Arkansas Tech University will bestow its greatest honor upon three of its graduates when Major Gen. Ronald S. Chastain of Conway, Bill “Sleepy” Curtis of Marianna and Dr. Jo Neighbors Harper of Fort Smith are inducted into the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction during spring commencement ceremonies.
Chastain (photographed, top left) and Harper (photographed, top right) will be inducted under the Distinguished Alumnus category, while Curtis (photographed, bottom middle) will be inducted under the Distinction in Intercollegiate Athletics category.
The induction ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, at John E. Tucker Coliseum in Russellville.
Ronald S. Chastain
Chastain is a 1972 graduate of Arkansas Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation from the U.S. Army ROTC program at Arkansas Tech on July 7, 1972.
His military career included a variety of command and staff assignments with the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade, the 87th Troop Command and the 39th Infantry Brigade. Chastain commanded the 25th Rear Area Operations Center during Operation Desert Storm, and he commanded the 39th Brigade Combat Team during Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
In October 2005, Chastain was promoted to Major General and took on the role of chief of staff for United States Forces in Korea. He returned home to Arkansas to serve as Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard from July 15, 2006, through Feb. 15, 2007.
Chastain retired as deputy commanding general for the Army National Guard U.S. Army Forces Command in Fort McPherson, Ga., in 2010.
His military honors include, but are not limited to, the Legion of Merit (with one Oak Leaf Cluster), the Bronze Star (with one Oak Leaf Cluster), the Meritorious Service Medal (with four Oak Leaf Clusters) and the Army Commendation Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters).
In addition to his military career, Chastain worked for the United States Department of Agriculture from 1974-2006. He retired from the USDA as a district director.
Dr. Jo Neighbors Harper
Harper was a pioneer for women in educational leadership in Arkansas. She became the first woman to serve as a high school principal in Sebastian County when she was chosen to lead Mansfield High School.
During her time at Mansfield High from 1988-93, Harper developed and implemented a college prep curriculum, created a student recognition program for attendance, citizenship and academics, organized a principal/student advisory group as a means of exchanging ideas and she founded a sportsmanship program that won the Arkansas Activities Association good sportsmanship award.
Harper’s path to serving in school leadership began at Arkansas Tech, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business education in 1957.
She went on to obtain a master’s degree in vocational education, an educational specialist degree and a doctorate in education from the University of Arkansas, all while working full-time and raising her children --- Mitchell and Kimberly --- alongside her husband, 1999 Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction inductee William R. “Bud” Harper.
Prior to her tenure at Mansfield High School, Harper was a long-time classroom instructor in the Van Buren School District. She introduced the first computers into the Van Buren High School curriculum and founded the high school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter.
Harper received the 2004 Spirit of the Frontier award from the City of Fort Smith, the 2005 Woman of Distinction award from the Girl Scouts of America and the 2007 Community Leadership in Education award from Leadership Fort Smith.
Harper’s service to Arkansas Tech has included serving on the Arkansas Tech University Foundation Board of Directors and the Arkansas Tech-Ozark Campus Path to Progress committee.
Bill "Sleepy" Curtis rushed for more than 2,000 yards during his four-year football career at Arkansas Tech.
A native of Marianna, Curtis played for the Wonder Boys from 1959-62. He rushed for 2,401 career yards, which is the seventh-highest career rushing total in the 97-season history of Arkansas Tech football.
Curtis was honorable mention All-America and All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference in both 1961 and 1962. He rushed for 1,027 yards during his senior season in 1962, making him one of just six Wonder Boys to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
If one day solidified Curtis' place in Arkansas Tech history, it was Oct. 21, 1961.
That was the day he carried 25 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wonder Boys to a 16-7 win over their arch rivals from Arkansas State Teachers College (now known as the University of Central Arkansas).
Curtis had touchdown runs of 46 and two yards as Arkansas Tech picked up a key win on its path to a second consecutive AIC title.
The Wonder Boys had a cumulative overall record of 31-5-2 during Curtis' four-year career at Tech.
Curtis was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. He was the 20th individual with ties to Arkansas Tech to be enshrined in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.]]>