UCA biology department gifted Jewel Moore academic regalia

Jewel Moore’s legacy with the University of Central Arkansas has become even more significant now that the Department of Biology in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics has acquired her graduation regalia. 

Moore, for whom the Jewel Moore Nature Reserve is named, was a well-known and beloved professor from UCA’s Biology Department. She’s also known for advocating the preservation of the land she utilized as an outdoor classroom beginning in 1977 and later named in her honor in 1980 by the Board of Trustees. This land remains today as a beautiful remnant of prairie land in Conway and as a feature of UCA’s campus lending to its natural beauty while serving as a source of education for university students and the public.

She passed away in April 2022 at the age of 103. When Patricia Phelps considered selling the graduation regalia she’d bought from Moore over 30 years ago, she wasn’t aware that Moore’s passing had been so recent. 

Patty Phelps wearing regalia she bought from Jewel Moore.

Patty Phelps wearing regalia she bought from Jewel Moore.

The history of the regalia goes back to Moore’s wearing it during her tenure at UCA from 1947-1983. By the time Phelps arrived in fall 1987, Moore had already retired.  “Basically, when you graduate with your doctorate, a lot of people bought their cap and gown, but they’re not cheap, but you’re going to wear them forever, so I rented one my first time that I marched, and then someone told me, ‘Hey, Dr. Jewel Moore has hers for sale.’” 

Jewel Moore (from 1964 Scroll)

Jewel Moore (from 1964 Scroll)

Phelps contacted Moore and offered to purchase the cap and gown and did so for $50, “She gave me the box that the cap was in and then the robe was on a hanger.” The cap was, and still is, in its original packaging lined with newspaper and the only alteration to the gown includes a zipper that was put in, Phelps believes, by Moore. 

Phelps continued to wear the regalia to graduation ceremonies at UCA for the next 32 years, feeling its beauty and substance, “I always love the December graduations because it was so warm. It is much heavier than modern day gowns. The weight of it is just incredible. And always very cozy…the longer I wore it, the more I knew, this one’s different…” Phelps estimates the gown to be “at least 70 years old.”

Having worn it for the last time in 2019, Phelps decided to sell it to a newer biology department faculty member in fall 2022 to continue Moore’s legacy within the department, “I just said I’ll contact Dr. [David] Dussourd with the intention of selling it for a minimal amount to a new professor.”

Dussourd is a biology professor who has been with the university since 1991. After he sent out an email to the department, the response was one of great enthusiasm as faculty wanted to buy the regalia and make it a tribute to Moore to display for students to see and learn the history of the reserve. With that, Phelps graciously decided, “I’m not going to sell it to the department. I will donate it!”

Dussourd picked up the cap with its original gold-colored beaded tassel and the gown and delivered it to the biology department. They are currently deciding how to encase and preserve the regalia along with another piece of written memorabilia from Moore, donated by associate professor Mark Bland. According to biology department Chair Brent Hill, there will also be a plaque made, as he believes the artifacts will add to the history and legacy of Moore. The plaque will read:

In Memory of

Dr. Jewel Moore

   6/5/1918 to 2/25/2022

In appreciation for her impact on the lives of UCA students with

her smile and enthusiasm for the natural world. She was a

devoted botanist for the state of Arkansas.

UCA Biology Professor, 1947-1983

“Teach students to see the land, understand what they see and enjoy what they understand.”

    Aldo Leopold