Retired United Methodist minister champions AETN

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published June 29, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

The Rev. Philip Hathcock has served as an Arkansas Educational Television Network volunteer for more than 20 years. He has been a member of the AETN Foundation Board of Directors since 2001 and, during much of that period, served as the board’s chairman. Hathcock also regularly appears as an on-air presence during AETN Foundation membership campaigns.

The Rev. Philip “Phil” Hathcock is a champion of the Arkansas Educational Television Network.

Viewers see him every few months on the AETN Foundation’s membership campaigns, expounding the benefits of the network and asking the community for its financial support.

Hathcock has served as an AETN volunteer for more than 20 years and has been a member, and often chairman, of the AETN Foundation Board of Directors. He now wears another AETN hat — he has been appointed an at-large-representative of the AETN Commission.

“Our public television network makes an invaluable contribution to the quality of life in Arkansas,” said Hathcock, who lives in Maumelle. “The lives of Arkansans of every age are enriched by AETN.

“Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to see the talent and commitment of the people at AETN. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with them now as a member of the AETN Commission.”

He attended his first commission meeting June 11 at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. His term will expire March 26, 2022.

Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Hathcock to the commission on April 16. He joins seven other commissioners who are citizen representatives responsible for the oversight of the statewide telecommunications network.

“We do not set the time Lawrence Welk comes on,” Hathcock said with a smile.

“Philip Hathcock has been an invaluable asset to AETN, serving as both an AETN Foundation Board member and volunteer for more than two decades,” said Allen Weatherly, AETN executive director. “His continued support and guidance in this important capacity will greatly aid our mission to enhance and empower all Arkansans through lifelong learning opportunities.”

Hathcock is a United Methodist minister, retiring in 2013 after 41 years of service. He is no stranger to the local community, as he served as senior pastor of Conway’s First United Methodist Church for 12 years.

Following his service in Conway, Hathcock took an administrative position with the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, serving as superintendent of the Central District, overseeing 40 churches in the area. His last position with the conference was as an assistant to the bishop.

“I still preach here and there, still teach a class now and then,” he told visitors at the AETN headquarters in Conway. “Many times, people who were my students years ago will call and invite me to their churches to preach while they are on vacation.”

Hathcock said that for several years, he taught courses for those entering the ministry.

“Classes in preaching,” he said.

Hathcock was raised in Fayetteville, an adopted son of the late Edna and Dr. Loyce Hathcock.

Philip Hathcock graduated from Fayetteville High School in 1965 and attended Hendrix College for two years before transferring to the University of Arkansas, where he received a degree in journalism and speech. He then attended Duke University, where he received a Master of Divinity degree.

“I began to feel the call to the ministry while I was at Hendrix,” he said. “After I transferred to the U of A, I knew I needed to finish a college degree in something, so I chose journalism and speech.

“I had been a radio announcer in high school, so I already knew something about it. It was wonderful.

“However, the closest I’ve come to using that degree is volunteering at AETN.”

While a student at Hendrix, Hathcock said, he volunteered in church work with the youth and sang in the choir.

“It was a constant pull, a continuing pull toward the ministry,” he said.

He likened this experience to the biblical story of the call of Samuel.

“As a boy, Samuel was called, but he didn’t recognize God’s voice,” Hathcock said. “It took the older and wiser priest, Eli, to help Samuel heed the call.”

Hathcock said he preached his first sermon on New Year’s Eve 1967.

“It was for a youth group,” he said.

Hathcock said his involvement with AETN began while he was a student at Hendrix.

“Not long after I arrived at Hendrix, Larry Foley, who is now with the U of A but was at AETN back then, asked me if I had ever done any television. I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Would you like to try it?’ “I said, ‘Yes,’ and now some 22 years later, I’m here and on the air,” Hathcock said.

“When I first started, I was like a deer in the headlights,” Hathcock said, laughing.

“I’ve experienced a lot at AETN,” he said. “Every time I come to a meeting, I learn something else. They do so much more than what you see on the air. The professional-development work they do with teachers is a huge, important part of what they do.”

In addition to his volunteer work at AETN, Hathcock is still involved in the work of the United Methodist Church.

“Something exciting for me is I have just been asked to participate as a facilitator for Arkansas pastors attending a conference at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology,” he said. “We will explore new approaches to the teaching of preaching.”

Now that he is retired, Hathcock said, he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, which includes his wife of 24 years, Gwen, and his two children.

His daughter, Larissa, 36, is married to Dr. Greg Polkowski. They live in Nashville, Tennessee, with their three children, Elise, 10; Will, 8; and Anna, 3.

Hathcock’s son, Tom, 40, is a chief petty officer in the Navy and is getting ready to retire and move to Stillwater, Oklahoma, with his wife, Stephanie.

Hathcock also hopes to “play a little golf” and strum his baritone ukulele.

“I’ve just been having fun with that,” he said.

“I’ve also started doing a little more of the cooking, with spotty success. I have a fairly limited repertoire.”

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