UCA had five major buildings on campus. At the end of his presidency, UCA had 15 major buildings on campus, due primarily to the Public Works Administration (PWA) and McAlister’s leadership.
The value of UCA’s physical plant had gone from $250,000 to over $2 million during McAlister’s presidency.
While serving in the Arkansas National Guard, Col. McAlister could be called up for duty at any time.
In December 1940, the 153rd Infantry of the Arkansas National Guard was called into active service with the U.S. Army for, what was initially a 12 month period. The UCA Board of Trustees then gave McAlister a 12 months leave of absence. Upon taking a 12 months leave of absence, McAlister requested that his pay as president of UCA be stopped and his salary was discontinued.
The Board of Trustees then appointed Dean Andrew Jackson (A.J.) Meadors to serve as interim president. Dean Meadors, UCA’s first Dean of the College, was not related to UCA’s former president, Dr. Allen C. Meadors. Dean Meadors was the second person to serve as an interim president of UCA.
Upon being named interim president, Dean Meadors was quoted in The Echo as saying, "Since President McAlister is away in the service, we who have been left behind to carry on the affairs of the college are doing our best to carry out the obligations resting upon us. We have no disposition, or wish to modify materially any existing plans. We shall do our best to work things out in accordance with President McAlister’s wishes and general instructions."
Due to having two high-level jobs, and with the prospect of the 153rd Infantry being in service longer than 12 months, Col. McAlister submitted his letter of resignation on July 16, 1941. According to the Log Cabin Democrat of July 28, 1941, McAlister stated, "I find that it is impossible for me to do justice to the two jobs I now have. I cannot do justice to my regiment and continue to devote as much time as is necessary in the general supervision of the college. ... I have been torn between two desires, one to resign my commission in the Army and the other to give up the college and devote my entire time to my country in this time of emergency. I have made my choice. I must follow the call of the nation. I must serve my country."
Dean Meadors served as interim president until UCA’s fourth president, Dr. Nolen M. Irby was hired by the Board of Trustees. Dr. Irby assumed the duties of UCA president Sept. 1, 1941, and served admirably until he resigned on March 31, 1953, with an effective date of June 30, 1953. Irby’s resignation was expected, due to health reasons, and the Board of Trustees acted to replace him as soon as his resignation became effective. The transition between Irby and his successor, UCA’s fifth president, Silas Snow, was seamless and there was no need for an interim president.
Silas Snow took office on July 1, 1953, and after 22 years at the helm of UCA he resigned effective June 30, 1975. President Snow was the longest serving president in the history of the institution. His successor was Dr. Jefferson Farris, and the transition from Snow to Farris was also seamless with no interim president necessary.
The UCA Board of Trustees announced on April 12, 1975, that Dr. Jefferson D. Farris was succeeding President Silas D. Snow. Dr. Farris became president on July 1, 1975, and held that office until he resigned Dec. 1, 1986, to become chief executive officer of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
After President Farris resigned, he was succeeded by interim president Bill Pate. Pate served as interim president from Dec. 1, 1986 to Dec. 31, 1987. Pate had served as vice president for public affairs and was assistant to the president at the time of his appointment. After he was appointed interim president by the UCA Board of Trustees, he was quoted by The Echo as saying, "What I intend to do is to try to maintain the university on the course it’s already on... . I would consider it (my term) a success if people saw little or no change in the institution."
Pate was UCA’s third interim president.
The search to replace Farris took longer than many people expected and after Pate had served for 13 months in an interim capacity, he retired. He was replaced by Dr. H.B. Hardy, who served as interim president from Jan. 1, 1988 to March 31, 1988. Hardy was UCA’s fourth interim president.
After being appointed interim president, Hardy, who was the dean of graduate studies, was quoted by The Echo as saying, "I’m trying to keep the university running and protect the quality we have had over the years, and protect faculty and staff in their jobs. I want to do what I can to encourage others to get ready for new leadership."
Hardy’s role as interim president ended when UCA’s seventh president, Dr. Winfred L. Thompson, began his tenure as president on April 1, 1988. Thompson has the distinction of being the second longest-serving president in the history of UCA.
After President Thompson resigned in December 2001, Dr. John Smith was appointed by the Board of Trustees to serve as interim president until a full time president could take office. Dr. Smith was UCA’s fifth interim president. After Smith was appointed interim president, he was quoted by The Echo as saying, "I am deeply honored and appreciative of the confidence the board has in me to serve in this role."
Dr. Smith’s appointment as interim president began Dec. 21, 2001 and ended when Lu Hardin took office on Sept. 23, 2002. Hardin was UCA’s eighth president and he served in that capacity until he submitted his resignation, under pressure, on Aug. 28, 2008, with an effective date of Sept. 16, 2008. Hardin served as president for 5 years and 51 weeks.
Hardin resigned due to a controversy surrounding a $300,000 bonus he received that was not made public until several weeks later. Approximately two and one half years later, after an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance and cooperation of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, Hardin pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 26, 2011.
After Hardin resigned, Tom Courtway, UCA’s legal counsel, was appointed interim president by the Board of Trustees. Prior to becoming UCA’s legal counsel, Courtway practiced law in Conway, and served six years in the Arkansas House of Representatives. He had also served as interim director of the Arkansas Department of Education from October 2003 to May 2004. Courtway was UCA’s sixth interim president. Courtway served as interim president until he was replaced by UCA’s ninth president, Dr. Allen C. Meadors on July 7, 2009.
President Meadors served for a little more than two years until he was involved in a controversy surrounding a proposed gift of $700,000 from UCA’s food vendor, Aramark. Due to the fact that some important details were left out of the arrangement with Aramark when it was presented to the Board of Trustees, a public outcry ensued.
President Meadors resigned shortly thereafter and the UCA Board of Trustees accepted Meadors’ resignation and appointed Tom Courtway interim president on the same day, September 2, 2011. This will be Courtway’s second time to serve as interim president, therefore he is UCA’s sixth and seventh interim president.
When Courtway was asked what his goals were this time around while serving as interim president, he stated, "My goals for the next academic year are (I) to work to implement the provisions of the University’s Strategic Plan, (II) have a comprehensive report filed in May of next year with the Higher Learning Commission to continue the University’s accreditation and (III) develop and adopt enrollment goals for the University and implement a strategic enrollment management plan."
Author’s Note: Sources for this article include The Echo, Log Cabin Democrat, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Centennial History of the University of Central Arkansas by Jimmy Bryant, A History of the Arkansas State Teachers College by Ted Worley, Tom Courtway, Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society and court documents filed with the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas.