UA Little Rock Alumni Association honors three

May 22-28, 2017

By Nick Popowitch


Alumni of UA Little Rock honored three distinguished members of their society at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center on Friday, May 12.


The alumni being honored at the luncheon were Candice Hunter Corby, Rebecca Ward, and Connor Donovan. The three honorees represent the university’s excellence in past, present, and future professional success and outstanding public service in the Little Rock community, and the world.


Corby, a 1994 UA Little Rock graduate, received the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor given by the UA Little Rock Alumni Association. Corby is president, CEO, and a board member of Cobra Legal Solutions in Austin, Texas, providing legal support for international and domestic corporations and law firms.  


“Candice has always proven to be a go-getter,” said Holly Rose, board president of the UA Little Rock Alumni Association. Rose spoke about Corby’s junior year internship with BKD, where she was promoted to senior auditor before moving on to become the youngest CFO of the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, Texas, at age 26.


Corby was also CFO of Godwin Gruber, and chief operating officer of Baker & McKenzie in Dallas, and Mayer Brown in New York, before accepting a position to Cobra Legal Solutions in 2010.


During Corby’s reception speech, she humbly attributed much of her success to the people she worked with along the way, including her husband, professors, business associates, and her team at Cobra, many of whom were watching the awards presentation from their offices in Chennai, India, via Facebook Live.


“I am humbled and honored by this amazing recognition, and the opportunity to represent UA Little Rock as your distinguished alumna,” Corby said.


Receiving the Alumni Association’s Presidents Award was Rebecca Ward, a 1979 graduate of UA Little Rock, and former president of the UA Little Rock Alumni Association’s board of directors.


Ward’s successful career in social work led her to a position as chair of the UA Little Rock School of Social Work Advisory Committee, where she worked to create an endowed scholarship fund for UA Little Rock students pursuing a degree in social work. During the luncheon, Ward recalled fond memories of fundraising the endowment, working beside other members of the committee, including Christian O’Neal, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement at UA Little Rock.


“I had never even sold girl scout cookies,” Ward said, “and here I was pledging to raise $100,000, and I would stay as chair until we did that.”


Ward and the Social Work Advisory Board raised the funds for the endowed scholarship in six events. As president of the alumni board, she also worked tirelessly to provide scholarships to many students at UA Little Rock.


“I had so much fun doing this, I can’t believe I’m going to get recognized for it. It’s almost too much.”


Along with her recent work with her alma mater, Ward has enjoyed a rewarding career in social work, taking on positions at Arkansas Children’s Colony, Greater Little Rock Community Mental Health Center, Ouachita Regional Mental Health Center, and a decade-old private practice she shares with Howard Turney.  


The third, and newest alumnus recognized during the event was Connor Donovan, receiving the Edward L.Whitbeck Memorial Award. This annual award is the highest honor offered to a graduating student of UA Little Rock.


Presenting the award to Donovan was Jessica Scott, a professor of Anthropology at UA Little Rock, and Assistant Director of the Donaghey Scholars Program. As one of Donovan’s professors, Scott spoke highly of the 2017 Whitbeck Award recipient during the Friday luncheon.


“When I describe Connor to others, I call him a change maker,” Scott said, “he is the sort of student that you know without any doubt is going to make a difference in the world. A leader is someone who can make things happen, who can create energy, and persuade others to follow them. To call Connor a leader is absolutely, undeniably, true.”


Donovan, a Donaghey Scholar, and president of the Student Government Association, graduated this year from UA Little Rock, Summa Cum Laude, with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in international business, with an emphasis in Chinese language.


Through financial and medical hardships, Donovan had a difficult road to college. Layoffs in his family prevented him financially from attending the university he had originally planned for. But Donovan, determined to go to college, enrolled at UA Little Rock and made the most of his situation, thriving in the process.


Donovan will be continuing his education at the Clinton School of Public Service in the fall.


“I now intend to use the knowledge gained from the Clinton School of Public Service to build a stronger, and more unified world. One country, one city, and one person at a time.”


Donovan is the twenty-fifth consecutive Donaghey Scholar to receive the Whitbeck Memorial Award.


The exclusive presenting sponsor of the event was Baptist Health, and was coordinated by the UA Little Rock Alumni Association staff.   




Rebecca Ward, Connor Donovan and Candice Hunter Corby at the UA Little Rock Distinguished Alumni Awards on May 12 at the Clinton Library. (Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications)