University honors alumni for outstanding contributions, awards Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award Winner

May 20-26, 2019

By Tracy Courage


The University of Arkansas at Little Rock bestowed three of its most prestigious awards at the annual Distinguished Alumni Luncheon on May 10.


Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. is this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, and Loris Fullerton of Little Rock will receive the Presidents Award. Graduating senior Nicole Ursin was also named 2019 Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award Winner.


All three were honored at the Clinton Presidential Center Great Hall, on Friday, May 10.


A native of Little Rock, Scott has spent most most of his adult life in public service – as an associate pastor, as a mentor to young teenagers, and as a leader in public policy. In December 2018, he won Little Rock’s mayoral run-off, becoming the city’s first popularly elected black mayor. 


As the first person in his family to graduate from college, Scott is an advocate for education. He  earned an undergraduate degree in business administration from the University of Memphis and then earned a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in strategic management from UA Little Rock’s College of Business. He continues to serve his alma mater as a member of the UA Little Rock Board of Visitors, and he has previously served on the College of Business Advisory Council and the UA Little Rock Alumni Association Board of Directors.


Christian O’Neal, vice chancellor for university advancement, said Scott exhibits great leadership qualities as a graduate of the institution. 


“As I remember it, he reached out to me about getting more involved in the university nearly a dozen years ago,” O’Neal said. “After our first meeting, it was clear to me that he should join the Alumni Board of Directors because of his vision to improving Arkansans access to education.”


Since 2012, Scott has worked as an executive with First Security Bank, where he focused on new business development, commercial lending, and strategy. 


Prior to banking, Scott worked five years for former Gov. Mike Beebe, first as deputy policy director and later as director of intergovernmental affairs. He advised Beebe on his legislative agenda and public policies such as budget, health care, human services, economic development, and workforce development. In 2013, Beebe appointed appointed Scott to fill an unexpired term on the Arkansas State Highway Commission. That term expired in January 2017.  


Scott previously served on the Board of Trustees for Pulaski Technical College (now UA-PTC) and on the boards for Little Rock Port Authority and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas. Additionally, he is a member of Greater Second Baptist Church in Little Rock.


Fullerton, of Little Rock, is the recipient of this year’s Presidents Award, which honors alumni who have had success in their careers, donated time and talents to their community, and remained in touch with their alma mater as a volunteer and resource person. The award has been given annually since 1987.


Over the past decade, Fullerton has helped raise more than $1 million for student scholarships during her nine years chairing Jazz and Juleps. The annual event, which debuted in 2010, has been held in May during Better Speech and Hearing Month and raises scholarships for graduate students in the school’s Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, a joint program with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.


“You’ll be hard-pressed to find another volunteer with as much energy, drive and devotion to UA Little Rock,” O’Neal said of Fullerton. “Her commitment and steadfast pursuit of excellence in raising money for scholarships that support future practitioners in audiology and speech pathology makes a measured impact on the community.”


Fullerton graduated from UA Little Rock in 1974 with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology. She worked several years in the banking and investment industries before following her passion to be a travel agent. She currently works for Westrock Travel.


Working with the Development Council of the Audiology and Speech Pathology Department interested Fullerton whose niece, Sarah Kathleen Mayersohn, was born with hearing impairment. Sarah’s family moved to St. Louis so she could attend St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf, and she received cochlear implants, which weren’t available in Arkansas at the time.


“It made a tremendous difference for her,” Fullerton said of her niece, who has since graduated from Boston College and works as an archivist in Washington, D.C.


An endowed scholarship established in Fullerton’s name – the Loris Mayersohn Fullerton Endowed Scholarship – has been awarded since 2014.


Nicole Ursin, 21, of Batesville, has earned a 4.0 GPA while double majoring in anthropology and history with a minor in nonprofit leadership studies, all while working at nine different museums and historical organizations throughout her college career.


The Whitbeck Memorial Award is the single greatest distinction the university annually bestows on a graduating student through a competitive application process that comes with a $2,000 prize. 


In the fall, Ursin will begin a dual master’s degree program in applied anthropology and historic preservation at the University of Maryland. Once her education is complete, she would like to continue her historic preservation and education work at a museum and consult for communities that want to  increase tourism based on historical sites.


