Tekla Research Providing Greenhouses at WBU

A donation to Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge will fund the construction of two greenhouses.  The $75,000 gift from Tekla Research, Inc., is providing the greenhouses for WBU’s Eagle Farms.

The farm operation is part of the broader Williams Works initiative, which will allow students to work their way through college.

Tekla Research CEO Dave Russell and CFO Beth Russell West, both of Jonesboro, Ark., along with company President Kevin Wilcutt of Fredericksburg, Va., are the major partners in Tekla. They provided funding for the greenhouses in memory of two close relatives, Dannah Russell Jones and Nora Leann Shuman.  Dannah Jones was Russell’s daughter and West’s sister, and Nora Shuman was Wilcutt’s granddaughter.

“We’ve been blessed as a company and we wanted to share that with Williams.  When I heard about the need for the greenhouses, I thought what a great way for Kevin and myself to provide a memorial for our dear daughter and granddaughter that we lost,” said Russell, who serves as chair of WBU’s Board of Trustees.

Pictured above are Rusell (center) presenting the check to WBU President Dr. Stan Norman (left), along with WBU Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dr. Doug Walker.

Eagle Farms is being developed on the western side of the WBU campus, where fruits and vegetables will be grown, harvested and marketed by students.

“The idea of new life growing and coming from such tragedy is somehow reassuring,” Russell said.  “I do think it’s a fitting way for us to honor their memory, and I’m sure their memory will continue to live on even after we’re gone.”

Dave and Deb Russell lost their daughter to a sudden heart attack, while Wilcutt’s granddaughter died of a rare syndrome.

“My wife Peg and I can’t think of a better way to donate this money.  Besides educating others to preach the gospel it’s a great way to educate others on the rare cause of Nora’s death, Sudden Unexplained Death of a Child (SUDC),” Wilcutt said.

“She was a healthy 2 ½ year old who went to sleep one afternoon to never wake up again.  This is different than SIDS since it can happen to any child up to the age of 20.  Unfortunately SUDC does not get the recognition that SIDS does and the research is not funded by the federal government,” he noted.

Russell said he and Wilcutt are excited about the Williams Works initiative and what it represents.  Students selected for the program will work 16 hours per week all through the fall and spring semesters, and their tuition and fees will be covered.  Those who work fulltime in the summer months will also have their room and board paid, enabling them to graduate debt-free.

“As businessmen who interview and hire new job candidates regularly we know the value of an education that includes work as well as academics.  Our best new hires are people that worked their way through school with either work-study for their degree, internships or a wide variety of other jobs.  In fact, one of our best entry level hires was a landscaper while in school that is now leading multi-million dollar proposals.

“Too many institutions are turning out graduates and folks with advanced degrees that may understand the concepts but don’t understand how to apply them practically in a work environment.  Williams Works and Eagle Farms will give Williams graduates that experience,” Russell commented.

Wilcutt added, “It does a person good to get his/her hands dirty.  What a way to get and pay for an education!”

WBU President Norman said the greenhouses will be built on the front side of Eagle Farms and will be used to start plants which will later be transplanted outdoors. The structures will also serve as the entry point for visitors to the farm.

“The greenhouses were a huge need for our burgeoning farm operation, and we can’t thank Tekla Research enough for such a generous gift.  Dave and Kevin have captured the vision for the farm and for Williams Works.  The memory of their loved ones will live on in a very special way through these structures, and through the lives impacted by the Williams Works initiative,” he said.

Allison Family Gives Mower to WBU’s Eagle Farms

Velma Allison and her family have met a need for Williams Baptist University and its new endeavor, Eagle Farms.  Allison, who is from Walnut Ridge, recently donated a Bad Boy mower that had been used by her late husband, Jack.  The Allisons are longtime supporters of WBU.

Men pose in field next to large lawnmower

“We want Eagle Farms to maintain a professional look and become an operation the community will be proud of.  We are developing more than 10 acres in the first phase of the farm operation, giving us a lot of ground to mow between vegetable patches and around fruit trees.  The Allison family has provided us exactly what we needed,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.

