UAFS celebrates history with book launch

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 136 views 

It was an event 15 years in the making. School faculty, donors, supporters and alumni gathered on Tuesday (July 30) at UAFS at Second Street in downtown Fort Smith to celebrate the publishing of a book that has been in the works since 1996, “University of Arkansas Fort Smith: The First 85 Years.”

The event, which was open to the public, featured the book's three authors: Billy Higgins, Dr. Stephen Husarik and Dr. Henry Rinne. The three men collaborated over the last 15 years piecing together the details of the evolution of the school from a small junior college into one of the top four-year universities in the state. Using photos, records and oral histories from former staff and alumni, the authors chronicled the first eight and a half decades of the institution's rich history into book form for the public to enjoy.

A reception preceded the formal program, with live music provided by harpist Hollye Dickinson. Guests dined on hors d'oeuvres and beverages while browsing and purchasing their own copies of the book.

UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran welcomed the crowd and provided a brief overview on  how the book came to be over the past 15 years. Beran noted that the publication "masterfully tells the story" of the university from the years 1928 to 2012. Referring to Higgins, Husarik and Rinne as "geniuses," he credited the men for their persistence in seeing the project through to its completion.

"This is a great looking project," commented Beran. "It deserves a spot in the office and the home. I am very proud of this book."

Beran added that the book serves as a great reminder that UAFS leaders and supporters stand on the "broad shoulders of many hard working folks who have gone before us."

Rinne told details from the book about interesting turning points in the school's history. Referring to UAFS as a "living, breathing organism," he explained how pivotal moments had forever altered the institution's history, including  its "forced" integration in 1962, when soldiers of all races stationed at Fort Chaffee were given the right to enroll in classes at the then junior college.

Husarik explained that his role was to "summarize people, places and events in a reflective style" for the book. He expressed his gratitude to university leaders for allowing him to "follow them around" over the years, giving him the opportunity to witness major moments in the university's history.

Author Billy Higgins echoed the other authors' sentiments sharing his pride in the finished product and in the work that he and his co-authors put into the project. He encouraged audience members to pick up their own copy so as to own a little piece of UAFS history for themselves.

At the conclusion of the formal presentation, the authors gathered at the head table where they greeted guests and autographed copies of the book. Dozens stood in line waiting to visit with the authors and get their signatures.

“UAFS: The First 85 Years” is available in paperback and hardback editions. Copies can be purchased at the university bookstore on the UAFS campus.