Rollins Leaves Mark With Accessibility Project

Like many Arkansas Tech University students, Tyler Rollins of Bearden is passionate about the opportunities for competition afforded by the campus intramural sports program.

That’s why you’d often find Rollins, a spring 2017 graduate of Tech, at the campus recreation fields, coaching his friends in flag football and Ultimate Frisbee.

Rollins’ passion became much more accessible late in his undergraduate career because of a project that provides a custom solution for people in wheelchairs.

Luke Duffield of Blackstone Construction, Mobley Concrete Company and Duffield Gravel led a volunteer project by local businesses that created a path paved with conscientious concrete that allows people with disabilities the access they need to enjoy intramural sports at Arkansas Tech.

“This provides ease of access and opportunity,” said Rollins. “If I can get to it, I can do it. This bridges that gap. I can coach and watch. This provides independence. It’s awesome that it was a collaborative effort by so many hands.”

Jim Bowden of Bowden Specialties and Morgan Barrett of Barrett and Associates also lent their professional expertise to the project.

Among the distinctive features of the path is its “S” style pattern, which was created at Rollins’ advice based upon ease of access.

Duffield said the project could not have been successful without Rollins’ input.

“Tyler and Morgan drew everything out,” said Duffield. “We asked Tyler about the proper width. We told him to throw out the minimums…tell us what works best. He thought about things we hadn’t considered because he lives it every day.”

With his Bachelor of Science degree in recreation and park administration in hand, Rollins has accepted a position as assistant superintendent for The Center, a multipurpose community center owned and operated by the City of Bryant.

Photographed: Tyler Rollins receives congratulations from Arkansas Tech University faculty member Dr. Theresa Herrick during spring 2017 commencement ceremonies. 

ASBTDC Office at ATU Wins Statewide Awards

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center regional office at Arkansas Tech University collected several honors at ASBTDC’s statewide meeting on April 26 in Little Rock.

ASBTDC State Director Laura Fine presented Employee Excellence Awards to top performers from ASBTDC’s network of offices.

Nathan George and Ronda Hawkins received individual awards, and the ATU staff, which also includes Tracie White, was named the Star Marketing Team. The center also won accolades for its performance in a year-long social media photo challenge.

George, ATU center director, won top awards in three categories: capital formation, sales and start-up excellence.

To recognize the dollar value of loans and other forms of capital that staff members help their small business clients attain in a calendar year, ASBTDC designates “club” levels of productivity. George made the $10 Million Club by assisting clients in obtaining $13.76 million in capital last year, a personal best in his five years with the center.

For the third consecutive year, George received the Sales Star Award for helping client businesses increase sales.

George and Hawkins, the center’s business consultant, both received the Start-up Star Award for assisting the most new businesses in 2016. They each assisted 17 starts.

“I am proud of the excellent service the Arkansas Tech University ASBTDC provides to the small businesses and communities in its region and congratulate the staff on these well-deserved honors,” said Fine.

Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the Small Business Administration through a partnership with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business and other institutions of higher education, the ASBTDC offers consulting, training and market research to Arkansas small businesses. Assisting with every aspect of business creation, management and operation, the ASBTDC serves new, existing and technology-based businesses statewide. To learn more, visit

Located in Rothwell Hall, the Arkansas Tech office serves entrepreneurs in nine counties: Conway, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Scott, Sebastian and Yell.

Call (479) 356-2067 or visit for more information about the ASBTDC regional office at ATU.

Veteran, Service Dog Graduate Together

Two women own the heart of Eddie Gunter.

One is his wife, Maria, who watched proudly from the seats at John E. Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday morning as Gunter received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Arkansas Tech University.

The other is Star, a 7-and-a-half-year-old service dog who was with Gunter every step of the way to that degree, including the walk across the coliseum floor in her own cap and gown during Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

“(Star) is my savior when I’m down and my companion when I’m up,” said Gunter. “My wife is my best friend, and Star is right there in the same capacity. I think I care about each of them about equally. To have both of them here today, and for Star to get to walk with me, it’s icing on the cake.”

Gunter graduated from Russellville High School in 1987 and began classes at Arkansas Tech that fall.

“College probably wasn’t the first thing on my mind at that time,” said Gunter. “I was still young…18 years old. About two semesters in, the dean invited me to take a vacation. That vacation is what ultimately got me into the military.”

Gunter served as a medic in the U.S. Army. The years after his retirement from the service were trying times.

“I was struggling a lot with drinking, alcoholism and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” said Gunter. “I went to the in-patient treatment at the V.A. there at North Little Rock. It didn’t go really well the first go-round. That’s an eight-week process. It didn’t go very well, and I didn’t take it very well. I was short two weeks of making the whole program. The second time I went into the program, I was more open-minded because I knew I needed to get something to change.”

That change was made possible in part by Dr. Robert G. Zepecki, a veterinarian from Hot Springs who connects veterans with assistance dogs.

Zepecki, or “Dr. Bob” as Gunter calls him, had arranged for a service dog named Charlie to live with the patients on Gunter’s floor at the treatment center. Charlie and Gunter bonded.