Eagle Farms is a component of WBU’s new Williams Works initiative, where students can work their way through college.  The farm is growing fruits and vegetables on the west edge of the WBU campus, utilizing university property that was previously undeveloped.

The gift was arranged with the assistance of WBU Board Member J.R. Cox, whose family operates Cox Implement in Hoxie.  The business serviced the mower and put new blades on it before delivering it to WBU.

Mrs. Allison was not on hand when the mower was delivered but extended her best wishes for Eagle Farms.  “Jack and I have always loved Williams and we have been proud to support it.  WBU means a great deal to our family, and we are especially excited to see Williams Works develop in the years to come,” she said.

Present for the delivery were Norman; Cox; Dr. Doug Walker, vice president for institutional advancement; Brad Flippo, farm manager; and Dr. Brett Cooper, vice president for creative services and technology, who is overseeing the launch of Williams Works and Eagle Farms.

WBU Business Students Win State Awards

Business students from Williams Baptist University earned five awards at the 2020 State Leadership Conference of Phi Beta Lambda. The annual event was scheduled to be held on April 3rd and 4th in North Little Rock, Ark., but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the competitions were held via the internet.

Of the five awards claimed by Williams students, one team earned first place honors.

The team of Andrew Taylor and Seth Haile took first place in the Business Decision Making competition.

The team of Tori Lovelady, Hannah Vernon and Brayden Brewer took second place in the Management Analysis and Decision Making competition.

Luke Breitkruiz earned second place in the Marketing Concepts competition.

Karla Garcia earned third place in the Retail Management competition.

And Brayden Brewer won third place in Sports Management and Marketing.

Phi Beta Lambda is the collegiate extension of Future Business Leaders of America.

The WBU Department of Business offers three bachelor’s degree majors: business administration, finance and marketing.

WBU is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.

Williams Baptist Launches Prayer Society

Williams Baptist University is mounting a renewed focus on prayer, and it is calling on its supporters to join the effort.  WBU has announced the formation of a new group, the Eagles Wings Society, whose sole purpose is praying for the university and its people.

WBU President Dr. Stan Norman led in the formation of the Eagles Wings Society, and the group has been formally approved by the university’s Board of Trustees.  The president said the group has been in development for several weeks, but that the COVID-19 outbreak provides an ideal time to launch a prayer initiative.

Norman said he became convinced of the need for such an organization following several years of his own reading, preaching and commitment on prayer.

“In the course of my studies, teaching, and praying, I came to an obvious but somewhat startling realization – if prayer is so important, so absolutely crucial to the faith and service of God’s people, why have we not organized and mobilized the employees, students and friends of WBU to pray for the university and its mission?” Norman said.

“If Jesus prayed about His mission, why are we not praying more diligently and strategically for the mission of WBU?  This realization brought a conviction that led me to develop a plan, and to have our Board of Trustees approve the plan, to have a university-sponsored group whose sole purpose is to pray for the mission of Williams Baptist University.”

The Eagles Wings Society will be co-chaired by Dr. Johnny Hutchison and Dr. Bob Magee.  Hutchison is pastor of Highland Drive Baptist Church in Jonesboro and a member of the WBU Board of Trustees, while Magee is chair of the WBU Department of Fine Arts and director of the Williams Singers.

Norman said the society will be composed of people who commit to pray for Williams on an ongoing and strategic basis.  Some will be employees of the university, and others will simply be friends of WBU, both far and near, who are willing to engage in focused prayer for the institution.

“This group will be charged to engage in the ministry of prayer in all its biblical expressions (intercession, supplication, confession, thanksgiving, etc.).  Members must be people who will commit to a ministry of prayer that is consistent, diligent and strategic in expression and practice, praying faithfully to our God on behalf of the people and mission of WBU,” Norman commented.

“Guiding values for membership in the Eagles Wings Society will be: (1) a sincere commitment to pray for WBU; (2) a matured consistency in the spiritual discipline of prayer; (3) a sustained intensity in the expression of prayer; and (4) a willingness to pray in individual and corporate contexts.”

