Many have referred to Jim Owen as one of the most influential teachers Conway High School has employed. He taught for 38 years, 28 of which were at Conway High School. Owen died Aug. 1 in Little Rock at age 65.
Corey Hale was one of Owen’s students, and Owen is the reason Hale went into teaching.
Hale graduated from Conway High School in 1995 and took Owen’s world history class his senior year.
"His class came with a reputation — that it was like a college class, and it was," Hale said. "He was so theatrical, so passionate about the subject. He just grabbed your attention and kept it. He was one of the first teachers I had who really embraced a narrative approach to teaching and it really connected to me."
Hale has been teaching high school journalism classes for the past 11 years. He was named campus teacher of the year at Lewisville High School in North Texas two years ago and was a finalist for district teacher of the year.
"I had to write an essay on why I became a teacher, so I got to pay homage to Jim Owen," Hale said. "I think about him each year when school starts."
Hale said Owen was regarded as many students’ favorite and most influential teacher and he "was larger than life."
"He will be missed," Hale said.
Many Conway High School alumni took to Facebook to express their grief and remembrance of the teacher who greeted them as "my wards, my lambs."
Amanda Gallagher Shirley said she was in his class when they watched the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold and "I wouldn’t have wanted to be in any other class during that awful time."
Denise A. Gilbert also expressed her appreciation for Owen.
"I was so glad to be in his class and be one of his wards and lambs," she said. "He made history an amazing subject. I still enjoy it to this day because of this man."
Parents of Owen’s students also posted how they appreciated his influence in their children’s lives.
"Thankful he was our children’s teacher and always looked forward to parent teacher conference/debate," said Els Strickland. "Condolences to his family."
In 2009, several of Owen’s supporters went to the Conway Public School Board of Education meeting when Owen retired, reapplied for his job and was not rehired.
In a Log Cabin Democrat article about that meeting dated Sept. 8, 2009, Bruce Haggard from Hendrix College spoke highly of Owen.
"It is a truly unique teacher that influences a student to go to college," Haggard told the Log Cabin. "If you ask a student, they generally name one teacher. Jim Owen is frequently named. He’s one of those rare teachers that’s routinely identified by students, parents and alumni as someone who has had an impact on their lives."
Owen is survived by Sherry Townsend Owen, his wife of 32 years; his daughter Sarah and his son Hunter. Also surviving are his sisters Paula Garland and Ellen Sowell and his brother Wilbur, along with many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, W. B., Jr. and Ruth Owen, and his brother Donald R. Owen.
Memorials may be made to the Arkansas Hospice Foundation, c/o Ottenheimer Center, 14 Parkstone Circle, NLR, AR 72116, or a charity of your choice.
Visitation is Sunday 3-5 p.m. at Roller-McNutt Funeral Home in Conway. The funeral services will be Monday at 2 p.m. at Conway First United Methodist Church.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1212. 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)