A longtime Little Rock businesswoman, educator and humanitarian is the new trustee for the University of Central Arkansas Board of Trustees.

Shelia Vaught, 62, who graduated UCA in 1971, was appointed to replace trustee Rush Harding III, who retired from the board after 21 years last year. 

Gov. Mike Beebe announced Vaught’s appointment in a news release Thursday. Her appointment expires on Jan. 14, 2020. 

"I’m honored to be selected," Vaught said. "I’ve loved watching (UCA) grow. I know we’ve had some bad publicity in the last few years, but I think it’s turning around."

The school has seen two former presidents charged and convicted of crimes in the past two years. Former President Lu Hardin pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in 2011. Former President Tom Meadors pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act this month.

But since 2008, UCA has crawled out of a budget deficit and has about $12 million in unrestricted cash reserves. Vaught said she is interested to see President Tom Courtway, who took over as president after Hardin and Meadors, in action, she said. Vaught has heard good things about him, she said. 

Courtway and Vaught talked over the phone Thursday and plan to meet Monday. Vaught will have an orientation day sometime next week, she said.

"She’s very excited to be on the board, and we’re excited to have her," Courtway said during the Faculty Senate meeting Thursday. "I think she’ll do a great job."

Vaught has roots in the Central Arkansas community, she said. She has two daughters, two sons-in-law and four grandchildren. Her husband, Larry, is a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

With her appointment as a UCA trustee, Vaught will also be appointed to the UCA Audit Committee for two years, Courtway said. She will service with trustees Bunny Adcock and Brad Lacy.

Vaught said she believes her skills as a businesswoman and an event coordinator will be an asset to the board. She has chaired RiverFest and Race for the Cure events, and she owned the Little Rock School of Dance for 35 years before retiring to be a wedding and event planner, she said. Before that, she was a school teacher in Little Rock for six and a half years.

When she is not running businesses and events, Vaught volunteers her time, she said. She has been appointed and served on multiple boards, she said. On Thursday night, she was at a fundraising event she was helping put together for the Arkansas Baptist College.

"I love to volunteer," Vaught said.