“Dr. Bob was a blessing in getting this program worked out,” said Gunter. “They trusted me a little bit with Charlie, and I took Charlie to Petco. When we took Charlie to Petco is when I met Star. She was there with a rehab rescue group. As soon as I walked up to Star, and Star walked up to me…if you ever believed in love at first sight or that something was meant to be, that’s what I felt that day.”

Within a short period of time, Gunter had completed his therapy and Star was seated beside him for the car ride home to Hot Springs. They’ve been together ever since.

It was about that same time that Gunter resumed his education at Arkansas Tech. He took approximately half of his classes online and half in person, commuting from Hot Springs to Russellville for Tuesday and Thursday classes.

Now, almost 30 years after he began his studies there, Gunter is a graduate of ATU with a degree in rehabilitation science and psychology.

“Knowing the people and the doctors that had helped me along to get from the point of…let’s say drinking a fifth of whiskey every day and not wanting to get out of bed or leave my house…to wanting to leave my house and wanting to consider going to school…that adds some fuel to the fire,” said Gunter. “When I finally decided that rehabilitation science and psychology were for me, it just kind of fueled that fire a little more because I was learning about me. I want to work with other veterans because I know how many people helped me to get here. If people knew me five or eight years ago…down and out and battered and beaten as I was…if I can do it, anybody can do it. That’d be something I’d want every veteran in the country to hear.”

QuickBooks Training Events May 18

Local small businesses have the opportunity to attend training workshops hosted by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center regional office at Arkansas Tech University on a variety of business operations.

The workshops cover business creation, management and operation.

The regional office of the ASBTDC at Arkansas Tech is designed to assist new, existing and expanding businesses by offering a variety of services including free one-to-one confidential consulting, low cost or free training and free market research. Primary areas of assistance include start-up planning, financial analysis, market research, loan packaging, online and traditional marketing, growth and expansion, management and profitability.

QuickBooks Desktop Payroll | May 18
The ASBTDC regional office at ATU presents “QuickBooks Desktop Payroll” from 9 a.m.-noon on Thursday, May 18, at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. This hands-on workshop is designed for QuickBooks Pro, Premier, and Enterprise users to learn to use the payroll features in the desktop version of QuickBooks accounting software. Topics include tracking employee time, issuing paychecks, paying liabilities, and producing required payroll reports. A computer is provided during this interactive session. Cost is $65 to attend. Seating is limited with registration required no later than May 17 at (479) 356-2067 or

QuickBooks Online Payroll | May 18
The ASBTDC regional office at ATU presents presents “QuickBooks Online Payroll” from 1-4 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. This hands-on workshop is designed for those using the cloud-based version of QuickBooks to learn to use the payroll features in this online accounting platform. Topics include tracking employee time, issuing paychecks, paying liabilities and producing required payroll reports. A computer with internet access is provided during this interactive session. Cost is $65 to attend. Seating is limited with registration required no later than May 17 at (479) 356-2067 or

Free webinars for small businesses are now offered on a wide range of topics. The live sessions are led by ASBTDC staff and subject matter experts. Go to for a list of seminars and registration information.

The ASBTDC at ATU is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U. S. Small Business Administration through a partnership with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Arkansas Tech University College of Business.

All ASBTDC programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities and individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact Ronda Hawkins at (479) 356-2067.

Book Signing for “A Century Forward” Sunday

A book signing has been scheduled to celebrate the release of “A Century Forward: The Centennial History of Arkansas Tech University” by Dr. Thomas A. DeBlack, professor of history.

The event will take place from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, May 7, at Belle Helene Bess, an historic Greek revival mansion located at 214 E. Fifth St. in Russellville and owned by ATU alumnus Todd Sweeden.

Refreshments will be served and copies of “A Century Forward” will be available for purchase. Those who have already purchased the book are invited to bring their copy for signing.

“A Century Forward” is available for purchase weekdays at the Barnes and Noble College Bookstore at ATU, which is located in the W.O. Young Building at 209 West O Street in Russellville; and the ATU Alumni House, which is located at 1313 North Arkansas Ave. in Russellville. Cost is $45 per book plus tax.

The new book tells the story of Arkansas Tech University, beginning with the events that led to its creation as the Second District Agricultural School in 1909 and continuing through its evolution to become Arkansas Polytechnic College in 1925 and Arkansas Tech University in 1976. The ending point of the book coincides with the conclusion of the presidency of Dr. Robert C. Brown in 2014.

A member of the Arkansas Tech faculty since 1995, DeBlack is a past president of the Arkansas Historical Association and the Arkansas Association of College History Teachers.

DeBlack is also an award-winning author. In 2003, he received the first Butler-Remmel Arkansas History Literary Prize for his book “With Fire and Sword: Arkansas 1861-74.” He co-authored the college-level textbook “Arkansas: A Narrative History,” which was recognized by the Arkansas Library Association with its Arkansiana Prize in 2003.

DeBlack’s areas of teaching and research emphasis are Arkansas history, the Old South, the New South, the Civil War and Reconstruction.