The University of the Ozarks Alumni Association will honor eight of the university’s distinguished graduates during the 2017 Alumni Awards Banquet on Friday, Oct. 13.
The awards banquet, which is part of this year’s Homecoming ceremonies, begins at 6 p.m. in the Rogers Conference Center. The banquet will also include the Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased by calling the Office of Alumni Relations at 479-979-1234.
The recipients of the 2017 alumni awards include Lonnie and Levada (Mathis) Qualls of Clarksville, both 1956 graduates who will received the Alumni Merit Award; Ray Hobbs ’77 of Springdale, Ark., and Peter Van Dyke ’87 of Chicago, who will each receive the Alumni Achievement Award; Ian Bryan ’13 of Russellville, Ark., and Lauren Ray ’13 of Jasper, Ark., who will each receive the Young Alumni Award; and the Rev. Dr. Ralph Ehren ’56 and his wife Betty (Hodges) Ehren ’53 of Plano, Texas, who will receive the Alumni Legacy Award.
The Qualls, who have been associated with Ozarks for more than 65 years, will receive the Merit Award for meritorious work on behalf of the university. They first arrived on campus as students in the early 1950s. Lonnie coached numerous sports, including football, baseball and tennis, at Ozarks from 1962 until his retirement in 1995. Levada served as a health and physical education instructor at Ozarks for more than 35 years. They celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary in August. They have both stayed involved with the university since their retirements.
“When we were working at Ozarks, it never seemed liked a job,” Levada said. “The relationships that we made and the fun that we had is what stands out to me. We felt like we were making a difference.”
Hobbs serves as the president and CEO of Hart Tackle Company. A native of Clarksville, he is also president of the Economics Arkansas Foundation. He previously served as president and CEO of Daisy Manufacturing Company, Inc., and as a senior vice president for merchandising of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. He worked for Wal-Mart for 24 years. Hobbs has worked as a merchandising consultant for firms like Hanna’s Candle Co. in Fayetteville and Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri. He served as Interim CEO of Bass Pro for 14 months before being recruited by Daisy.
Van Dyke is a senior litigation counsel for CAN Insurance, where he manages and resolves many of the company’s most significant commercial insurance claims. A graduate of Notre Dame Law School, Van Dyke worked in private firms in Florida and Indiana before joining CAN in 2004 to help the company manage its highest exposure litigation on a national level. He was elected to a three-year term on the university’s Board of Trustees in January 2017.
Bryan is a business development officer for Arvest Bank in Russellville. The former baseball player at Ozarks is on the Alumni Association Board of Directors and is an alumni representative on the university’s Sports Hall of Fame Committee. He is also a member of the River Valley United Way Board of Directors and a graduate of the 2017 Leadership Russellville program.
Ray works for the National Park Service as the upper district interpreter at Buffalo National River. As a student, Ray was heavily involved with Ozarks Outdoors and the Planet Club, and these leadership experiences shaped a clear career path for her after graduation. Today, she is known by many as the “Rapping Ranger.” She produces educational music videos about various issues in the national parks in order to promote preservation and resource protection. She was named 2013 Student Conservationist of the Year by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and 2014 Environmental Educator of the Year by the Arkansas Environmental Education Association.
The Ehrens are retired in Plano. A graduate of Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, Ralph served as a Baptist minister for 34 years in churches in Wyoming, South Dakota, Maryland, Arkansas and Texas. He also taught at Houston Baptist University before retiring in 2000. Betty served as a media specialist for 18 years for several schools before retiring in 1991. The Ehrens, who will celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary on Dec. 19, have both served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Four alumni will also be inducted into the U of O Sports Hall of Fame during the Oct. 13 banquet — Steve Higgins ’79 of House Springs, Mo., a former baseball standout; Don Kessler ’70 of San Diego, an accomplished collegiate and professional athletic trainer; George Loss ’54 of Little Rock, a highly successful high school football coach; and Lindy (Swatzell) Mantooth ’05 of Kansas City, Mo., a former soccer star at Ozarks.