ATU Names 2019 Hall of Distinction Honorees

Four Arkansas Tech University alumni will receive their alma mater’s highest honor in 2019.

Truman Hill of Russellville, Major Gen. Gary W. Johnston of Fort Belvoir, Va., George Mitchell of Denton, Texas, and Lt. Col. William J. Sidebottom of Springfield, Va., will be inducted into the ATU Hall of Distinction during spring commencement ceremonies at John E. Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday, May 11.

Hill will be inducted under the Distinguished Alumni Service category, while Johnston, Mitchell and Sidebottom will enter the Hall of Distinction under the Distinguished Alumnus category.

“For more than 50 years, the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction has recognized individuals who have distinguished themselves through their career achievements and commitment to our university,” said Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president. “The four individuals selected for induction in 2019 are exemplars of characteristics that we seek to instill in our students. We look forward to honoring them at May commencement.”

Truman Hill

Hill earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Arkansas Tech in 1970. He went on to a 35-year career with Firestone and served on the ATU Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2012-14. The ATU alumni board elected Hill as its president for 2015.

In addition to his work with the ATU Alumni Association, Hill has also rendered volunteer service to enhance Arkansas Tech’s representation in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (ASHOF). He led the nomination process and chaired the committee that planned the ASHOF induction ceremony for the 1992 and 1993 NAIA national championship women’s basketball teams from Arkansas Tech.

Major Gen. Gary W. Johnston

Johnston received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from ATU in 1987. He completed the U.S. Army ROTC program at ATU and was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army.

In the years since, Johnston has served as Director of Intelligence, J-2, U.S. Special Operations Command; Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, XVIII Airborne Corps; and Deputy J-2, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command (ISAF-IJC), Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. His joint and combined assignments include Commander, Task Force 165 in support of Combined/Joint Task Force 76 in Bagram, Afghanistan; Commander, Combined Task Force Viper, Spin Boldak, Afghanistan; Deputy Director of Operations, Joint Intelligence Center Central, U.S. Central Command; Chief, WMD Analysis Branch, Joint Intelligence Center Central; and Executive Officer, Directorate of Operations, Joint Intelligence Center Pacific. He most recently served as Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence, Resolute Support Mission, North Atlantic Treaty Organization/Director, J-2, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, from April 2017 until April 2018.

As of June 2018, Johnston is the commander for the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). He has oversight of 17,500 soldiers, Army civilians and contractors working on behalf of the United States at 180 locations in 45 countries.

George Mitchell

Mitchell earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Arkansas Tech in 1970. He completed the ROTC program at Tech, won the Distinguished Military Graduate award and earned a commission as an officer in the U.S. Army.

After serving in the military and as an accountant for Arthur Andersen and Company in Oklahoma City and Arkoma Production Company in Fort Smith, Mitchell became chief financial officer for Jerry Jones’ business empire in 1999. He maintained those responsibilities for 12 years.

Today, Mitchell serves as senior vice president of finance for the Dallas Cowboys football club and Blue Star Investments Inc. Mitchell has helped the organization plan and finance, among other projects, the construction of AT&T Stadium in Arlington (estimated cost: $1.15 billion) and The Star, a 91-acre facility in Frisco that hosts the world headquarters for the Dallas Cowboys (estimated cost: $1.5 billion). Additional real estate developments in north Texas as well as accounting and reporting for oil and gas holdings are also part of the portfolio that Mitchell oversees.

Lt. Col. William J. Sidebottom

Sidebottom completed a Bachelor of Science degree in business from Arkansas Tech in 1967.

Recipient of the Distinguished Military Graduate award, Sidebottom served two combat tours in Vietnam. He earned the Silver Star for evacuating six fellow soldiers, four of whom were wounded, to safety while under enemy fire near the Cambodian border on Feb. 17, 1969. He also received four Purple Heart medals, a Bronze Star, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and 14 air medals for his service in southeast Asia.

Sidebottom retired from active duty in 1990 and later assisted the U.S. Army in transforming its logistics and financial programs while working at SAP. He was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame in 2015 and the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame in 2017.

Hall of Distinction Background

Established in 1964, the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction recognizes the accomplishments of Arkansas Tech alumni and friends in five categories: Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna, Distinguished Alumni Service, Outstanding Young Alumnus/Alumna, Distinction in Intercollegiate Athletics and Distinguished Service (non-alumnus).

