Supportive is consistently coupled with the word “faculty” by our student body at Arkansas Tech University. Sometimes these relationships make such an impact that their byproduct propels philanthropic action.
No better allusion exists on the ATU campus than the relationship between Dr. Hanna Norton and Sarah Beth Phillips. Phillips notes that she “expresses her gratitude daily” for the impact that Norton has made in her life—an impact that began in August 2004. Not many days go by that Norton and Phillips haven’t exchanged a text or had a conversation.
“Dr. Norton had a reputation for being no-nonsense and setting high expectations for her students,” said Phillips. Initially intimidated by Norton’s reputation, Phillips dedicated herself to the academic rigor for her major and wanted to make Norton proud. A pivotal moment that fueled this tenacity occurred late one evening while she and a group of students were in the library practicing for a presentation.
“Hanna walked in…I struggled to regain my composure and blinked back tears of shock and thankfulness that she was voluntarily spending personal time to help us,” Phillips said.
Norton’s impact on her students was not just academically; she also instilled in them “life skills” and the tools needed to succeed professionally. Phillips, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, was encouraged to embrace a critical life lesson: failing gracefully.
“I remember receiving a “B” on a paper I did not proofread as much as I should have—and being devastated,” recalled Phillips. “[Norton] said she knew I would be upset with myself, but that it was a good lesson to remember to double-check all my facts and work.”
At her core, Norton’s commitment to her students’ success is fueled by a passion for strengthening the grit they didn’t know they possessed. “If you incrementally teach them, they’ll suddenly realize how capable they are,” Norton explained. “It’s fun to watch that light bulb ‘turn on.’”