Hudgens, Cooper Receive Tech’s Top Honor

Hal Cooper of Russellville and Col. George T. Hudgens of Silver Spring, Md., were inducted into the Arkansas Tech University Hall of Distinction during spring 2017 commencement ceremonies at John E. Tucker Coliseum in Russellville.

Cooper was inducted under the Distinguished Service category. Hudgens entered under the Distinguished Alumnus category.

Established in 1964, selection to the Hall of Distinction is the highest honor ATU may bestow upon an individual.

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 has served as president of the Southwest Division of the College Band Directors National Association, president of Arkansas Phi Beta Mu and district governor of Kappa Kappa Psi college band service fraternity.

“When Mr. Cooper arrived at Arkansas Tech in 1979, he was following in the footsteps of legends,” said Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president. “By the time he completed his 32-year tenure as director of bands in 2011, he had placed his own indelible mark on our instrumental music program. Mr. Cooper earned a place alongside Marvin Williamson and Gene Witherspoon in a distinguished group that our current director of bands, Dr. Daniel A. Belongia, refers to as the ‘founding fathers’ of Tech bands.”

Cooper was named Arkansas Bandmaster of the Year in 1988, and he achieved membership in the American Bandmaster Association in 1992.

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.

“When I arrived at Arkansas Tech in 2014, one of the conversations we started as a university community was the importance of grit…that quality that allows a person to persevere in pursuit of his or her goals regardless of the circumstances,” said Bowen. “I do not believe I have encountered a member of the Tech community who has more grit than Colonel George T. Hudgens.”

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, from left: Col. George T. Hudgens, Dr. Robin E. Bowen and Hal Cooper.