Ballard, Jones, Starks Named ATU’s Top Seniors

Arkansas Tech University Outstanding Seniors 2024 Breckyn Ballard-Braden Jones-Madison Starks
Photographed (from left-to-right): Breckyn Ballard, Braden Jones and Madison Starks.

Arkansas Tech University named the winners of the institution’s top three undergraduate senior awards for 2024 during an awards reception at the Hull Building Student Union on Sunday, April 28.

Videos and feature stories telling the story of each honoree are available by clicking on each award recipient’s name below:

Each honoree will be recognized during the 2 p.m. ATU commencement ceremony at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday, May 11.

The Margaret Young Award is presented each year to the most outstanding senior female undergraduate student at ATU.

The award is part of a rich heritage for the Young family at ATU. The Young family’s contributions are remembered through William O. Young, Margaret’s husband, who oversaw the business affairs of Arkansas Tech from 1917-41 and for whom the W. O. Young Building was named. Their son — Robert A. Young — worked in administration and finance at Arkansas Tech from 1941-84 and was inducted into the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction in 1973. Their grandson — Dr. Robert A. Young Jr. — is past president of the ATU Foundation and an ardent supporter of ATU athletics.

The Young family also holds a special place in Arkansas Tech history as the owners of the original Jerry the Bulldog during the 1930s.

The Alfred J. Crabaugh Award is presented each year to the most outstanding senior male undergraduate student at ATU.

The award’s namesake served on the Arkansas Tech faculty from 1929-69. He is the only person in the history of the university to hold the title of academic dean, and he was a central figure in the transition of the institution to become a senior college. In May 1948, under Crabaugh’s guidance, the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees approved a recommendation that the school should become a four-year, degree-granting institution. His efforts to build the academic reputation of Arkansas Tech truly came to fruition in March 1951 when the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accredited the four-year program at Arkansas Tech.

Due to these and other efforts, Crabaugh is recognized as the father of the modern intellectual tradition at ATU.

The Jill Lestage Brown Service Leadership Award is presented each year to a senior undergraduate student at ATU who seeks to improve society through unselfish voluntary service to others as demonstrated by past and current leadership roles, service hours completed and participation in volunteer programs.

The award is named for the former first lady of ATU. Brown stepped down from her career as an elementary school teacher to act as a volunteer ambassador and hostess for Arkansas Tech during the presidency of her husband, Dr. Robert C. Brown, from 1993-2014.

Brown has also volunteered her time to benefit organizations such as the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce, National Women in the Arts, the Arkansas Tech Wesley Foundation, Shelter of Sunshine, the River Valley United Way and Junior Auxiliary of Russellville.

The reception also featured recognition of ATU’s Who’s Who students for 2024.

Who’s Who selection is based upon academic achievement, service to the community while enrolled at ATU, leadership and involvement in co-curricular activities and the potential for continued success.

Listed below are the 2024 Who’s Who at ATU honorees (click on each honoree’s name to see their photo):

Yesenia Arias
Hometown: Guymon, Okla.
Major: Political Science
Parents: Azarael Arias and Ana Arias

Blakely Baker
Hometown: Sherwood
Major: Rehabilitation Science
Parents: Phillip Baker and Miranda Baker

Breckyn Ballard
Hometown: Pottsville
Major: Psychology
Parents: Robin and Ron Ballard

Corbin Beard
Hometown: Benton
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Parents: Susan and Sean Beard

Natasha Branch
Hometown: Pottsville
Graduate Program: Student Affairs Administration
Spouse: Jerry Branch

Jace Bridges
Hometown: Springdale
Major: History
Parents: Maurice Bridges and Suzanne Bridges

Nathan Brown
Hometown: Benton
Major: Human Resources Management
Parents: Amy and Marcus Brown

Tess Butler
Hometown: Hot Springs
Major: Music
Parent: Lisa Butler

Jacqueline Diaz-Lopez
Hometown: Berryville
Major: Political Science and International Studies
Parents: Alma and Juan Diaz