The president noted that universities form many types of boards with the intention of raising support from other people, in one form or another.  This group, however, is designed to seek support from God.

“It is common for universities to have various types of advisory board (fundraising, advisory, athletic, etc.) – these types of groups are extremely helpful to schools.  In fact, we have some of these types of groups at WBU.  The Eagles Wings Society is a different type of organization.  Membership in the EWS is not an honorific appointment, an award conferred or recognition given for some type of achievement.  This is a board of ‘working hard in prayer,’ and the members of EWS must be committed to this crucial work,” he noted.

Above all, Norman said, the intensified focus on prayer is intended to fortify WBU and its mission in today’s culture.

“The effectiveness of our mission is connected to our praying.  To be candid, we will not as Christians in today’s world faithfully and effectively serve the Lord if we do not study His word and pray.  And as this matter relates to WBU – Williams Baptist University will only faithfully fulfill the mission that God has entrusted to us through prayer,” the president said.

“The devoted servants of God who worked and served here in the past were a people of faithful praying, and this university known as a ‘Child of Providence’ will only move forward in the future that God has for us through prayer.  Our ability to continue to be a campus of Christian purpose is directly tied to our faithfulness to pray.”

Those who have prayer requests can email them to ews@williamsbu.edu.

For more information on the Eagles Wings Society, follow this link.

Williams is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.

Williams Baptist University Business Students Attend Above and Beyond Conference

Williams Baptist University’s upper class business students recently attended a leadership conference in Jonesboro called Going Above and Beyond. Seven students, along with their business professors, took part in the event, sponsored by the Jonesboro Young Professionals Network (JYPN) on February 13th. 

photograph of students

Those attending from WBU, picture above, were (left to right) Heather Parson (chair of business department), Erik Mercado, Georgia Mara, Ricardo Quintero Devia, Ashton Kennedy, Dylan Rogers, Hannah Vernon, Halen Layne and Janna Himschoot (assistant professor of business).

Several professionals spoke at the conference, including SJ Tuohy and David Alan Bubbus, Jr.  Tuohy is best known as the devoted adoptive brother of Michael Oher, the football player who inspired the movie “The Blind Side.” He discussed the importance of charity, faith and drive in his personal life and professional career. 

Bubbus said he never intended to become involved in his family business but grew David’s Burgers in Arkansas from one to eight locations. 

Students also had the opportunity to learn a few things about themselves, including taking an Enneagram quiz to determine their personality type. The Enneagram is a system of personality typing that identifies patterns in how people understand the world and manage emotions. 

“Finding out through this quiz what kind of person I am was something that I think will help me out in the future in my professional career when working as a team,” said Erik Mercado, a WBU senior from Senath, Mo.

Dylan Rogers, a junior from Jonesboro, Ark., noted that he learned there is always a better way to do something, “whether it’s making burgers or marketing a product.” 

“Everyone in a business, big or small, has the same goal,” said Heather Parson, chair of the WBU business department. “The CEO and the minimum wage employee are truly integral parts of the company, and it would be hard for one to function without the other. As a whole, the students learned how to take their professional and personal life to new heights.”

WBU is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.  Its business department offers majors in business administration, finance and marketing.

Williams Baptist University Board Approves Strategies & Master Plan, Welcomes New Members

The Board of Trustees at Williams Baptist University approved a strategic vision and a campus master plan at its regularly scheduled meeting Friday, December 6.  The board also welcomed five newly appointed trustees to the group.

Photograph of men and women some of whom are seated and some are standing.
Williams Baptist University Board of Trustees

The board approved key strategies for WBU’s strategic vision, known as Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives.  The trustees had earlier approved the six broad objectives of the vision, which will guide the university strategically over the next three to five years.  The key strategies approved Friday provide specific goals and timelines.

“These key strategies focus our efforts toward specific objectives that will significantly benefit our students, as well as our employees, and above all these objectives will equip WBU to continue to transform lives with an outstanding, Christ-centered university education,” said Dr. Stan Norman, WBU’s president.

