Gift Honors Burnett’s Service to Others

A bond formed three decades ago in the name of student success has been memorialized in an honor staff presented to an Arkansas Tech University Board of Trustees member.

Kristine Melton Brooks was working in ATU’s student development center in 1989 when she met Eric Burnett, a freshman Wonder Boys basketball player from Fort Smith in need of academic assistance.

“I saw in Eric a desire to succeed, and also a desire not to fail,” said Brooks. “He was not going back to Fort Smith without his college degree.”

As one of 13 children raised by a single mother, Burnett not only persisted through his first year at Arkansas Tech. He went on to become an All-America student-athlete, an ATU graduate and a successful coach, teacher and mentor in the school districts at Fort Smith, Springdale and then Fort Smith again, where today he serves as head boys’ basketball coach at Northside High School.

He is also in his second term on the ATU Board of Trustees and has rendered service on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Smith.

In recognition of Burnett’s passion for helping others, Brooks asked her uncle, ATU alumnus Darryl Melton, to create one of the honor staffs that he presents to people of outstanding character and faith.

“This honor staff is for Eric, to recognize who he is and what he does to help others,” said Brooks during the surprise presentation in Chambers Cafeteria West Dining Room at Arkansas Tech. “This isn’t about basketball, how many points you scored or awards that you have received. Although without basketball, it wouldn’t be possible for you to serve in the manner that you do.”

Photographed (from left-to-right): Kristine Melton Brooks, Eric Burnett, Darryl Melton.