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Distinguished Alumni to be honored at Homecoming Oct. 24

Oct. 5, 2009 -- The Arkansas State University Alumni Association will honor four outstanding individuals in its 26th year of recognizing distinguished alumni. The Distinguished Alumni presentation ceremony will be held at halftime of the Homecoming football game on Saturday, Oct. 24.

This year’s honorees are: Wayne and Virginia Baker, business and community leaders of Jonesboro; Jake Bell, a theatrical stage manager and technical production manager of New York City, and Dr. F. M. Wilson of Jonesboro, a noted physician.

Wayne and Virginia Baker
For the first time in its history, the ASU Alumni Association board of directors has voted to present a joint Distinguished Alumni awWayne and Virginia Baker are the first-ever recipients of the joint Distinguished Alumni Award, presented by the Alumni Association of Arkansas State University.ard, feeling that the achievements of this year's recipients, Jonesboro residents Wayne F. Baker, Class of 1955, and Virginia Robinson Baker, Class of 1945, could not be separated.

They met as A-State students, with Mr. Baker's education interrupted by military service during the Korean War and to help his father on the family farm. After his graduation, he convinced Mrs. Baker to trade her teaching career to join him in business ownership. In 1959, they established W. F. and V. R. Baker Enterprises, reflecting the partnership that included Baker Rentals and Sales (the first business of its kind in this area), Baker Health Care Specialties (also the first of its kind in the area), and Northeast Arkansas Fence Company, many of whose fences are still standing strong after 50 years.

Reflecting their love for the alma mater which brought them together, Mr. and Mrs. Baker are solid supporters of ASU. When a new basketball court was needed, the Bakers donated nails and nailing machines to install wood over the existing asphalt.

Mrs. Baker, a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta alumnae group, has served as advisor to the sorority over the years. She also serves the Craighead County Community Foundation, working to improve this area's quality of life. Along with his own service on the Craighead County Community Foundation, Mr. Baker serves on the of the Arkansas State University Campaign Leadership Council, the Chancellor's Cabinet, ASU's College of Nursing and Health Professions advisory board, and the Pi Kappa Alpha alumni group. Their service has made them cherished members of the community, the ASU family and their own extended family of nieces and nephews.

Jake Bell
Jake Bell of New York City is a 1974 graduate of the Department of Theatre in the College of Fine Arts. He set his sights on Broadway and attained his goal five yearsJake Bell, recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award this year, is also the recipient of the 2006 College of Fine Arts Outstanding Alumnus Award. after graduation when he became stage manager for the 1979 national tour of the Broadway production of "Grease."

In his subsequent 30-year career, he has served as stage manager and/or technical production manager for many of the most successful and longest running shows in Broadway history, including "Cats," "A Chorus Line," "Dreamgirls," "Les Miserables," "Phantom of the Opera," "Miss Saigon." and most recently, "Wicked." He presently has eight companies of different shows running in New York, Las Vegas, and touring the United States. He is also currently working with the conceptual team in the planning phase of a new musical, "Spiderman."

As owner of Jake Bell Production Management Services, Mr. Bell is a role model for others in the technical management side of theater, and continues to serve as an excellent resource for ASU's theatre faculty and students concerning theatre practices in New York. He is an annual donor to the Theater Department's scholarship fund, donates theatrical memorabilia, and provided his testimonial regarding the quality of education he received at ASU and how it helped him become a success on Broadway. His success and dedication to ASU led to his receiving the 2006 College of Fine Arts Outstanding Alumnus Award, when he met with students to share his story.

In addition to his professional responsibilities, Mr. Bell is also involved with NYACK Center, a non-profit organization serving underserved children, and the Friends of Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain. He and his wife Regina Rodwell-Bell have two children, Spencer and Noel.

Dr. F. M. Wilson
Dr. Francis Marion Wilson of Jonesboro, A-State Class of 1948, has spent the majority of his professional life in service to the university and its Dr. F. M. Wilson, a recipient of this year's Distinguished Alumni Award, has served Arkansas State University and its students in many capacities for more than 40 years.students. A native of Caraway, he graduated from Caraway's Central High School in 1940. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in January 1941, and enlisted in the U. S. Navy in 1942, where he served throughout World War II aboard ship as a medical corpsman.

After his military service, he enrolled in A-State in January 1946, and graduated in August 1948 with a bachelor's degree in biology. He attended the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, receiving a bachelor of science in medicine in 1951 and an M. D. in 1953. His three-year surgical residency was at Harlan Memorial Hospital in Harlan, Kentucky, followed by two years of surgery residency with the V.A. in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Dr. Wilson served on the surgical staff of St. Bernards Medical Center from 1965 through 1982. Among his many medical affiliations are the American Board of Surgery, American Medical Society, American College of Surgery and the Craighead-Poinsett County Medical Society, in which he served a term as president.

Throughout his busy medical career, he also served Arkansas State University. Dr. Wilson was athletic team physician from 1965-80; ASU Student Health physician 1991-96; Indian Club president 1971-72, and president of the Fast Break Club 1996-98. Serving both students and the community's healthcare, he established the Wilson-Wisdom Nursing scholarship. Dr. Wilson was awarded emeritus status from ASU in 1996.

He also supports our heritage as a lifetime member of the Craighead County Historical Society, where he received the Griner Award for Best Article in 1998. Dr. Wilson is married to Dorothy Ann Wilson; they are the parents of Carl, Gary, Dana, Paul, Rachel, Mary, and Leland.

Since 1984, the ASU Alumni Association’s board of directors annually selects Distinguished Alumni award recipients from nominations submitted by the public. Selection of nominees is based on community service, professional achievement and service to ASU. For more information, contact the ASU Alumni office at 870-972-ALUM (2586) or e-mail

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