The event marked a major milestone for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, but it also signaled the beginning of a life shift for Donaghey Scholars Program Director Dr. C. Earl Ramsey, a tenured professor of English.
Thirteen months later, Ramsey would retire after a quarter century directing what had become arguably one of the best college honors programs in the world.
As Donaghey Scholars Program Director Emeritus, Ramsey admits the transition has been bittersweet, but he takes immense satisfaction that the program today is in the capable hands of Director Dr. Simon Hawkins and Assistant Director Dr. Jessica Scott.
Ramsey's ties to the program and the university remain strong; he retularly hears from former Scholars and even makes time for a periodic game of poker with colleagues.
Ramsey also remains connected through a recently planned charitable gift annuity for the C. Earl and Kathy Ramsey Distinguished Lecture Series Fund, making him and his wife among the newest members of the UALR Heritage Society.
The fund was established during the Silver Jubilee to help bring top-notch academics from a wide variety of fields to campus for lectures that would be free and open to the public. (At the insistence of the jubilee's planning group, the fund was named for Ramsey.)
Establishing the planned gift was something Ramsey and his wife discussed during early preparations for the Silver Jubilee.
"We benefitted from the fact I was able to work at a job I love for so long, and we both just felt it was something we ought to do," Ramsey said. "It's not that hard (to give something back). People measure us by what we contribute."
Fundraising efforts thus far have been insufficient to fully fund the account, a fact disappointing to some, including Hawkins, the program's current director. Even though scholars have benefitted from the generous resources the program provides, Ramsey molded the program into what it is today, says Hawkins.
"His energy, dedication, stubbornness, humor, caring, and curiosity have shaped the character of this program, making it distinct in a world of generic honors programs," Hawkins said.
Former Scholars who provide funding for the series pay tribute to Ramsey's legacy, Hawkins noted.
The strength of that legacy and the Donaghey Scholars Program is demonstrated in the successful outcomes of its many graduates--the program produced the first female graduate from Arkansas to win the Rhodes Scholarship and nearly half of the state's finalists for the Truman Scholarship.
Ramsey said the privately supported program will be essential to recruiting the best students in the years ahead as state funding continues to dwindle.
"Our Scholars benefitted from the kind of giving that promoted a strong, intellectually challenging environment for them," he said.
"My hope is that they step up and recognize the opportunity they now have to give a little something back," Ramsey concluded.
For former students or any others who wish to honor Dr. Earl Ramsey by giving to the Lecture Series, donations may be sent to UALR Foundation Office of Development, 2801 S. University Ave., Little Rock, AR 72204-1099, with "Ramsey Lecture Series" in the check's memo section.