Category Archives: Employee

Thomas Roy McKinnon Leader. Teacher. Mentor. Friend.

In Memoriam:  Thomas Roy McKinnon
April 4, 1935 – August 10, 2018

Soft spoken. Gentle. Athletic. Trusted. Leader. Teacher. Mentor. Friend.

Just a few of the words friends and colleagues used to describe Thomas “Tom” Roy McKinnon, emeritus university professor of economics, who died August 10.

Former colleagues at the Walton College describe McKinnon – known to many as TMac – in glowing terms as they reminisced about their friendship with him and his impact on the college.

“He was just Tom,” said Bill Curington, emeritus university professor of economics and former chair of the Department of Economics. “He always cooperated. If there was a controversy in the department, he looked for solutions. Everybody valued his input.”

“He was the Pied Piper of economics,” said David Gay, retired university professor of economics who worked with McKinnon. “He had a way of getting people to feel comfortable and relax and have a better understanding of economics, to expand their boundaries as teachers or as students.”

Tom McKinnonApril 4, 1935 – August 10, 2018
Tom McKinnon
April 4, 1935 – August 10, 2018

McKinnon earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Southern State College (now known as Southern Arkansas University) in 1956. He met his wife Frances there. After a stint in the U.S. Army, McKinnon began his professional career teaching history and social studies in 1959 to high school students in El Dorado. He completed his master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Arkansas in 1960. Within a few years, he became an assistant principal at the high school in El Dorado.

In 1968, McKinnon completed his master’s degree in economics at the University of Illinois. He then moved his family to Oxford, Miss., to earn his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Mississippi in 1972. After earning his doctorate, McKinnon moved back to Fayetteville and began work as an assistant professor of economics at the University of Arkansas. In the process, he made lifelong friends at the School of Business Administration, now known as the Walton College.

A Lasting Legacy
In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, McKinnon worked with Bessie B. Moore, an influential educator and the first executive director of the Arkansas Council on Economic Education, the predecessor to Economics Arkansas. Moore asked McKinnon to assist with economic workshops for teachers and encouraged him to acquire his doctorate.

With his background in secondary education, both as a teacher and an administrator, and his new position as an assistant professor in economics, Moore felt McKinnon would be a strong director for a new economic education center at the university. With that position in mind, Moore recruited McKinnon, who help to found the Center for Economic Education in 1978.  He served as the director of the center from 1979 through 2004.

Since 1979, the Bessie B. Moore Center for Economic Education has been training Arkansas teachers to teach primary and secondary students economics through innovative, hands-on workshops, creative curriculums and interactive projects. Countless Arkansans have learned basic economics through the center’s programs.

Now “every kid has to have economics in high school,” Curington said.

“He created a large contingency of informed decision makers,” said Rita Littrell, current director of the Bessie B. Moore Center for Economic Education. “Every student was important.”

In addition to his duties as an economics professor and center director, McKinnon served as the interim dean of the college from 1992 to 1993, prior to Doyle Z. Williams being hired. McKinnon also served as co-director of the Center for Teaching Effectiveness, chair of the re-accreditation team and participated and led numerous college and departmental committees.

McKinnon’s influence reached beyond the college to the university. He served as chair of the Campus Council, co-director of the Center for Teaching and Faculty Support, president of the Teaching Academy and helped to establish the Faculty Senate for the university.

On a national level, McKinnon had an impact on economics through various journals and associations. He served on editorial boards for the Journal of Economics and Finance, Journal of Business Leadership andJournal of the International Associations of Children’s Social and Economic Education. He also served as a reviewer for the Journal of Economic Education, Southwest Economic Review and theForum of the Association of Arid Lands Studies.

People and Places

Tom McKinnon traveling in England
Tom McKinnon traveling in England

McKinnon’s  life outside the university was just as full with travel, athletics, family, friends and fun. He enjoyed traveling to countries to learn new cultures and meet new people.

McKinnon, often accompanied by his wife Frances, traveled with study abroad and exchange programs to Lithuania, Croatia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Turkey and more. Twice he taught a semester at sea, traveling around the globe.

For several years in the early 1990s, he would join fellow Walton professors for a rim-to-rim hiking excursion in the Grand Canyon the day after commencement.

“He was the strongest hiker among us,” Curington said.

Former professors and friends, (l-r) Jim Millar, Tom McKinnon, Don White, Bill Curington and Joe Ziegler hike the Grand Canyon after attending spring commencement in 1994. The group made the trek for several years in the early 1990s.
Former professors and friends, (l-r) Jim Millar, Tom McKinnon, Don White, Bill Curington and Joe Ziegler hike the Grand Canyon after attending spring commencement in 1994. The group made the trek for several years in the early 1990s.

Outside the U.S., McKinnon – at age 76 – hiked Machu Pichu, a 27-mile hike in Peru with a maximum height of 13,776 feet. At age 78, he also hiked sections of the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage, a 500-mile trek in Spain.

In addition to hiking, McKinnon ran three marathons, played baseball and basketball and led Walton College Dead Day Float trips with colleagues on the Buffalo River.