The key strategies include new facilities for academics, athletics, fine arts and student life. They also target expansion of degree offerings in several academic disciplines, including health sciences, psychology and ministry.  Other key strategies include improved compensation and benefits for employees and enriched campus traditions.

The board also approved a detailed master plan for the WBU campus.  Developing such a master plan is one of the key objectives adopted with Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives.  Conway architect Rik Sowell developed the plan, which provides five, ten and fifteen year objectives for new facilities and campus improvements.

“It is critical that we set our sights on the facilities we are going to need, and just as importantly that we envision a layout of our campus that is conducive to a great learning environment and robust campus life.  Mr. Sowell has done that, through extensive consultation with our administration, and we believe all members of the WBU family will be very pleased with the resulting master plan,” Norman commented.

Five new trustees began their service Friday and were welcomed to the board.  The new board members are Luke Colley of Bentonville, Ark.; J.R. Cox of Walnut Ridge; John Lane of Paragould, Ark.; Barney Larry of Mountain Home, Ark. and Bryant Marshall of Jonesboro, Ark.  Cox and Larry have served previously on the board, while the other three are beginning their first terms.

“We have a great Board of Trustees, and these new members are great additions to it.  They are already lending energy and excitement to our work, and they are supporting the outstanding work of WBU.  We look forward to serving with them in the years ahead,” Norman commented.

WBU has a board of 24 members, all appointed by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, which owns and operates the university.

The trustees also voted to make Dr. Bob Hodge, a pharmacist from Paragould, a board member for the WBU Foundations for the Future.  That organization functions as an advisory and support body for the university.

Cox Implement Donates Tractor to Eagle Farms

Eagle Farms, a major component of the new student work initiative at Williams Baptist University, has taken a big step forward with the donation of a tractor.  Cox Implement of Hoxie, Ark., delivered a new, 75 horsepower Massey Ferguson tractor to the university Monday.

“Cox Implement and the Cox family have made a tremendous gift to WBU, and in doing so they are expressing great faith in the Williams Works initiative.  This initiative is going to make an academically excellent, Christ-centered education affordable for many young people, and Cox Implement will long be remembered for getting our farm operation started with this crucial piece of equipment,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.

Eagle Farms will be developed in coming months on the west end of the Williams campus, converting a previously unused piece of ground into a fruit and vegetable farm.  The farm will employ students who are working their way toward a WBU education through the recently announced Williams Works initiative.

“Eagle Farms and Williams Works are a perfect fit for this university, this community and this region, and our family is just very excited to play a part in the launch of such an exciting initiative,” said J.R. Cox of Cox Implement.  “WBU is a huge asset to our community, and this initiative means many more students will be able to receive the great Christian education that Williams provides.”

Cox, his sister, Mary Stone, and brother, Jerry Cox, made the gift possible, as well as other members of the family involved with the business.  The tractor is valued at more than $40,000.

J.R. Cox is a member of the WBU Board of Trustees and former chairman of the board.

Picture at top are (Left to right) Matthew Cox, Blake Cox, Dr. Doug Walker (WBU VP for Advancement & Operations), Brad Flippo (WBU Farm Manager), J.R. Cox, Mary Stone, Dr. Stan Norman (WBU president), Angela Flippo (WBU VP for Enrollment Management), Dr. Kenneth Startup (WBU interim VP for academic affairs) and Dr. Brett Cooper (WBU VP for creative services and technology).  Unable to attend was Jerry Cox.

Williams Works will enroll its first students next fall, with 40 incoming freshmen to be chosen for the inaugural class.  Another 40 will be added each of the following two years, with more expansion planned for the years beyond.

For more information on Williams Works, go to https://williamsbu.edu/williamsworks/.

Williams Baptist University’s Polachic Co-Authors Book on Scientific Discovery & Meaning

Dr. Christopher Polachic believes in finding meaning within scientific discovery.  He and his co-author argue in their new book that if a discovery has no real meaning behind it, then why should it matter?

“But how far can we press the cleverness of math in the pursuit of knowledge of a world that we can never observe directly?  Does every equation provide meaningful information about physical things?” asks Polachic, assistant professor of natural science in physics at Williams Baptist University.   

