By Donna Lampkin Stephens
Courtesy of 501 Life
Dr. Joe Allison, a research fellow at Phillips 66, and Terry Pillow, CEO of Tommy Bahama Group, will be named Distinguished Alumni at the third University of Central Arkansas Night of Distinction on Saturday, April 27.
The gala evening will also celebrate Patsy Minton Newton’s Alumni Service award and the naming of the UCA Honors College in honor of its founder, Dr. Norb Schedler.
Doors will open at 5:45 p.m. at the Farris Center for the 6:30 p.m. gala. A VIP reception at the skyboxes at Estes Stadium will begin at 5 p.m.
DR. JOE ALLISON
“I would have never considered (myself) being worthy of the award,” Allison said. “When you consider the list of previous Distinguished Alumni, to be considered in the same group is humbling in itself.”
Allison, who grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Pulaski Robinson High School, is a 1979 UCA graduate with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Purdue and has worked in Research and Development at ConocoPhillips since 1983. He is the inventor or co-inventor on nearly 60 U.S. patents or patents pending and several dozen international patents.
Allison is an expert on alternative fuels, process chemistry and catalysis. He discovered his true loves at UCA:
“First, the challenge and enjoyment that chemistry has to offer. The second, and more important, was the challenge and enjoyment of courting and marrying” the former Laura Hollenbeck, to whom he has now been married for 34 years.
He met Laura during their first-year chemistry class.
“We were best friends during our time assisting in laboratories in the department,” he said. “We had many of the same classes together and at the end of our junior year we fell madly in love and were married six months later, in December of 1978.”
He lived in State Hall for four years.
“Campus life was enjoyable, and I had a great time (at times too great),” he said. “The camaraderie of good friends in Christian Cafeteria or watching ‘Gunsmoke’ reruns on our 12-inch black and white TV is often fondly remembered. I was an avid Bears fan for both football and basketball. Monte Coleman was the star on the football team during those years.”
After graduate school, he started his career at Conoco, now Phillips 66, in Ponca City, Okla. He was named a 2010 Fellow of the American Chemical Society and Distinguished Alumnus of the Purdue Department of Chemistry the same year. In 2008, he won the Oklahoma Chemist Award.
He said he and his wife (who also earned a B.S. in chemistry in ’79) hold UCA’s Chemistry Department as a model undergraduate teaching group through the personal faculty-student interactions “and the outstanding undergraduate research opportunities they provide.”
“One of the fondest memories we have is of the trips to chemistry meetings to present our UCA undergraduate research work,” Allison said. “Often we would have five to 10 students and two to three faculty members crammed in a University van to attend these meetings. The experience of presenting your research work with other undergraduates, professors and industrial chemists is most rewarding.”
The Allisons, who now live in Bartlesville, Okla., have established an endowed fund with the UCA Foundation to provide travel monies for UCA chemistry students to present their undergraduate research results at regional and national meetings.
He said his involvement in the UCA Chemistry Department grew from being one of a pack of incoming freshmen to a lab assistant during a special research project.
“I most enjoyed the personal interactions of the faculty (I think there were only five full-time and one half-time members) in both the classroom, as a lab assistant and finally, in a research program,” he said. “During the more advanced courses there were usually five or so in the entire class. The hands-on instrumentation experiences that the faculty allowed stead us well for future work and graduate school.
“Laura and I were very pleased that we were as well, and even better, prepared for graduate school at Purdue as those that went to any large university.”
Laura Allison is a retired chief chemist from ConocoPhillips. They have two children, Brent, who lives in Tulsa, and Tara, who lives in Lubbock, Texas.
Pillow, who grew up in Corning, earned his bachelor of business administration degree in marketing in 1976. He was active in Sigma Tau Gamma and was a class officer.
“Being honored by your Alma Mater is one of the greatest and humbling events in life. It has been a long time, but I’m often reminded of how influential my time at UCA has been in my life,” Pillow said.
“Most important was the UCA community: Lifelong friendships of mine were formed at UCA, and I’ve not forgotten my talented and patient mentors in the classroom, on the field, and in my off-campus jobs. These were people who provided encouragement and allowed me to try new ideas and become confident. In short, it’s the reason I’ve been successful today.”
Pillow arrived in Conway to attend what was then State College of Arkansas (renamed UCA in 1975). As a student, he worked at Browning and White, a men’s store in the city. After graduation, he joined the executive training program at Niemen Marcus in Dallas.
He joined Tommy Bahama in 2008, taking over the chief executive position from company co-founder Tony Margolis.
The Tommy Bahama Group has more than 1,500 employees and does approximately $500 million in sales revenue. As CEO, Pillow is responsible for the overall direction and expansion of the popular lifestyle brand, which includes a men’s and women’s apparel collection, more than 100 retail stores, 14 restaurants and a licensing business that includes accessories, fragrance, a complete home collection and international partnerships.
His career spans 30 years in the apparel, footwear and accessories business. He has held executive leadership positions with several of the world’s most successful and renowned brands, including A/X Armani Exchange, Coach and Polo Ralph Lauren.
“UCA is built on a reputation of excellence and I’m proud to be an alumnus of an institution that stands by its commitment,” Pillow said. “I applaud the faculty, staff and students at UCA, from years past and today, who keep this great tradition going.”
Newton, a 1952 graduate, will receive the Alumni Service Award. Newton, a lifetime member of the UCA Alumni Association, is serving her third term on its board of directors. She chaired the 1952 class reunion, served on several alumni association committees and as secretary of the association and chaired the UCA President’s Residence committee.
“I grew up in Conway, and pretty much on the ASTC campus, so my roots are here from way back,” said Newton, who, following graduation, didn’t return to Conway to live until 2001. “You can imagine the changes at UCA I discovered and what an impression the university made when I began to get involved with the Alumni Association and other activities on campus.
“Conway is a really great place to live. I am thrilled to have received this award and look forward to more opportunities to stay informed and serve.”
Proceeds from the evening will support the $3 million Honors College Campaign that will support Travel Abroad Grants (TAG) and Undergraduate Research Grants for Education (URGE).
The evening will also continue a day-long celebration of the naming of the UCA Honors College in honor of the well-loved Schedler, its founder. The Honors College became the university’s first named college, while celebrating 30th anniversary. It was founded during the 1982-83 academic year.
For more information about Night of Distinction or to order tickets visit uca.edu/gala.