Like Father, Like Daughter: Taylor Lawrence’s ATU Story

Taylor Lawrence
Taylor Lawrence

It was little more than a decade ago that Taylor Lawrence could often be found riding around the Arkansas Tech University campus on a golf cart, talking on a pretend phone on her way to and from her dad’s office at the Doc Bryan Student Services Center.

A lot has changed since then, but not Taylor’s affection for Arkansas Tech.

These days, Lawrence is a graduate of Dardanelle High School and ATU. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education in 2023, but she wasn’t ready to leave Arkansas Tech. Listening to her, it seems the ATU campus is the place she feels closest to her father, Steve Lawrence.

“He was funny…he was honestly a really great person all around,” said Taylor. “He always wanted to help. He loved Tech. He really poured his heart into it. It makes it seem like home because I grew up on the campus with him. I really have a heart for this campus. I can’t imagine not being here. It makes it feel like he’s with me still.”

Steve Lawrence joined the Arkansas Tech student affairs staff in 1976. He did almost every job that division had to offer over the course of a 37-year career at ATU. He managed the W.O. Young Student Center. He oversaw student conduct. He was the chief of public safety. He was associate dean of students. He even sponsored the cheerleading squad for a time.

Steve retired from ATU in December 2013. He passed away on March 20, 2023.

Taylor followed in her dad’s footsteps in fall 2023 by joining the ATU Division of Student Affairs as a graduate assistant in intramural and recreational sports. She is pursuing the ATU Master of Science degree in student affairs administration.

In her role as a graduate assistant, Lawrence makes schedules for scorekeepers, officials and supervisors in intramural sports and communicates them to the department’s student workers. She helps with field maintenance and equipment set up and tear down. She oversees the administration of intramural leagues.

“I try to check on my employees,” said Lawrence. “Especially if I know they haven’t worked in a while, I’ll text them and make sure they are okay. I want to get to know them on a first-name basis. They aren’t just employees to me. I want to know how they are and how they’re doing.

“My favorite part is working in the evenings when we have an event, especially during basketball,” continued Lawrence. “There are so many employees there at one time working. Being around everyone and laughing…having fun…we can joke around with each other. I love being with them.”

There’s an added benefit to all this for Lawrence. The next generation of the family, Taylor’s daughter AvaKay, is following in her mom’s footsteps by growing up at ATU.

“She runs the halls…she’ll say hey to everyone,” said Lawrence. “Everyone knows who she is. She’ll go with anyone if they’re going to the student union to get a smoothie. She’ll say, ‘I go, I go.’

“It starts with a great support system,” continued Lawrence. “My mom (Lisa Lawrence) is wonderful. She is the biggest support ever. It takes a village to raise a child, and intramurals is my village. I know if I need anyone or anything for her, they would be there in a heartbeat.”

Lawrence isn’t sure where life will take her after she completes her master’s degree. Regardless of where she goes, she knows that her family’s name will remain a strong presence on the ATU campus due to the philanthropy and thoughtfulness of her Godparents, Cindi and Jimmy Ferguson.

The Ferguson family has provided the lead gift in support of the construction of a new student union and recreation center at Arkansas Tech.

Steve Lawrence and Jimmy Ferguson worked together in student affairs at ATU for almost two decades. The new building, which will be named the Ferguson Student Union, will be located on the same parcel of land where they spent much of their time together in the Young Student Center.

“They are amazing people,” said Taylor when asked about the Fergusons, who embarked upon a career as franchisees in the McDonald’s system in the Austin, Texas, area after Mr. Ferguson left ATU in 1994. “They want to help the world with everything they do. Not many people know this, but on Thanksgiving they go and serve a meal to anyone who wants to come in…just out of the kindness of their hearts. The Fergusons really do have a heart of gold. I feel like they really wanted to make such a monumental impact at Tech because Jimmy worked here for so many years and the Tech community is special to him.

“Jimmy was my dad’s best friend,” continued Taylor. “They had a rare friendship that continued on even after Jimmy left Tech. Their shared goals at Tech were always about what was best for the students, and my dad always said that is what made Tech’s student services programs stand out.”

Inside the Ferguson Student Union will be an involvement center. In the video previewing the new facility, it is revealed that the involvement center will be named for Steve Lawrence.

“It sends chills through my body to know that his name is going to be on something here,” said Taylor. “When they showed me the video of the layout of it, there were a few tears shed because it means so much to me. I miss him so much.”