When she started college in 2015, Ursin looked to UA Little for an affordable, in-state education the provided her access to museums and culture in the heart of the capital city. She was also accepted into the prestigious Donaghey Scholars program, which provides tuition, fees, an on-campus housing subsidy, and a yearly stipend for up to four years, as well as financial assistance toward a Study Abroad program and a computer.


“I wanted to stay in Arkansas for the affordability of staying in state, but I also wanted to be in Little Rock where I would be at the center of where things are happening in heritage and culture,” Ursin said. “I wanted to work and intern at museums and historical organizations, and being a part of the Donaghey Scholars helped me get the liberal arts education that I wanted.”


During her study abroad experience, Ursin interned at the Národní (National) Museum in the Czech Republic. She preserved historic human remains from medieval times as well as worked in the Náprstek Museum of Asian, African and Native American Cultures.


“I even got to piece together a human skull that was broken into fragments,” she said.


In Little Rock, Ursin has interned the National Archives and Records Administration, the Center for Arkansas History and Culture, and the Clinton Foundation. For the past two years, she has worked at the Historic Arkansas Museum, where she researched the factors that drive museum audience demographics and diversity.


Throughout her internships, she has developed educational materials for the Clinton Presidential Center’s traveling exhibits and photographed and rehoused museum artifacts from President Bill Clinton’s administration. She also created an online exhibit about the life of Elizabeth Huckaby, the vice principal for girls at Little Rock Central High School who was responsible for protecting the six female members of the Little Rock Nine.


Ursin loves the opportunity to bring history to life for people to better understand the past. During her last two years with the Historic Arkansas Museum, she has learned some invaluable 19th-century skills like candle making and butter churning, to the delight of visiting children.


“I love my time at the Historic Arkansas Museum,” she said. “I have learned the most and been given the most opportunities to work in different parts of the museum. I am on the education staff, so I help coordinate programs and give historic tours. Recently, I coordinated the museum’s spring break week activities where we do a lot of living history demonstrations. We show people how to do historic cooking and laundry, candle making, butter churning, and a printing press. Kids usually love to make butter. People often don’t understand how much of a chore it would be to do these activities back in the 1840s.”  Additionally, Ursin has volunteered at UA Little Rock’s Sequoyah National Research Center, the Quapaw Quarter Association, and the Old Independence Regional Museum in Batesville. She has curated a permanent exhibit panel about school in early Arkansas, helped develop a database of Arkansas obituaries from newspaper records, and researched historic buildings in Arkansas to aid in historic preservation.


On the anthropology side, Ursin put her skills to use by studying an immigrant community of Micronesians living in Corsicana, Texas. Along with her mentor, Dr. Juliana Flinn, professor of anthropology and gender studies, she has visited Corsicana on multiple occasions to meet with community leaders and longtime residents to learn about daily life in the community.


“I think one of the most interesting components of the research is how much the immigrants are working to preserve their culture while maintaining a deep connection by visiting the island, sending money back to relatives, and staying active in politics,” Ursin said. “They are really trying hard to preserve their culture and share their culture in Texas.”


The UA Little Rock Faculty Senate Honors and Awards Committee selects the Whitbeck scholar based on citizenship, scholarship, and leadership. Frank L. and Beverly Whitbeck established the award in memory of their son, Edward Lynn Whitbeck, who was a senior at Little Rock University, the predecessor of UA Little Rock, at the time of his death in 1965. Each scholar receives a personalized plaque and a monetary award and will lead the graduating students during the academic processional at spring graduation. 


Source: UA Little Rock Communications 




On May 10, 2019, at the Clinton Presidential Center in downtown Little Rock, the UA Little Rock Alumni Association and the UA Little Rock Foundation Fund Board celebrated their 2019 distinguished alumni award recipients. As pictured above, the recipients are as follows from right to left: Distinguished Alumnus, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., ‘09; Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award, Nicole Ursin, ‘19; and Presidents Award, Loris Fullerton, ‘74. Read more about the recipients on page 13. (Photos by Becca Bona)