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Cooper Alumni Center receives gift from Lavon and Mary Ellen Wells

Oct. 10, 2008 -- The Arkansas State University Alumni Association has received a gift toward the new Cooper Alumni Center from Lavon and Mary Ellen Wells of Dallas, Texas. Wells, a long-time supporter of the Alumni Association who received a degree in agriculture from A-State in 1965, is retired as owner of MTM Enterprises of Dallas. He and his wife Mary Ellen are in the process of moving back to Jonesboro.

The Cooper Alumni Center held a 'soft opening' on Sept. 20, and holds its formal dedication on Oct. 17. According to Beth Smith, executive director of the ASU Alumni Association, "Lavon was one of the first donors to see the vision for the project and his participation has enabled us to complete construction and open the building." The patio facing the lake will be named in honor of Lavon and Mary Ellen Wells for their gift of stock to the ASU Foundation with proceeds directed toward the Cooper Alumni Center.

According to Wells, "I started by saying that I guessed I could give $10,000. Then it was $20,000 and the next thing I knew, the commitment was for much more. For me, the taxpayers of Arkansas allowed me to further my education and it was time for me to give back to them and to ASU."

The Cooper Alumni Center is built on the site of what is often remembered as the 'old pavilion.' Wells, who was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity as a student, said the patio to be named for him, overlooking the lake, holds special memories: "Back in my undergraduate days, the Tekes had a tradition of anyone getting dropped (going steady) or pinned (a promise to be serious) to be thrown into the pavilion pond, weather notwithstanding, from the patio at the old pavilion."

He adds, "ASU alumni have been needing a gathering place. I really appreciate Darrell and Charlotte Cooper for stepping forward, as have all the others, to see that we have this beautiful alumni center."

In 2003, the ASU Alumni Association received a $2 million gift from Darrell and Charlotte Pugh Cooper of Clarkston, Michigan, toward the construction of the 20,000 square-foot facility. Both of the Coopers were members of the A-State class of 1964. Their contribution started the fundraising for the privately-funded facility, named the Cooper Alumni Center in recognition of their gift.

The multipurpose facility includes a banquet hall, board room, meeting areas, history room, and office space for the alumni and development units of the university.  The back terrace overlooking the lake will contain engraved bricks available for purchase.  A reception area and lounge will have a view of the lake, with the banquet room accommodating seated dinners for 200 people. Included in the office wing will be the workspaces for ASU Alumni Relations, the Office of Development, and the Vice-Chancellor for University Advancement and staff.

Gary Pugh, class of 1968, serves as the current president of the ASU Alumni Association and has been part of the construction of the Alumni Center since its groundbreaking in 2005. He said, "Every great university has an alumni building as its centerpiece, a place that ties in current students with alumni as well as friends of the university. Our alumni will have a place to gather, the Cooper Alumni Center."

Pugh adds, "The Alumni Center was a vision for many people for a long time. We planned for many years before the vision became a reality. There are still opportunities for donations and naming opportunities. I believe people will want to be involved with it when they see it. The Cooper Alumni Center truly belongs to members of the ASU Alumni Association as well as all alumni of the university."

According to Beth Smith, who has spearheaded the construction, "We've never had our own place on campus for visiting alumni. That was a driving force for raising the funds and getting this project started. It is our goal for alumni to come back to campus and meet at the Alumni Center before walking to the stadium or going to the Fowler Center. They can visit our history room to look at photos in old yearbooks, and to reminisce about their college days. We hope to capture some of their stories so we can be part of preserving ASU history, especially now as we are heading into our Centennial celebration."

There are currently more than 60,000 ASU alumni. For more information on the Alumni Association or the Cooper Alumni Center, contact the ASU Alumni office at 870-972-ALUM (2586), or email For more details and photos of the facility, see the Alumni Association website at



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