Allicen Fight
Hometown: Van Buren
Major: Middle Level Education
Parents: Renae and David Fight

Alyssa Gattis
Hometown: Subiaco
Major: Elementary Education
Parents: Ashley and Marshall Gattis

Diana Gonzalez
Hometown: Fort Smith
Major: Nursing
Parents: Araceli Gonzalez and Antonio Gonzalez

Paula Gonzalez Prado
Hometown: Maracaibo, Venezuela
Major: Digital Marketing
Parents: Roney Gonzalez and Karina Prado

Alyssa Gray
Hometown: North Little Rock
Major: Criminal Justice
Parents: Anthony Gray and Karon Gray

Ivy Guzman
Hometown: Lima, Peru
Major: Broadcast Journalism
Parents: Patricia Branch and Miguel Guzman

Ally Hays
Hometown: Ballwin, Mo.
Major: Marketing Strategies and Business Data Analytics
Parents: Lisa and Jeff Hays

Maggie Hemmert
Hometown: Bentonville
Major: Nursing
Parent: Tiffany Hemmert

Brooke Holt
Hometown: Hackett
Major: Biology
Parents: Stephanie and Alan Holt

Ihuoma Ilechukwu
Hometown: Anambra State, Nigeria
Graduate Program: Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Parents: Augustina and Hyacinth Anyanwu
Spouse: Chino Ilechukwu

Olivia Johnson
Hometown: Pottsville
Major: Digital Marketing
Parents: Amanda and Ronald Johnson

Krystal Kendrick
Hometown: Dover
Graduate Program: K-12 Special Education
Spouse: Jonathan Kendrick
Parents: Kim and Don Williams

Alli Beth King
Hometown: Rison
Major: Communications
Parents: Kim Kaye and Davy King

Bryson Lewis
Hometown: Paris
Major: Criminal Justice
Parents: Carolyn and James Lewis

Margarita Lopez
Hometown: Siloam Springs
Major: Journalism
Parents: Brenda and Jose Lopez

Lynnlee Mitchell
Hometown: Lavaca
Major: Middle Level Education
Parents: Michelle and George Mitchell

Hunter Norris
Hometown: Conway
Major: Mathematics
Parent: Lara Norris

Emily Nye
Hometown: Alma
Major: English Education
Spouse: Keegan Nye

Jarely Ramirez
Hometown: Bryant
Major: Elementary Education
Parents: Soledad Mendiola and Jorge Ramirez

Kaitlyn Rebidue
Hometown: Cabot
Major: Music Education
Parents: Mary and Jon Rebidue

Zurab Sabakhtarishvili
Hometown: Tbilisi, Georgia
Major: Computer Science
Parents: Ana Gogishvili and Kakha Sabakhtarishvili

Mohammad Sanjari
Hometown: Rasht, Iran
Graduate Program: Information Technology
Parent: Behdis Manzouri

Madison Starks
Hometown: Bigelow
Major: English
Parents: Kristi and Jeff Starks

Autumn Stoll
Hometown: Benton
Major: Social Studies Education
Parents: Darci and Mark Stoll

Hannah Stone
Hometown: Clarksville
Major: Political Science, Sociology and Criminal Justice
Parents: Tanja and Brett Stone

Archie Stovall
Hometown: Russellville
Major: Graphic Design
Parents: Adam Stovall and Ashley Hodge

Noah Sumler
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Major: Music
Parents: Christine and Delreco Sumler

Stephanie Swatzel
Hometown: Fillmore, Calif.
Graduate Program: Student Affairs Administration
Parents: Gene Morin and Carol Sayers Ballat

Brittany Thomas
Hometown: Dardanelle
Graduate Program: Student Affairs Administration
Parents: Carol and Gary Thomas

Jae Thomas
Hometown: Bryant
Major: Biology
Parents: Johnna and Patrick Thomas

Coley Turner
Hometown: Alpena
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Parent: LaShell Turner

Marquis Vasquez
Hometown: Conway
Major: Music Education
Parents: Mark Vasquez and Quincy Jackson

Presidential Leadership Awards Reception 4/28/24