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Cooper, Hern, Hudgens Chosen for Top Honor

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Three individuals have been selected to receive the highest honor Arkansas Tech University may bestow upon an individual in 2017.

Hal Cooper of Russellville (photographed, top left), Kevin Hern of Tulsa, Okla. (photographed, top right) and George T. Hudgens of Silver Spring, Md. (photographed, bottom middle) will be inducted into the ATU Hall of Distinction during spring commencement ceremonies at John E. Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday, May 13.

Hern and Hudgens will enter under the Distinguished Alumnus category. Cooper will be inducted under the Distinguished Service category.

“For more than a half-century, selection to the Hall of Distinction has symbolized the pinnacle of achievement as a member of the Arkansas Tech University community,” said Mike Hutchison, vice president for advancement at ATU. “These three individuals have distinguished themselves in their respective fields and brought honor to our university. We look forward to the opportunity to recognize them during spring commencement weekend.”

Cooper was director of bands at Arkansas Tech from 1979-2011. He is one of five individuals to hold that title during the more than century-long tradition of instrumental music at Tech. Cooper was named Arkansas Bandmaster of the Year in 1988, and he achieved membership in the American Bandmaster Association in 1992.

Hern, a 1986 graduate of Arkansas Tech, is a private investor and managing partner at Firstrike Management Group. He has been involved in the McDonald’s franchise system for 30 years. Hern has the franchise for 10 McDonald’s restaurants in the Tulsa, Okla., area that employ more than 400 individuals.

Hudgens, who became the first African American graduate in Arkansas Tech history in 1963, went on to a distinguished 29-year military career that included serving as a commander in Vietnam and leading counterterrorism efforts as inspections branch chief in the U.S. Army Office of the Inspector General at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He retired at the rank of Colonel following a career that included serving as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee for former president George W. Bush and as Deputy Director of the Inaugural Committee for former president William Jefferson Clinton.

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