Phelps Scholarship Invests in Future Educators
Hank and Patty Phelps know what success means to them.
“Those who are truly successful serve in some way,” Patty Phelps said. “They are giving of their time. Their success is measured in the impact and influence they have on the world. It’s about service.”
With a philosophy of service as motivation, the Phelpses created an endowed scholarship fund in 2012. By 2019, the Hank and Patty Phelps Education Scholarship had awarded its first recipient.
“We were delighted that the endowment had reached the level where scholarships could be given while we’re still healthy and able to interact with the students,” Patty Phelps said. “It is really something special.”
Before both retired from UCA, the Phelpses were dedicated to supporting students – both in and out of the classroom.
Hank Phelps held many roles in student affairs, including director of student activities, director of orientation and director of the Student Center. Notably, he created Summer Orientation and Academic Registration, better known as SOAR – a program designed to help students transition into college life. He was also the longtime director of the Student Orientation Staff (SOS), a group of student volunteers who facilitate orientation, registration and move-in for the 2,000 or so incoming freshmen each summer.
Meanwhile, Patty Phelps was in the classroom: First as a high school teacher, then as a professor of education at UCA, preparing future middle and high school educators. One of her primary roles was supervising students as they completed their student teaching experiences. She was also an administrator, serving many years as director of the Instructional Development Center, which is now the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Academic Leadership. She also served as interim dean of UCA’s College of Education.
The couple is clearly reflected in the criteria for their scholarship, which is for undergraduate students in the teacher education program with a grade point average of at least 3.0. Additionally, applicants must serve as part of the SOS program.
Hank and Patty like to say, half-jokingly but with an element of truth, that their respective roles at UCA helped them recognize students as whole people, with lives both in and out of the classroom.
With their scholarship, they not only wanted to reward service while encouraging future educators but they also wanted to acknowledge the reality that upperclassmen majoring in education often cannot work and complete their student teaching duties at the same time.
Josey Rowe ’20 of Conway received the first Phelps Scholarship in 2019. She was a part of the SOS program, serving as a team leader in 2019, and then continued to work with Hank in the Student Center. She now teaches 5th grade math and science at Morrilton Intermediate School.
“Hank and Patty both had a positive impact on my college career,” Rowe said. “Hank’s positive attitude and happy demeanor made work fun every day. And Dr. Phelps has always been something of a legend in the College of Education. Everyone loved her and everyone wanted to have her as their professor. When I saw that they were funding a scholarship for education majors in SOS, I knew I had to apply.”
Rowe said she has been pleased to discover that she gained more than financial aid from the Phelpses.
“They have been my cheerleaders — celebrating my graduation and my first job, attending my wedding and helping in any way they can along the way,” Rowe said. “I am so honored to have received their scholarship and blessed to have their friendship and support.”
Just as Rowe is inspired by the Phelpses, the Phelpses were originally inspired to set up the scholarship by two beloved professors at their alma mater. Compelled to donate when the professors passed away, Hank and Patty were heartbroken to discover there was no fund established to honor their memory.
That disappointment turned to action. Now, the pair is delighted each time someone donates to their fund in honor of a favorite professor or to invest in their mission of supporting service and education.
In addition to their experiences in and out of the classroom, Hank at one point served on a review committee for scholarship applications, which deepened his empathy for students.
“It was such a sobering experience because we were reading these heartbreaking stories of hardship — young people trying to better themselves or trying to get an education. You want to help them all,” he said. “Of course, you can’t. And so you try to lead by example, by helping who you can and giving your time, being of service. If we can be remembered for that — that’s a credit.”