Polachic and Dr. Chary Rangacharyulu, professor of physics at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, confront such questions – and more – in their newly released book, From Atoms to Higgs Boson: Voyages in Quasi-Spacetime (Jenny Stanford Publishing, 2019). 

The two authors search for physical meaningfulness in theories and mathematical equations, not just interesting and clever interpretations. 

Polachic and Rangacharyulu have been discussing the physical world together for over 20 years. Rangacharyulu was initially invited to write the book, and he agreed only on the terms that he could have a co-author. 

Polachic said he was “honored and delighted” when his former professor asked him to fill the co-author position, noting, “We enjoyed a real synergy in thinking through the logic of our critique and building off of each other’s strengths.”

The book contains a critique of 20th century physicists’ practice of uncritically pairing abstract mathematical concepts to the usual philosophy of physical reductionism, which says the structure of physical things is always reducible to smaller parts. This, in turn, leads physicists to employ a “quasireal” description of the universe that no longer provides direct information about the real subatomic world. 

The authors argue that the recent discovery of the Higgs boson may be an example of this kind of quasirealist interpretation of a mathematical theory. A multi-year experiment carried out by CERN, a physics lab in Geneva, Switzerland, concluded in 2012 that they had discovered a small bump in their data. Thus, the Higgs boson was born. 

“A Higgs boson is a subatomic particle associated with the Higgs field,” Polachic said.  “The Higgs field is the really important thing. In the theory, it is supposed to kind of grip onto the ripple-particles of all the other fields, thus creating the property of matter we call mass. In this picture, your mass is nothing but the interaction between the most elementary particles of your body interacting with the Higgs field.” 

Polachic and Rangacharyulu suggest that a universe of non-physical entities have taken the place of the physical in much of modern physics thought, thus creating a “quasireal” picture of the microscopic universe. 

The field theories that predict Higgs bosons have changed the study of particle physics. Polachic said that he and Rangacharyulu question whether “this discovery has actually taught us something important about the real physical world, or just the mathematical models of quantum field theory.”  

Polachic noted that while it is not a religious book, “the discipline of physics has many important points of contact with my Christian worldview.” He dubs himself a “scientific realist,” meaning that he believes the physical universe exists and awaits discovery, whether we are willing to look for it or not. Polachic said he tries to pay attention to the original meaning of the mathematical expressions used in theoretical physics, so that he can keep from mischaracterizing the world that God has created. 

Polachic urges other physicists to be “sufficiently self-critical in their own work” so that the general public can maintain trust in their research and findings. “We should be especially careful with the truth,” he added. 

Polachic said he and Rangacharyulu hope their book is readable by not just professional physicists, but anyone interested in the physical world.

From Atoms to Higgs Boson: Voyages in Quasi-Spacetime (Jenny Stanford Publishing, 2019) is available from the website of the distributor, Routledge (www.routledge.com), or on Amazon.

Williams Baptist University Launching Student Work Initiative

Williams Baptist University will soon give students a chance to work their way through college, with the potential to graduate debt-free.  The private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark., announced Monday that it is launching an initiative known as Williams Works, a program that will allow students to work part-time jobs to have their tuition and fees completely covered.

“WBU understands the financial strain students and their families are facing.  It is a hurdle that makes it very difficult for many to even attend college, so we are providing a way for students to get past that financial hurdle and receive an outstanding, Christ-centered education at Williams,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.

The centerpiece of Williams Works will be Eagle Farms, a fruit and vegetable farm where students will plant, cultivate and harvest the crops, as well as market the produce. The farm will be located at the northwest corner of the WBU campus, on land that is currently undeveloped.

“This initiative will involve a farmers market and several other outlets for our produce, and we also plan to develop our own line of WBU-branded products.  With over 100 pecan trees already on our campus, we plan to sell Eagle Farms pecans as well as other specialty farm products,” Norman said.

Norman said Eagle Farms will begin by growing fruits and vegetables in the early stages, but future plans call for the addition of agri-tourism elements, such as a fall festival, and he said the farm will expand into other endeavors as needed to provide jobs for students.

