2022 Alfred J. Crabaugh Award Winner: Parker Benton

When it came to evaluating Arkansas Tech University as an option for higher education, Parker Benton’s father knew best.

“My biggest motivating factor was my father (Chris Benton),” said Benton. “We came up here (to ATU) and toured for Time Out for Tech. I loved it, and he really loved it. He pushed me toward coming up here. I was scared at first because I came from a small town and I didn’t know anybody here. He told me big things would come out of coming here, and he wasn’t wrong.”

The most recent of those “big things” is Benton’s selection as the winner of the 2022 Alfred J. Crabaugh Award as the most outstanding senior male student at Arkansas Tech. He will receive the award during ATU spring commencement on Saturday, May 7.

Benton, who is from Quitman, completed the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree program at Arkansas Tech. He minored in mathematics and added an Associate of Science degree in construction.

“I’ve learned…especially from Mr. (Stan) Apple…that you need to take your job and your work very seriously,” said Benton. “Engineering can affect others’ lives and their livelihood. I’ve always been a math guy, so I looked around at different degrees I could pursue. A few of my family members are engineers and they pushed me toward that direction, so I tried it out and really enjoyed it.”

On campus, Benton was a senator in Student Government Association and an officer for both Sigma Pi fraternity and the Inter-Fraternity Council.

“They’ve been my brothers,” said Benton when asked about the men of Sigma Pi. “I went through some rough times as far as family passings and through the COVID years, and they’ve been there for me. I try to be as perfect as I can for grades and it got really stressful, but they’ve been there as a good support system and for the good times. It’s been a blessing.”

Benton was employed as operations manager for the Hull Building Student Union, which opened in November 2020 and helped revitalize campus life at Arkansas Tech.

“We really try to make that feel like a home for students, and I feel like we’ve done a good job,” said Benton. “The older students tell me all the time how much they love it and how much they wish we would have had it all four years.”

Interviewing, job training, scheduling and management are among the skills Benton sharpened in the Hull Building Student Union that he believes will be transferable to his career.

“I’ve learned how to put on events that everyone will enjoy,” said Benton. “We put on some events that not many people came to, and it taught me how to be more inclusive to everybody as a whole and how to get in the students’ mindset to learn what they would enjoy. I learned how to lead with the perspectives of other people in mind.”

Those lessons were imparted to Benton by, among others, the people he identified as his most influential mentors at Arkansas Tech: Chelsea Neal, associate dean for campus life and the student union; and Kevin Solomon, dean of student engagement.

“I work with Chelsea every day at the union, and she’s taught me how to really love a job,” said Benton. “I thought that after college it’s luck of the draw as to whether or not you like what you do. She taught me that you can find a job you love, stay there and really appreciate it. Kevin has always pushed me to do bigger and better. He pushed me to join Student Government Association. He pushed me to take leadership roles. He pushed me to get out and do as many events as I can.”

It wasn’t all school and work. Benton found time for fun at ATU.

He teamed up with fellow Arkansas Tech student Jake Moffett to form the musical duo PB&J, which finished second in the 2021 Tech’s Got Talent competition. Benton was also a top-two finisher in the 2021 Mr. Tech competition.

“When I first came up here, I was really nervous and shy,” said Benton. “I was that way until the end of sophomore year. Watching some of my older fraternity brothers get out in the spotlight and do things around campus…I wanted to do that and change who I was. So, I started signing up for all these events. I was nervous doing them, but it was fun. I definitely gave myself confidence. I learned that I enjoyed it and that I wanted to keep doing it.”

A Dean’s List selection in multiple semesters, Benton served internships with CWB Engineers Inc. in Heber Springs and General Dynamics in Camden during his time as an Arkansas Tech student.

Upon graduation, Benton will begin his career as a full-time mechanical engineer with Lockheed Martin in Camden.

It marks the next step in a journey that was sparked when Benton followed that fatherly advice four years ago.

“He couldn’t believe it,” said Benton when asked about telling his father he won the Alfred J. Crabaugh Award. “When I told him I was nominated, he was as giddy as if I won it. When I told him I won, he was so ecstatic. To have him there, supporting me, I can’t ask for any better.

“When I first came here, I was worried about making my mark,” continued Benton. “To me, it means everything that the school took notice of me working so hard. I love this school, and I’ve tried to put everything I can into it.”