Table No. One, where the late Leo ?Hippo? Crafton and several of his long-time friends sat at the weekly noon meeting of the Conway Rotary Club, will get to share favorite stories and memories of Crafton fittingly from now on in the “Hippo” Crafton Room at the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center on the UCA Campus.
That became official on Thursday when President Lu Hardin, Board Chairman Rush Harding III and members of the Crafton family, including Crafton’s widow, Dorothy, unveiled a plaque that will be placed in the room Rotarians meet in weekly.
The longtime owner of United Motor Company in Conway and devoted UCA supporter died November 30, 2000.
Hal Crafton, one of his two sons (the other being Leo Crafton III), remembered a comment of his dad’s the night of his death. “‘If you’ve got friends, you’re a rich man.’ My dad died a rich man.”
President Hardin, Chairman Harding, and longtime friends Dennis Locke and Marvin DeBoer all had remarks about Crafton. Hardin said, “His commitment to this university is phenomenal.”
The president also shared a favorite quote of his own, “Nothing has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm,? then added how applicable that was to Crafton.
Locke, a fellow member of Crafton’s table “No. One”, said Crafton’s presence was a “good reason to attend Rotary.” He also recalled some of Crafton’s many favorite sayings, including “He knows big wood from kindling.”
DeBoer called Crafton “A genuine good-natured, optimistic, hopeful person. I will always cherish his memory.”
Harding said, “you can tell a lot about a man by the children he has” in summing up his close friendship with Hal Crafton.
Many current and former members of the UCA administration, faculty and staff attended Thursday’s ceremony.
The family of “Hippo” Crafton, a 1949 alumnus of the University of Central Arkansas, recently made a $100,000 gift to the university’s Reynolds campaign. The gift will allow the university to meet its financial obligation and close out the campaign.
President Hardin said the gift would be a long-term benefit to the university. “The generosity of Hal and his family will allow us to fulfill the Reynolds Foundation requirements, which in turn qualifies us to pursue future grants from this organization,” he said.
Hal Crafton, a former UCA student, said the donation was made to his, his brother, Leo’s (BS-’75), and his father’s alma mater “because UCA meant a lot to our father.” The family chose to direct their gift to the Reynolds campaign because they understood there was a need to support that campaign.
In 1997, the Reynolds Foundation awarded a $5.8 million grant to build a state-of-the-art performance hall that is now the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall. A requirement for receiving this grant was that UCA must raise 20 percent of the grant amount to establish an endowment to maintain the building.
Crafton, who also is a local business owner, recognized the $119 million economic impact of UCA on the community and felt it was important to support the university. “As a business person and a native of Conway, I understand that this town and its businesses benefits from UCA. We must support our local university if we want it to continue supporting us,” he said.
-Tommy Jackson & Jennifer Boyett