WBU will also utilize community partners to provide jobs, including industries in the nearby Walnut Ridge Industrial Park.  Custom Pak, the nearest industry to the Williams campus, has agreed to hire 25 students through Williams Works when the program launches in the fall of 2020.  The company has expressed interest in expanding that number in future years.

“To be clear, Williams Works will involve real jobs with real responsibilities,” Norman said.  “This program is for students who are prepared to work through the college years.  Those who do so will be rewarded richly with the chance to avoid student loan debt after they graduate.”

The WBU president noted that Williams Works is more than just a program for the university.  Rather, he said it marks an institutional turning point.

“The current tuition-driven model of higher education is not working as it should for students or for the institutions.  The costs to students are higher than many can afford.  Colleges and universities are facing declining enrollments and falling revenue.  The paradigm needs to shift, and Williams Works reflects our commitment as a university to move in an entirely new direction,” Norman commented.

WBU will accept 40 incoming freshmen into Williams Works next fall, and it anticipates adding 40 more freshmen into the program in each of the next two years.  The university plans to add greater numbers to the works initiative in subsequent years.

Norman said the work initiative is a natural fit for WBU on many fronts.  The university is in a rural setting and has land available on its campus to be developed into a farm.  The concepts of work and farming are reinforced in the regional culture.

It also reflects the history of the school.  Dr. H.E. Williams, who founded the institution as Southern Baptist College in 1941, operated a print shop, a woodworking shop, a rice and soybean farm, an auto repair business and other enterprises created to provide jobs for many students in the early decades of the school.

Norman noted that work matches the spiritual and academic standards of WBU, as well.

“The Bible begins with God at work in creation, and we read that work was God’s plan for Adam and Eve even before the fall.  Scripture is filled with numerous examples and exhortations about work.  This initiative gives us a great new platform for teaching a Christian ethic of work to our students,” he said.

“Educationally, we are equipping tomorrow’s leaders for work across a broad spectrum of careers.  Incorporating the values of hard work and responsibility into the educational process will be of great value to these students and their future employers.”

Students who are selected for Williams Works will agree to work 16 hours per week, and they will work every week of the fall and spring semesters.  Those who complete their assigned hours will have their cost of education covered, which includes tuition and fees.

Some students will also be allowed to work in the summer months to cover their room and board expenses for the following year.

“It has become painfully clear to us that many students and families have reached the point where a university education is a significant financial burden.  Williams Works is our attempt to ease that burden for those families, and to give graduates a chance to start their adult lives without a crushing amount of student loan debt,” said the president.

Williams Works is open to first-time freshmen who have a 2.6 cumulative high school GPA or higher and an ACT composite score of at least a 19.  The initiative aims to help those with the greatest financial need, so primary, though not exclusive, consideration will be given to applicants who are eligible for federal financial aid.  Students must be willing to work at least 16 hours per week during the fall and spring semester and be enrolled full-time.

Applications for the inaugural class of Williams Works will be accepted through February 1, 2020.  Interested students can get more information and apply for the initiative at williamsbu.edu/WilliamsWorks.

“We believe it is time to change the paradigm of higher education, to make it financially obtainable for every qualified student.  As Williams Works expands in coming years, we expect to produce graduates free from the burden of excessive student loans.  These graduates will be able to pursue careers of their choosing without those undue financial constraints,” Norman said.

Work will begin in coming weeks to develop the first phase of Eagle Farms, and the farm operation is expected to be fully functional by the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The president said a director will eventually be added to run Williams Works, but Dr. Brett Cooper will lead the work initiative in its early stages.  Cooper, who is vice president for creative services & technology and special assistant to the president at WBU, chaired the task force that developed the Williams Works strategy.

Norman went on to note that while Williams Works will make a college education more affordable to many, the value of the education itself will remain undiminished.

“The ultimate goal of Williams Works is to give students the opportunity to receive an academically outstanding education that is thoroughly Christ-centered,” he said.  “Our aim is always to produce graduates who are able to make a difference for good, whatever career they may pursue. We believe Williams Works opens the door for more students to experience that transformative education.”