Nominations for the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction may be made by any graduate of Arkansas Tech, any current or former member of the faculty or administration of Tech, any currently enrolled full-time student at Tech or any member of the Hall of Distinction. Nominations may not be made by a family member of the nominee. The nomination deadline is Oct. 1 of each year.

No incumbent member of the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees, faculty, staff or administration is eligible for nomination for any category of the Hall of Distinction.

For more information about nominating an individual for the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction, visit, call (479) 968-0242 or send e-mail to

Photographed: Truman Hill (top left); Major Gen. Gary W. Johnston (top right); George Mitchell (bottom left); and Lt. Col. William J. Sidebottom (bottom right).

Distinguished Alumnus to Speak February 21

Mike Miller of Russellville, a 2016 inductee into the Arkansas Tech University Hall of Distinction, will be the ATU Department of Campus Life Lunch with a Leader speaker on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Miller will speak beginning at noon in Doc Bryan Student Services Center room 242. It will be an On Track event on the Leader Identified track. Lunch will be served on a first come, first served basis.

A 1972 graduate of Arkansas Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, Miller is former owner of Van Horn Construction of Russellville.

The company gained licensure in more than 25 states and completed a number of landmark structures under Miller’s leadership, including Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center and Doc Bryan Student Services Center at Arkansas Tech.

Miller has given of his time and talents as a member of the Arkansas Tech Foundation Board of Directors, the Arkansas Tech College of Business Advisory Board and the Arkansas Tech Department of Engineering Advisory Committee.

He is also an active member of Green and Gold and an ardent fan of the Golden Suns and the Wonder Boys.

Miller’s community involvement has included service to Jaycees, Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce and the River Valley Christian Clinic. His efforts to make health care available to the less fortunate were recognized in 2014 when he received the Arkansas Medical Society Shuffield Award, the highest honor the organization presents to a non-physician.

For more information about the Lunch with a Leader series, call (479) 968-0276 or send e-mail to

Oaklawn Park to Host ATU Alumni March 23

Arkansas Tech University Alumni Association Day at the Races 2019 is scheduled for Saturday, March 23, at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.

Tickets are $35 per person and may be purchased online at or in person at the ATU Alumni Office, 1313 N. Arkansas Ave. in Russellville, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays.

Admission with the ATU group includes a racing program, the Winner’s Circle Buffet and access to the Arkansas Room throughout the afternoon.

Lunch begins at 11 a.m. and post time is 1 p.m. Tickets will be picked up outside the Arkansas Room the day of the races.

For more information, call (479) 968-0242 or send e-mail to

Taylor Pays Forward Gift of Chinese Study

It was almost 20 years ago when Joanne Taylor was selected to study China’s school system and curriculum through a grant from the Freeman Foundation.

Now, as her 43-year career in education comes to a close with her retirement this spring, Taylor is donating the teaching materials she obtained in China so that students in the Arkansas Tech University College of Education may benefit from them.

“I appreciate they are going to be used and not just stuffed in a closet,” said Taylor, who holds a master’s degree from ATU and teaches fifth grade mathematics in the Clarksville School District.

The texts include information about ancient China, native folklore, calligraphy handwriting, teaching methodology and Hong Kong. There are also postcards, maps and an abacus.

One of the treasures of the collection donated by Taylor is a guide book from the Terracotta Army site in the Lingtong District of China. There, thousands of clay statues have stood guard at the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, first emperor of China, since approximately 210 B.C. The guide book donated by Taylor is signed by the farmer who discovered the site in 1974.

The materials will be available in the ATU Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center.

Photographed (from left-to-right): Dr. Shellie Hanna, interim head of the ATU Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Joanne Taylor, Clarksville School District teacher and donor of items related to education in China.

2019-20 PLC Application Period Open Now

Eligible Arkansas Tech University students interested in serving on the ATU Presidential Leadership Cabinet during the 2019-20 academic year are encouraged to apply through March 15, 2019.

PLC members work with the ATU administration to promote the university to prospective and current students, alumni and friends.

Additionally, PLC members serve as ushers at various university events and host several philanthropic events to benefit the community.

Students selected must be a full-time students who have completed at least 12 semester hours at Tech and are in good standing with the school, hold a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 and be of good moral character.

Learn more about ATU Presidential Leadership Cabinet.

Access the 2019-20 PLC application.