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Distinguished Alumni to be honored
at Homecoming Oct. 2
July 18, 2010
-- The Arkansas State University Alumni Association will honor three
outstanding individuals in its 27th year of recognizing
distinguished alumni. The Distinguished Alumni presentation ceremony
will be held at halftime of the Homecoming football game on Saturday,
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
This year’s honorees are: Maj. Gen. (ret.) George Barker, who has had a
notable career in the military and humanitarian causes; Dr. Joel Gambill,
long-time chair of the ASU Department of Journalism, and Julia Lansford,
music professor and "voice of ASU" for four decades.
Maj. Gen. George Barker (U. S. Army, retired) presently
resides in New York City. He
graduated from ASU in 1955 with a degree in music, though it was the
university's ROTC program that led to his outstanding career in the
military. A graduate of the Army
Command & General Staff College and the U. S. Army War College, he
served his country for 35 years, and was twice awarded the Department of
Defense Distinguished Service Medal.
Since his retirement from the Army, he has
devoted his life to humanitarian causes. He is a volunteer for Concern
Worldwide USA, donating time and money to humanitarian projects in
poorer countries of the world, especially Sri Lanka and Haiti. He served
the American Cancer Society as National Executive Vice President for
International Development, after serving as the CEO for the New York
City Division. He was presented with the Key to the City of New York and
the New York State Conspicuous Service Medal.
Along with currently serving on the Board of Trustees of the Army War
College Foundation in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he is a founding member of
ASU's Beck PRIDE Center for America's Wounded Veterans National Advisory
Council. As a co-founder of the Helping Hands Foundation in his home
town of Rector, the foundation has provided the means to fund five
4-year scholarships to Arkansas State University as well as aid to
deserving public school students, including dental and medical care,
amounting to almost $70,000 over the past four years.
He also agreed to spearhead a project in Rector to build a veterans
memorial park honoring all who have served their country in the U.S.
military. He is working to secure the necessary funding in addition to
his personal contribution to the construction.
Gen. Barker has two daughters, Nadia Dell and Marisa Barker.
Joel T. Gambill
Joel Gambill of Jonesboro graduated from Arkansas State University in
1965. Soon afterward, he was the first instructor in journalism hired by
ASU's renowned professor
Plunkett, the father of ASU's journalism program, and spent the next
four decades building the department into a national powerhouse.
Many of his former students have gone on to distinguished careers in
journalism. They are now invited back to campus each semester in the
Journalism Alumni Speaker Series which Gambill initiated in order to
bring the media world to ASU students. Upon announcing his retirement
this year after 36 years as department chair, an outpouring of support
led to the endowment of a fund to continue the speaker series which
His awards and recognitions, too numerous to list in this space, include
being named Outstanding Educator by the Arkansas Press Association as
well as the organization's highest honor, the Distinguished Service
Award. Along with his dedication to education and journalism, he has
devoted his time and talent as official scorekeeper for ASU men's and
women's basketball for the past quarter of a century, missing only three
games since 1975. Equally passionate about tennis, he captained five
Jonesboro teams to the state championship.
Though he has many interests, he is most well known, as one newspaper
editor said, as Arkansas' foremost journalism educator. It has been said
that editors and publishers looking to fill positions on the staff have
become accustomed to calling Dr. Gambill first. No less than seven
previous Distinguished Alumni honorees were Dr. Gambill's students. Now
it is his turn.
His achievements can be best summed up in the words of the late,
legendary Tex Plunkett: "Hiring Joel Gambill was the highlight of my
Dr. Gambill and his wife Donna are the parents of Amy Hill and Bethany
Julia Riggs Lansford
she retired, it was noted that in 1964, Julia Lansford of
Jonesboro accepted a "temporary" position in the Department of Music at
ASU, where she graduated in 1962. The plan was to stay a short time
before embarking on a professional singingcareer
as an opera singer. That "temporary" job lasted more than 40 years. She
fell in love with teaching, and has said she could never find a point
when she felt she could leave her students.
Those students have gone on to leading roles in Broadway musicals such
as 'Urban Cowboy,' 'West Side
Story' and 'Wicked.'
Others perform with The Gaithers as well as award-winning pop bands.
Hundreds more sing professionally, perform in community arts groups,
lead choral groups and teach music to the next generation.
Even as she taught full time, Lansford's own performances in music are
lengthy. She has been well known as the "voice of ASU" and received
honors from across the state. She was named Outstanding Singer in
Arkansas and represented our state vocally by performing at the Kennedy
Center in Washington, D. C. She was soloist with the Arkansas Opera
Theatre in Little Rock, Memphis Opera Theatre and the Baroque Music
Festival in Memphis, the Bach Festival in Michigan, Lincoln Center and
the American Opera Theatre in New York, and the Summer Vocal Institute
in Freiburg, Germany. Lansford has performed twice
the White House, including a reception for the Prime Minister of Ireland
where Lansford was chosen to perform a program of Irish songs - on St.
Patrick's Day, no less. Among many honors, last year she received the
Arkansas Governor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, and she has
created an ASU scholarship endowed in her name that will assist students
for generations to come.
She and her husband James have a son, Jonathan.
For more information, contact the ASU Alumni office at 870-972-ALUM
(2586) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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