Nearly two hundred people gathered Tuesday evening at Conway High School to honor three outstanding residents who have made a meaningful and lasting contribution to Conway Public Schools.
The Conway Public Schools Foundation inducted Conway Corporation Chief Executive Officer Richard Arnold, former Conway school board member Carolyn Lewis and Conway Mayor Tab Townsell to the Hall of Honor. Lewis is the first woman to be inducted.
The foundation’s Hall of Honor recognizes former students, faculty, administrators and community leaders who left their mark on Conway Public Schools.
The Conway High School jazz band, Ruth Doyle Middle School choir and thespians from the high school’s upcoming musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" provided entertainment through the event.
Townsell was honored as Distinguished Alumni, and spoke about the legacy of leadership as a graduate of Conway Schools.
"I want to say thank you to the Foundation for this nomination. I am humbled by it," he said, mentioning those in the crowd who had been honored in years before him. "I am glad to be a part of this great tradition [of leadership]."
Townsell graduated from Conway High School in 1979. From there, he graduated from UCA in 1984, with a major in political science and a minor in economics. Townsell earned an MBA from Texas Christian University in 1986 and was elected mayor of Conway in 1998, where he is in his fifth and final term.
Arnold, recognized as a Friend to Conway Public Schools, lauded his company as one that perpetuates the value of education and has done so in Conway since 1929.
"I am sitting with a table of my colleagues tonight who value education and recognize that a great community does not exist if it doesn’t have good schools," he said. "I recognize that Conway Corp is being honored tonight, and you’ve got a friend of the district forever."
Arnold started at Conway Corporation in 1978, where he served as the manager of the data processing department until he was promoted to Manager of Finance and Accounting.
In 1996, he became the Chief Financial Officer for two years until he became the Chief Executive Officer in 1998. He is just the fifth person to hold Conway Corporation’s CEO position.
But perhaps it was Lewis’ acceptance speech that resonated most with the crowd, compelling a standing ovation as she exited the stage. Honored as Distinguished Educator, the former principal left the audience (many of whom were former students and colleagues) in tears.
Lewis, who is a cancer survivor, told a story of a friend who lost her battle with the disease just last month. She then read lyrics to a song played at the memorial that inspired her, "How You Live," by Point of Grace:
"Take a few chances; And let it all out; Cause you won’t regret it; Lookin’ back from where you have been; ’Cause it’s not who you knew; And it’s not what you did; It’s how you lived …"
Lewis graduated from Conway High School in 1961 and earned a BSE and MSE in early childhood education from the University of Central Arkansas.
She taught in the Conway district for 10 years at Ellen Smith Elementary (six years) and Marguerite Vann Elementary (four years) after teaching at Warren Dupree Elementary in Pulaski County for five years at Mayflower Elementary for five years.
After stops as assistant principal at Marguerite Vann and principal at Sallie Cone, Lewis retired in 1999, but was elected to the school board in 2000.
She served as secretary, vice-president and president in her 10-year tenure on the board.
Lewis, whose son, Mark and daughter-in-law Dayna, are also Conway Schools principals, were seated front and center. "Conway Public Schools are such a huge part of my life," Lewis told the crowd. "They are where I was educated as a child and where I retired as an adult. Our family has been blessed to be a part of Conway Public Schools."
For more information on the Conway Public Schools Foundation, visit cpsfoundation.com.