Distinguished Alumni and President’s Award recipients to be honored on May 11
April 30 - May 6, 2018
UA Alumni Troy Wells and Mauri Douglass will accept their awards at the Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
Baptist Health president and chief executive officer Troy Wells often gets asked for career advice. What he explains to young people is that his own career success started with a simple word: Yes.
“My philosophy is say yes and see what happens,” he said. “There’s a lot of value for young people to realize when you say yes and want to be part of something, and don’t worry about the money, good things happen. You should want to add more value before you expect something in return. It may not work for everybody, but it has worked for me.”
Wells will be honored during the UA Little Rock Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration at 11:30 a.m. May 11 in the Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center. The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor presented by the UA Little Rock.
Before heading to college, Wells was like many young people. He knew what he liked studying, but he didn’t have a definitive career plan. He went to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology.
“I was oriented toward medicine, but two years in, it didn’t seem like something I wanted to do,” Wells said, “but I did love the sciences, and I was good at it.”
After graduating in 1994, Wells took a year off. He traveled, built houses with his dad, and applied to graduate schools. He chose UA Little Rock’s Master’s Degree in Health Services Administration (now offered at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences).
“I wanted to be in Arkansas, and UA Little Rock had this program that was pretty unusual and rare at the time. I saw people being successful coming out of the program,” he said. “What made this very workable for me was it was designed so that you could work during the day and go to school at night. It was something I could manage financially and not walk away with a ton of debt.”
Wells also remembers the faculty support he received.
“I felt a sense that the faculty cared about us. They were interested in students being successful. I wasn’t a number. The faculty knew what I was good at and where I would be good in terms of employment,” he said.
Years later, Wells recruited future employees from the graduate program he knew so well.
“I stayed connected with John Baker, one of the original faculty founders of program, and I’m still in touch with him 26 years later,” Wells said.
After completing his master’s degree in 1997, Wells entered a two-year fellowship at the former St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hot Springs, where he learned the administrative workings of a hospital.
“At the end of the fellowship, I had a chance to stay on or go to Newport to run a small hospital,” Wells said. “I was 26 and single and in a place in life where I could take a risk, so I went to Newport and ran an 86-bed hospital for six or seven years.”
When the hospital was sold, Wells was out of a job. He was interviewing all over the country when he got a call from Russ Harrington, former CEO and president of Baptist Health.
“He said, ‘I want you to come to work for us. I can’t tell you exactly what the job is,’” Wells recalled. “I agreed to take a job, not knowing what it was or what I would be paid. It was a handshake. Russ asked me, ‘Do you want to be here?’ And I said yes. I was happy. I knew it was right.”
Since joining Baptist Health in 2006, Wells has had many job duties, including vice president of clinical services, vice president of Practice Plus, chief executive officer of Arkansas Health Group, and senior vice president of Administrative Services. He became the chief executive in June 2014, becoming only the third person to hold this title since World War II.
“What I enjoy most is working with people to serve people. That’s what gets me up in the morning,” he said. “Being in healthcare, you have to want to do things for other people. That’s why our organization exists. We are a faith-based, not-for-profit health system. I know there’s a mission we are here to fulfill, and I have the ability to affect that.”
Wells is active. He serves on the Alumni Association Board of Directors of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, as well as on the boards for Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, Parkway Village Inc., the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Rotary Club of Little Rock.
He is also a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Arkansas Executives Forum, Young Presidents Organization, and Fifty for the Future.
He and his wife Mary live in Little Rock and have two children - Catherine, 10, and Charles, 6.
Source: UA Little Rock Office of Communications
For Mauri Douglass, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock holds a special place. It’s where she laid the foundation for a 30-year career in gifted education. It’s where she met her husband, where many of her lifelong friendships first took root, and where her own children would later attend, following in her family’s legacy.
UA Little Rock is also where Douglass has remained engaged in community service and why she has been chosen to receive this year’s Presidents Award, which honors alumni who have achieved career success, donated time and talents to their community, and remained in touch with their alma mater as a volunteer and resource. The award will be presented at UA Little Rock’s Distinguished Alumni Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Friday, May 11, in the Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center.
Douglass has volunteered hundreds of hours serving on the Alumni Association Board. For the past four years, she has chaired Taste of Little Rock, a signature fundraiser for the university.
Choosing UA Little Rock was an easy decision for Douglass (Class of ’74 and ’86). Both of her parents attended the former Little Rock Junior College, and three of her four siblings also attended. When her older sister, Vicki Draper, attended, the university was called Little Rock University.
Two of Douglass and her husband Lee’s three children have chosen UA Little Rock for their education. Middle child Jay Douglass has a computer science degree. Daughter Keri Douglass Walker earned an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and completed a master’s degree in business information systems at UA Little Rock in December. The couple’s youngest child, Sam, is a junior at UA Fayetteville.
Douglass completed two degrees of her own during her time at UA Little Rock – an undergraduate degree in elementary education in 1974 and a master’s degree in education in 1986 - as well as a certification in gifted education.
“Arkansas was on the forefront of gifted education,” Douglass said. “People were coming from around the country to see what we were doing. It was the place for gifted education, and I was fortunate I was educated here.”
Douglass taught for 33 years, including 25 years in gifted and talented education. All but two years of her career were spent in the North Little Rock School District, including Rose City, Boone Park, Amboy, and Crestwood elementary schools. She credits her long, successful teaching career to the education she received at UA Little Rock and to the connections she made.
Douglass retired from teaching in 2010, and husband Lee retired in December 2017 as chief legal officer at Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The couple may not have met had it not been for Greek life at UA Little Rock. Mauri was a Chi Omega, and Lee was a member of Kappa Sigma. When members are initiated, they receive a chapter pin number based on the order of initiation into the chapter. The couple have the same pin number – 141 – in their respective Greek organizations.
“We were meant to be together,” she said matter-of-factly. “We started dating my sophomore year, and we will be married 45 years in June.”
Greek life has remained a part of Douglass’ life long after college. After graduation, she served as a Chi Omega chapter advisor for 12 years the first time around. Then, in 2011, she returned for a second round as recruitment advisor and community service advisor. She retired from those positions in 2016 and is now alumnae liaison for the Chi Omega chapter at the UA Little Rock Alumni Association, her Gamma Zeta chapter sisters, and the Little Rock Chi Omega Alumnae Club.
“I know people across all 54 years of Chi Omega’s presence at UA Little Rock,” she said. “I can go into any age group and feel like I’m one of them.”
When the Chi Omega chapter began planning for its 50th anniversary in 2014, Douglass was asked to chair the event.
“The tradition for the 50-year celebration is a gift to the university. That’s how I got really involved at UALR,” Douglass recalled. “During that time, I got to know people in the Alumni Association. They helped us find missing sisters and helped us plan our courtyard.”
To raise money, the sorority sold bricks to help build and maintain Chi Omega Courtyard Plaza near Ottenheimer Library. Another fundraising campaign raised money for the Gamma Zeta Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship awarded each spring to a member of the Gamma Zeta Chapter of Chi Omega.
Douglass doesn’t foresee her family’s involvement ending any time soon.
“This is where we made so many friendships and connections that have been so helpful, both personally and professionally,” she said. “We love UA Little Rock and all that it has done for us.”
Source: UA Little Rock Office of Communications