Richard Hudson, who has worked under three chancellors during his 20-year career at the University of Arkansas, has announced he plans to retire, effective July 31. Hudson also worked for what was then Westark College in Fort Smith.
As vice chancellor for government and community relations, Hudson represents the UA to state and federal lawmakers, as well as to political and community leaders in Northwest Arkansas and around the state.
“He has been a respected voice for the university and higher education at the state capital and has helped initiate many programs and services to benefit higher education in Arkansas. Among these is the University of Arkansas Legislative Advocacy Network, which now includes more than 500 alumni,” noted the UA retirement announcement.
Hudson also organized the bipartisan Political Animals Club of Northwest Arkansas, which has been meeting in Fayetteville since 1996 and has hosted more than 100 state and national political speakers.
“Richard has always been easy to work with and a friendly face behind the scenes at hundreds of events,” Gov. Mike Beebe said in the statement. “He has always conducted his business with tact and a touch of humor. I know he’ll make the most of his well-earned retirement.”
Hudson was hired as director of government relations 20 years ago by Chancellor Dan Ferritor. His role was expanded in 1996 under Chancellor John White, when his title was changed to vice chancellor for government and community relations. He continued in that position under Chancellor G. David Gearhart.
Hudson is a native of Warren and attended Ouachita Baptist University and Baylor University, where he earned a master’s degree in political science. He taught for two years at San Marcos Academy in Texas, before joining the faculty of Westark Community College in Fort Smith. At Westark (now the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith), Hudson held several administrative positions before being named vice president for planning and government relations. He was recruited by Chancellor Ferritor to join the University of Arkansas administration in 1994.
Hudson has worked with almost 600 state legislators, five governors, and over a dozen members of the Arkansas Congressional delegation during his career in government relations.
In 2010 he received the Marvin M. “Swede” Johnson Achievement Award as the nation’s top higher education government relations official.
A necessary part of his job, at both schools, has involved driving to and from Little Rock. He calculates that over the years he’s driven some 442,000 miles on this route — the equivalent of almost 18 times around the earth or to the moon and 85% of the way back. This doesn’t count his other travels throughout the state, attending various meetings and calling on legislators.
“I have to thank my wife, Joanna, who has been terrifically supportive and very tolerant of my frequent travel schedule,” said Hudson. “Not to mention her involvement in so many university activities over the years.”
Hudson described his decision to retire as “difficult but logical.” For one thing, the day after he retires he’ll turn 70.
“It has truly been a privilege to be part of the University of Arkansas family, and I’ll miss working with my colleagues, as well as with legislators and other state and national officials,” he said. “On the other hand, when I went to my 50th high school reunion in Warren last year, I was one of only two still working. This feels like the right time.”