Women’s rights champion selected for UCA’s Distinguished Alumni award for 2023

Nan SnowFor decades, Nan Snow ’57 has been a resounding champion for the cause of women’s equality. Throughout her years of service, Snow has been instrumental in improving women’s economic opportunities and overall well-being. Her work, which has had a substantial impact on the lives of countless individuals, has earned her the 2023 University of Central Arkansas Distinguished Alumni Award. 

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the most prestigious award presented to an alumnus or alumna – recognizing those who have made significant contributions to the university, community, state or society; outstanding achievements in a particular field of endeavor; or have a character that enhances the reputation of the university. 

In her early years, Snow lived in the far western part of Oklahoma. As a child, her father was involved in bridge construction, which forced the family to move every time a bridge was completed.

“It taught me to adapt and do different things and go different places,” Snow said. “It was a very busy and fascinating start to life.” 

Snow and her family eventually settled in Harrison, Arkansas, which is where she graduated from high school before enrolling at Arkansas State Teachers College. 

“I had always heard good things about it because so many Harrison graduates went to UCA – which was ASTC then,” she said. “I would visit my friends there, so I was very familiar with it and wanted very badly to go.”

Snow even received a private tour from Silas Snow, UCA’s fifth and longest-serving president (1953-1975). 

“You can’t say no to that sort of invitation,” Snow said. “It really has, and remains to this day, been one of the highlights of my life.” Snow says her college experience opened more doors for her than she ever anticipated. 

While in school, Snow was editor of The Echo, secretary of her senior class and vice president of Alpha Sigma Tau. She was also a member of Royal Rooters, Alpha Chi and listed as Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities. Snow earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1957. 

Snow’s interest in writing and journalism began at a young age. Both her grandfathers owned small-town north Arkansas newspapers. Even though both of them sold the newspaper businesses before she was born, Snow believes their careers influenced her. She wrote a poem in 5th grade that was published in the Harrison High School newspaper. 

“Then, I was hooked. ‘I’m a writer,’ I thought. From then on, that became my interest,” she said.

Snow worked for several newspapers, starting with high school, then college and as a career, “doing a little bit of everything.” She experienced inequality which led to a few key “a-ha” moments that crystallized her drive to fight for change. The first happened in high school when she and some friends wanted to start a girls’ basketball team. The superintendent refused, saying it “wasn’t lady-like.” Snow would eventually get to play intramural basketball, as well as touch football, for her sorority at UCA. 

“You should’ve seen us; it was hysterical,” she said. 

Another “a-ha” moment for Snow came when she applied for a position at the Arkansas Gazette in 1959 after years of experience in a newsroom. 

“I thought the newspaper would be glad to have my experience and would hire me. But they told me that they did not allow women in the city room,” she said. Years later, the newspaper offered her a reporter position, which she turned down. 

Those events and others sparked Snow’s desire to fight for women’s equality. She earned two master’s degrees from Southern Methodist University and shifted her career to public service and advocacy. As a graduate student, Snow interned with the Dallas Chamber of Commerce where she helped develop the first Leadership Dallas program. 

Much of Snow’s career was devoted to working in federal service, and she served for a time as the Federal Women’s program coordinator for the five-state Dallas region. During her federal employment, Snow suggested and implemented a nationwide program to train and employ blind persons in Federal Job Information Centers.

Snow has served on many boards. She was selected as the inaugural chair of the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame and was named president of the Arkansas affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She also served as a  board member for the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, the Arkansas Women’s History Institute, LifeQuest of Arkansas and Encore for Women’s Health. 

She was president of the Arkansas chapter of the American Society for Public Administration and a member of the Arkansas Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, which produced a landmark report still used as a benchmark on women’s status. 

“We were very proud that we published the first complete report about women that had been done in literally dozens of years. I was very proud to be a part of that and it did make a lot of difference,” Snow said. “For example, in one of the state agencies – the State Department of Education – when a young high school girl became pregnant, she was expelled. We got that changed. We felt she especially needed to continue her education with having a child to support. Plus, there was no penalty for the boy involved. That was one of our biggest successes, to give opportunities for those young women.”

Snow’s work with the commission fueled her passion and led to even more equality work. She met like-minded changemakers across the country through conferences and other networking events, including newspaper publisher, civic activist and governmental official Dorothy Stuck (1921-2021). Stuck and Snow formed a management and public relations firm in Little Rock called “Stuck & Snow Resultants.” 

Snow authored two books that reached the bestseller list in Arkansas. “Roberta: A Most Remarkable Fulbright,” which she co-authored with Stuck, received an award of commendation from the American Association of State and Local History. Her second book, “Letters Home,” is a World War II memoir. 

Snow is a founder and charter member of the UCA Women’s Giving Circle, a member of the UCA Purple Circle and most recently, the inspiration for the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference at UCA. She was part of the Arkansas Women’s Foundation, which started “Girls of Promise.” She helped the UCA faculty and staff start Girls of Promise at UCA, which is now UCA’s Girl Power of Stem.

As president of Komen and a breast cancer survivor, Snow created a fundraising project called “4 Survivors, 4 Rivers, 4 a Cure,” in which she and three other survivors rafted four rivers, raising $10,000 for the foundation. 

She also served as a board member for Southern Methodist University’s Archives of Women of the Southwest. She was among those honored by the archives in its “Remember the Ladies” program. 

In spite of all her accomplishments, being honored with UCA’s most distinguished recognition came as a surprise to Snow. 

“When I got the call from President Houston Davis, and he told me that I had been selected, I think my response is best described as a total shock,” she said. “It was not something I had ever expected. I really was floored by the news and flattered and honored at the same time. It means a great deal to me.” 


By Haley Helton