In 1988, McKinnon was chosen to appear on the game show “The Price Is Right,” alongside celebrity Bob Barker, and won a 2-door Subaru coupe. His experience was highlighted in the local paper.

In Tom’s later years, he wrote a book, Footprints in the Sand, for his children and grandchildren about his life as a child. He took art classes so that he could illustrate the book.

“Tom embraced everything,” Littrell said. “Whatever the experience, Tom was going to be part of it. He lived life to the fullest.”

Paying It Forward
Littrell met McKinnon through workshops he held for Arkansas teachers. Working in nearby Springdale, Littrell often assisted him with workshops and seminars, training teachers how to integrate economics into their curriculums.

“I’d been a school administrator four years – I was ready for a change,” Littrell said.

During Doyle Williams’ tenure as dean, McKinnon created a part-time center position for Littrell. He encouraged her to attain her doctorate, just as Bessie Moore had encouraged him to do the same. In 1997, Littrell became the assistant director for the economic education center.

In June 2004, McKinnon retired and Littrell was named his successor as center director in August.

“If you measured your pedigree by your mentors, I would have the highest pedigree,” Littrell said.

McKinnon is survived by his wife of 60 years, Frances, daughters Laura Harrison and Lisa Wilson, son Alex McKinnon and their spouses and children.

“People like Tom are difficult to find,” Gay said. “Find someone like Tom McKinnon.  Find them. Get to know them.  Treasure them.”

Miller Selected Walton College Employee of the Year

Kim Miller, facilities coordinator at the Walton Conference Hub, has been named the 2018 Employee of the Year for the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Anyone in the college may nominate colleagues for the award, which is given to employees who show superior customer service that enhances the image of the college above and beyond the scope of that employee’s job description.

Nominees were Miller, Pamela Heinzel of the Department of Marketing, Sheree Smith of the Department of Information Systems and Casey Spatz of the Department of Supply Chain Management.

The winner of the award receives a certificate of appreciation and a cash prize. Winners are chosen by Walton College Dean Matt Waller, the associate deans, assistant deans and the Walton College Staff Council.

Heinzel Named Walton College Employee of the Quarter

Pamela Heinzel, administrative support supervisor for the Department of Marketing, has been named employee of the fourth quarter by the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Anyone in the college may nominate colleagues for the award, which is given to employees who show superior customer service that enhances the image of the college above and beyond the scope of that employee’s job description.

Along with Heinzel, Rachel Hancock, academic advisor for the Honors Program, was nominated for her contributions to Walton College.

The winner receives a certificate of appreciation and a cash prize. Winners are chosen by Walton College Dean Matt Waller, the associate deans, the assistant deans and the Walton College Staff Council.

Miller Named Walton College Employee of the Quarter

Kim Miller, facilities coordinator for the Walton Conference Hub, has been named employee of the third quarter by the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Anyone in the college may nominate colleagues for the award, which is given to employees who show superior customer service that enhances the image of the college, above and beyond the scope of that employee’s job description.

Along with Miller, this quarter’s nominees were Pamela Heinzel of the Department of Marketing, Julie Stagner of the Graduate School of Business, Jason Adams of the Honors Program, Jeff Hood of Undergraduate Programs, and Lee Ann Looney also of Undergraduate Programs.

The winner receives a certificate of appreciation and a cash prize. Winners are chosen by Walton College Dean Matt Waller, the associate deans, the assistant deans and the Walton College Staff Council.

Rongers Joins Walton Development Team

Erin Rongers has been named associate director of development for the Sam M. Walton College of Business effective April 11, 2018.

Erin Rongers, Associate Director of Development
Erin Rongers
Associate Director of Development

“It is a tremendous honor to join the Sam M. Walton College of Business as the associate director of development,” Rongers said. “I am looking forward to working with our alumni, faculty and staff and securing philanthropic support for Walton programs and initiatives.”

Prior to joining the Walton team, Rongers served as the executive director for The Cancer Challenge chapter in Bentonville, Ark., where she oversaw development, board and volunteer management and general business operations. In this role, she was responsible for corporate partnerships, special events and individual giving. She also managed an annual, large-scale fundraising event, which required the coordination of 140 corporate sponsors, more than 2,000 participants and 350 volunteers.

Previously, Rongers worked as the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas, where she managed business planning, board development, fund development, programs and community relations.

“Erin’s extensive experience and connections in the northwest Arkansas development community will be a huge asset for Walton College,” said John Erck, senior director of development. “She already knows a lot of our supporters, and she has a track record of sustained success. I’m thrilled to have her on our team.”

Rongers holds a bachelor’s degree in communications studies from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in recreation with a concentration in sport management from the University of Arkansas. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Smith Named Walton College Employee of the Quarter

Yell Retires After 40 Years of Service

In the summer of 1976, Gerald Ford was president, Apple Computer Company was just getting started, a gallon of gas cost 59 cents, and Susan Imes Yell was a rising senior at Fayetteville High School. She was also a new part time staff member at the School of Law’s Admissions Office. She worked half a day and, in the fall, went to school half a day.

