UCA Gala to Honor Distinguished Alumni

The University of Central Arkansas Foundation will host its second annual Night of Distinction on Saturday, May 12.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. at the HPER Center on the UCA campus. The annual gala and awards ceremony celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished alumni.

Sen. Stanley Russ and the late James Bridges will be named the 2012 Distinguished Alumni. Sen. Stanley Russ, who attended UCA in 1951, served in the Arkansas Senate from 1975 to 1999. During that time, he became the third ranking senator; president pro tempore of the Senate; and majority leader.

James Bridges, a 1956 UCA graduate, was a movie producer, director and screenwriter. He was known for some of the biggest hit films of the 1970s and 1980s. Bridges’ 1973 film, The Paper Chase, was nominated for several Academy Awards. His third film, China Syndrome, earned Bridges a second Oscar nomination for best writing, screenplay. Bridges passed away in 1993 of intestinal cancer.

Karen Sullards will receive the Alumni Service Award for her contributions to UCA. Sullards, a 1972 and 1975 graduate, dedicated 38 years to public education. She spent a majority of her career in the Pulaski County Special School District. She was honored in 2000, as the PTA Administrator of the Year and won the 2008 Bobby G. Lester Excellence in Education Award for Administration.

Sullards retired in 2009 and began working for the Arkansas Department of Education as a school improvement director. She has served on the UCA Alumni Board several times, most recently in 2011 as vice president. She is heavily involved with different aspects of the alumni association.

“The Night of Distinction is an event to celebrate the accomplishments of three outstanding alums as well as raise funds for the renovation of a landmark on our campus,” said UCA President Tom Courtway. “Sen. Stanley Russ, James Bridges and Karen Sullards have all made names for themselves in many areas of politics, business, the entertainment industry and education. Each deserves the honor. We look forward to a great evening of fun, entertainment and focus on these individuals, UCA and Ida Waldran Auditorium.”

This year’s gala will raise funds to support the ongoing renovations of Ida Waldran Auditorium. Ida Waldran was chosen because it is the 75th anniversary of the building.

Karen SullardsThe auditorium opened in 1937 and has become one of UCA’s most recognizable facilities on campus. The condition of the auditorium has deteriorated due to years of budget constraints. Renovations began in December 2011.

Shelley Mehl, vice president of advancement, hopes funds from the event will help with the third phase of renovations, which will include bathrooms on the first floor, and to purchase new audio and visual equipment.

“We want it to be a place open to the community and UCA students as well,” she said.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit uca.edu/gala.  – Spencer Griffin