March 30 event replaces Night of Distinction

The University of Central Arkansas will host the Laurels & Stripes scholarship gala at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 30, in the HPER Center on the UCA Campus.

Formerly known as Night of Distinction, Laurels & Stripes will offer a fresh, updated take on a very important annual event for UCA. As in years past, the goal of the event is two-fold. First, it will celebrate two exceptional individuals, 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients Elizabeth “Liz” Blankenship ’75 and Dr. Barbara Williams ’71. Second, it will raise money for much-needed student scholarships. All proceeds from the event will directly benefit student scholarship programs at UCA.

The theme Laurels & Stripes references the tradition of using laurel wreaths to signify a great accomplishment, while the stripes allow UCA to show its Bear pride.

“The name of our annual scholarship fundraiser has changed, but the focus remains the same,” said Dr. Kale Gober, vice president for University Advancement. “The event will celebrate distinguished alumni, support scholarships and change lives.”

Tickets to Laurels & Stripes, which is presented by First Security Bank, are sold out. Almost 600 people are slated to attend the event.

“For Laurels & Stripes to be sold-out weeks in advance of the event speaks volumes of the excitement and engagement of our friends, alumni and corporate partners,” said Gober. “Their support for privately-funded scholarships will have an enormous impact on our students’ lives for generations to come. They are making dreams come true.”

Event-goers will enjoy a brief program, along with dinner and dancing into the evening to the tunes of Memphis Soul Revue.

The highlight of the evening is honoring recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award, which is the most prestigious award presented to UCA alumni. It recognizes outstanding contributions to the university, community, state or society; outstanding achievements in a particular field of endeavor; or a reputation that enhances the reputation of the university. Recipients also serve as an example to students and contribute to the goals or welfare of the university.

One of this year’s honorees, Liz Blankenship, is an entrepreneur and advocate who has dedicated more than 40 years to the creation and support of quality healthcare and assisted living facilities for seniors. She designed and built the first assisted living, home-style cottages in Arkansas, and her facilities have received numerous awards for quality.

She was one of the first National Center of Assisted Living state leaders representing Arkansas. She also served as the first president of the Arkansas Assisted Living Board of Directors, a title she held for six years, while also serving on the Arkansas Health Care Association Board for 13 years. In 2018, she received the prestigious George O. Jernigan Award in recognition of her service and contributions to long-term care. Read more about Blankenship here.

A second honoree, Dr. Barbara Williams, is former chair of the University of Central Arkansas School of Nursing, a role she held from 1990 to her retirement in 2016.

During her time as chair, Williams oversaw significant enrollment growth, several graduate specialty tracks and the development in new ways of delivering education, initially teaching off-campus graduate courses, then teaching via compressed video, to teaching several degrees and tracks completely online.

Williams has served on numerous boards, including the Conway Regional Health System Board of Directors, the board of the Arkansas Association of Hospital Trustees and the CHI St. Vincent Board of Directors. She was presented with the prestigious Arkansas Hospital Association Chairman’s Award in 2014. Learn more about Williams here.

This year’s event co-chairs are Todd and Kristie Ross of Conway. The community-minded couple met when they were both students at UCA. Todd is the president and CEO of Preferred Medical and also serves on the UCA Foundation Board. The Rosses believe in the power of a quality education and wanted to show their continued support of UCA through their leadership as co-chairs of Laurels & Stripes.

For more information about Laurels & Stripes, visit laurelsandstripes.com or contact Amanda Hoelzeman at ahoelzeman@uca.edu or (501) 852-2659.