Little did Yell know that this part time job would lead to a 40-year journey at the University of Arkansas. She worked for the School of Law for five years, then joined the Department of Economics and the International Business Studies program, eventually becoming the administrative support supervisor for the economics department at the College of Business Administration, as it was known at the time.

From 1976 to 2016, Yell has seen many changes at the university, especially with technology and its influence on student engagement.

“Probably the biggest change was the introduction of computers. Our department had the first one in the college,” said Yell. “It required the use of floppy disks. The program was on one disk, spell check was on another disk, etc. That first computer was stolen, along with the printer and everything that went with it, when several people propped doors open from the second floor and went through the ceiling tiles into the main office. It took a while to get a replacement, since it was not covered by insurance. And, no one ever said you need to back up your work. Everything was lost and to my knowledge, the culprits were never apprehended.”

“Always do the right thing, no matter what.  And, if you see an injustice, do something about it.”

Per Yell, technology has also changed the way staff members interact with students. With more centralized registration and other electronic processes, students spend less time engaging staff and faculty.

“When I first started, we would sit in the halls and hand out printed cards for registration.  When you ran out of cards, the class was full.  The students would then take their packets to the Union, to stand in a huge, long line to register,” said Yell.  “Later, the U of A used the Hog Call system and students would register on the phone.  We had to process overrides using this system.  It would literally take weeks.  We were very busy with students then.  Now, with centralized advising and everything online, we don’t have much student interaction, except with our graduate students.”

Susan Yell
Susan’s office features hundreds of postcards from around the world sent by students and faculty.

Yet Yell does interact with students as evidenced by the hundreds of post cards adorning her office walls. Each day she works surrounded by post cards sent to her from around the world from students and faculty who have studied and/or traveled abroad. She has collected them since the ’80s.

She values the economics faculty and is impressed with their research and how much they care about their students. While she thinks they are one of the best things about the college, she has learned to say no when it comes to dissertations.

“Right after I first started working in business administration, one of my new faculty asked me to type his dissertation. Now, if you have ever seen an economics dissertation, you might know that it is FULL of equations. He showed me the first chapter, which was mostly text, so I agreed to type it for him,” said Yell. “Over the duration of my first pregnancy, I worked on it using a manual typewriter.  It required using three different elements. So, when you would type text that took one element, an equation, one or two other elements. Every time there were any changes from his advisor, the entire chapter would have to be retyped, since there were strict rules about margins, etc.  We joked whether I would finish the dissertation first, or would have my daughter first.  I don’t even remember who ‘won.’ I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t very funny then!”

“I also cherish my WOW friends…a group of ladies…Women of Walton…with whom I have remained friends for years and years…and we still have lunch at least once a week.”

While the faculty and students are one of the best things about work, Yell has experienced significant obstacles as well.

“My biggest challenge occurred when my department chair suffered a catastrophic accident,” said Yell. “It completely changed the face of the department and my position.  For a short time, I was in charge of the department.  It was a very difficult time.”

Throughout the years, Yell has served on numerous committees for the college and has raised funds for local nonprofits. She is the departmental representative for United Way and has helped raise money for the American Diabetes Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, University of Arkansas Staff Senate Scholarship fund, Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and Full Circle Campus Food Pantry among others. She was a member of the Walton College team on the Habitat for Humanity the House That Jane Built project.

Yell has represented Walton College at the university level as a staff senator, staff senate secretary, staff senate scholarship committee, by-laws committee, elections committee, internal affairs committee, Employee of the Year for the university and Employee of the Quarter for Walton College.

Yell was nominated for the Arkansas State Employees Association Outstanding State Employee Award in 2005 and 2010 and was chosen as a finalist in 2010. In 2006, the Department of Economics faculty established the Susan Imes Yell Staff Senate Scholarship in her honor. This scholarship was created to help promote and encourage staff development through higher education.

After 40 years of service, Yell retired from her job in December 2016. She is married to Garlen and has two daughters, Erin, who teaches French at Springdale High School, and Sara, who is the manager of special programs in the Walton College Career Center. In retirement, she plans to spend more time with her family and her young grandchildren, Nora and Silas.

Faculty: Best of the Best

Congratulations to the following faculty selected by the Sam M. Walton College of Business Awards and Elections Committee for the following college awards:

Award Winning Faculty

Gary Peters

Gary Peters
Outstanding All-Around Faculty Award

Soster-Robin

Robin Soster
Excellence in Teaching Award

Jandik_Tomas

Tomas Jandik
MBA Teacher of the Year

Peinkofer_Simone

Simone Peinkofer
Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award

Mullins-Jeff

Jeff Mullins
Outstanding Adjunct Teacher Award

Venkatesh_Viswanath

Viswanath Venkatesh
Excellence in Research Award

Douglas_David

David Douglas
Excellence in Service Award

Farmer_Amy

Amy Farmer
Excellence in Diversity Award