Bryant Chamber lauds area education leaders

By Wayne Bryan Published January 26, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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BRYANT — Two community leaders in education were named the Man and Woman of the Year in Bryant on Tuesday night at the 41st Winter Banquet of the Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce.

With a theme of Building a Strong Community, the annual dinner, held at The Center at Bishop Park, featured no keynote speaker but emphasized contributions to the community by both organizations and individuals.

Before the the official awards were given out, the entire audience was invited to stand by the night’s master of ceremonies, Shane Broadway, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

“Tonight is about working to help make Bryant a better community,” he said. “All of you have helped that happen, so everyone here tonight deserves a round of applause.”

Topping the list of winners were the Man of the Year and Woman of the Year.

Bryant Public School District Superintendent Randy Rutherford was named Man of the Year.

In presenting the award, Rae Ann Fields, executive director of the chamber, said Rutherford went beyond his service as an educator.

“He is a personal supporter of the Rotary Club, the Boys and Girls Club,” she said. “He also works with the business community and is known for holding the opinions and views of others in high respect.”

The Bryant resident was named superintendent of the school system in 2010 after serving as principal of Bryant High School for three years.

The Woman of the Year award was given to Pam Toler, one of the founders of the Bryant Early Education Coalition, a group of licensed child care providers in Bryant who work to improve training and provide standards for preschool teachers.

Toler works for Arkansas State University’s Childhood Services, traveling around the region visiting preschool and child care centers to assess the operations and provide help with their programs. She is also involved with the Imagination Library of Saline County, which provides free books every month to preschool-age children up to 5 years old.

Fields said the nominations for the awards came from members of the community and were judged by a chamber group from outside the community to arrive at a completely unbiased decision.

“All those nominated for these awards deserve it,” she said. “If you didn’t win this year, just keep doing what you do; there is always next year.”

Three organizations were also honored by the chamber at the banquet: The Civitan Services of Bryant, and Lifeline Chiropractic and Chick-Fil-A restaurant, both in Bryant.

It was announced that Karen Grice would remain the president of the Bryant Chamber Board of Directors for another year. Fields called Grice “the best president we have ever had.”

Grice outlined the accomplishments of the chamber during 2013. Those included the development of an online leadership academy that will provide training on social media and will soon provide as many as 5,000 courses on topics that include business management, customer service, employee law and branding.

The chamber brought in 78 new members, welcomed 800 newcomers to Bryant with welcome bags and gave 22 scholarships to Bryant High School seniors who were college-bound.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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