Opportunity Awaits for ATU Class of 2018

Luis Campos Alcocer understands the true value of the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree he received from Arkansas Tech University on Saturday morning.

“It’s just a piece of paper,” said Alcocer, “but it gives you the opportunity to become anything that you want to.”

Members of the ATU Class of 2018 each have that opportunity after they received 1,350 degrees during five commencement ceremonies concluding the 109th academic year at Arkansas Tech Thursday through Saturday at John E. Tucker Coliseum.

Alcocer is from DeQueen. He chose ATU because of the management and marketing major in the College of Business. By his senior year, his achievements earned him the ATU Robert A. Young Outstanding Business Award and a job as a recruiter for J.B. Hunt.

“We had really good classes such as management information systems, business policy and business statistics,” said Alcocer. “I feel like it really prepared me for the future. Dr. (Jack) Tucci was my advisor, and he really opened up my eyes to the opportunities that I have. Being a college graduate opens a lot of doors.”

One of Alcocer’s fellow graduates has some unfinished business on the gridiron before he walks through that open door.

Chris Eastburn of Pearcy received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology on Saturday morning, but he will return to ATU classrooms during the fall 2018 semester and complete his final season of eligibility as the starting halfback for the Wonder Boys’ football program.

“I came on a recruiting visit, and everybody talked about family and a close-knit culture,” said Eastburn, reflecting on the beginning of his Tech journey. “I got swept away by it. After that visit, I knew this was where I had to be.”

Eastburn said the helpfulness of the staff and faculty in the College of Natural and Health Sciences as well as small class sizes were keys to his success. He also became involved in the larger community, performing volunteer community service with his Wonder Boys teammates and serving on the ATU Mayoral Advisory Council.

“What made me want to get involved was the opportunity to give back,” said Eastburn, who will apply to dental school. “ATU has given so much to me, and I wanted to share that gift with others.”

An attractive scholarship package is the gift that initially drew David Ryan Williams of Hot Springs to Arkansas Tech. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in biology on Saturday and will proceed to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“Tech handed out the best scholarships of any school in Arkansas I could find that was a prestigious school,” said Williams. “I’ve studied every day of my life here, but I also met a lot of great people and good friends. The friendship you find here is the best.”

Williams pointed to Dr. Ivan Still, associate professor of biology, as his most important faculty mentor.

“He really cares and wants you to succeed,” said Williams. “That’s the kind of professor that gets students to be successful in life, so I really appreciate everything he did. Arkansas Tech has a good pre-med committee that helps students through the steps of what they need to do to get to medical school. There are more one-on-one opportunities with faculty here. All of my classes only had around 30 students in them, and you don’t get that at larger universities.”

Blake Hurley of Clarksville has always been well acquainted with ATU due to its proximity to her hometown, but she recalls a visit day during her senior year in high school as the clinching moment in her decision making process.

“I just loved the atmosphere when I came up for Time Out for Tech,” said Hurley.

On Saturday morning, she returned to the site of Time Out for Tech, Tucker Coliseum, to receive her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree.

Beyond the classroom, Hurley has been active in such student organizations as the Presidential Leadership Cabinet, Student Government Association and the Public Relations Student Society of America.

“I would not be the person I am today if I was not so involved,” said Hurley. “I’m so excited, and I’m happy that my hard work has paid off.”

Gary Fryer knows about hard work. A graduate of Little Rock Hall High School, Fryer came to Arkansas Tech in 1964 to play football for head coach Marvin “Shorty” Salmon. He was a letterman as a back-up tackle on the Wonder Boys’ 1964 Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championship team.

Fryer dropped out of college following the spring 1965 semester and returned to Little Rock to pursue a career in his family’s furniture business.

More than a half-century passed before Fryer returned to ATU in fall 2016 to continue his studies. On Saturday night, he completed a journey 54 years in the making when he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history at the age of 72.

“I’m kind of an emotional fellow, so I’m afraid I’ll bawl my way up there,” said Fryer before the ceremony. “I’m proud of a whole bunch of kids I know. The people that impress the heck out of me are non-traditional students in their 30s and 40s who have families, that have changed out of careers and are sacrificing to get a higher education.”

As a non-traditional student himself, Fryer took the additional step of pledging membership in Kappa Sigma fraternity upon his return to Arkansas Tech. He was joined in the ATU Class of 2018 by three of his fraternity brothers.

“We had a farewell ceremony, and I wasn’t sure what they would say about me,” said Fryer. “They had some interesting insights that I got a kick out of, and I felt like they were genuine appreciations of our friendship. We have a small fraternity, and it was touching. I felt like I really was a part of the fraternity.”

Fryer represented one end of the age spectrum among the ATU Class of 2018. His classmate, Alyssa Marie Lindsey of Harrison, engaged in a special graduation project designed to connect with a younger version of herself. She sewed her own commencement ceremony dress.

“I recently read an article that said you should do things that make your 8-year old self proud,” said Lindsey. “I’ve loved sewing since I was just a little bitty kid, so I thought making my own dress to wear to my college graduation would be pretty appropriate for that and special.”

Lindsey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English on Saturday night.

“I had family that went (to ATU) before me, so I thought it would be good from a family tradition standpoint,” said Lindsey of her decision to attend Tech. “I also just really love the atmosphere of the campus. It’s homey and comfortable.”

2018 Spring Commencement: 10am Ceremony / Hall of Distinction Luncheon

2018 Spring Commencement: 2pm Ceremony | 5/13/18

2018 Spring Commencement: 6pm Ceremony | 5/13/18

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