RIVER VALLEY and OZARK AREA When the University of Central Arkansas was looking for a new president, one thing stood out about Dr. Allen Coats Meadors.
"He's a uniter," said UCA Board of Trustees member Rush Harding III of Little Rock.
Harding described Meadors' previous position as chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, a historically American Indian school. When he was hired in 1999, the university had never had a chancellor who wasn't an American Indian, Harding explained.
But a decade later, UNC-Pembroke has grown. Harding said Meadors unified the student body, has overseen an extensive building program and integrated the campus into the surrounding community.
That's something that Harding hopes Meadors - a native Arkansan and UCA alum who was hired as university president on June 11 - will be able to do for the both UCA and Conway.
"The last 10 months at UCA ... it's been well-documented that we've had some issues to deal with that have fissured and fractured our university community," Harding said. "We feel like Dr. Meadors has proven in his past that he had the ability to come in, unite those various factions of the university, articulate goals, point people in the right direction and march toward implementing those goals."
The problems at UCA that Harding referred to include former president Lu Hardin's resignation in August after he received a secret $300,000 bonus and penned a memo that indicated three of his vice presidents wrote it. There also were UCA campus shootings Oct. 26 that killed two male students and injured another man, who was not a student.
Meadors grew up with his parents, H.B. and Allene, in Van Buren. He was an only child, but he said he basically grew up at his grandmother's house, and with so much family around, he barely noticed it.
"There were six kids in my mother's family, and a couple were not much older than I," he said.
As he got older, Meadors got involved in athletics - football, basketball and track - at Van Buren High School, where he graduated in 1965.
That fall, he enrolled at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, but after one semester, he transferred to UCA.
"I thought [University of Arkansas at Fayetteville] was too big," he said. "I wanted to get involved in a lot of things, and as a freshman, you're kind of limited in what you can be a part of.
"UCA felt like what college should be," he said.
Growing up in a small town, Meadors said that most of the college-educated people he knew had teaching degrees. He knew he didn't want to be a teacher, so he decided to opt for something that he thought would come in handy no matter what he decided to do - business.
"I didn't have any great vision in the world," he said, laughing.
In January 1969, Meadors received his bachelor's in business administration from UCA and immediatelybegan studying for an MBA at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
But again, he only stayed one semester. This time, however, it wasn't because he needed a change of academic scenery - it was because he received a letter from Uncle Sam and joined the United States Air Force. He attended Officer Candidate School, became a captain and served in the Medical Service Corps as a hospital administrator and clinic administrator.
Although he had to postpone his education, Meadors said serving in the military changed the course of his life.
"I think growing up in rural America, most of us were fairly patriotic," Meadors said. "It was never a resentful feeling. I certainly think serving four years in the military gives you a chance to get a feeling for where you want to go."
For Meadors, the direction he wanted to go was in health administration. When he was discharged on Sept. 30, 1973, Meadors used the health administration know-how he picked up in the Air Force to secure a job at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Topeka, Kan. In 1974, he received both an MBA from the University of Northern Colorado and a certificate in health services administration from Trinity University Graduate School in San Antonio, Texas. A year later, Meadors got a master's degree in public administration from the University of Kansas at Lawrence.
In 1976, Meadors chose to continue on the health-administration route, landing the position of assistant director for public health in Kansas City.
The following year was another productive one for Meadors. He received a certificate in health systems management from MIT. He also became a health consultant, implementing health programs in the Midwest and western United States, as well as an assistant professor and program director for Southern Illinois University in southern California, administering baccalaureate degree programs on military installations.
"I was 29 and single," he said with a smile. "Southern California ... it sounded pretty good."
While in southern California, Meadors received two master's degrees - one in psychology and human relations, another in health-services management - from Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. - an associate's degree in computer sciences from Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Ca., and a doctorate in administration and education from Southern Illinois University. He also continued to implement degree programs on military installations in southern California and the rest of the western United States through both Webster and Southern Illinois universities.
In 1981, Meadors married his wife, Barbara. A year later, the Meadorses moved to Galveston, Texas, where he took a position as associate director of the Division of Health Administration at the University of Texas.
Two years later, after years of zigzagging across the western United States, Meadors returned to his native Arkansas. He and his small family settled in Springdale, where Meadors became executive director of the new North Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute. He oversaw just about everything, from the design and construction of the institute to purchasing equipment. Under Meadors' supervision, North Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute fundraised more than $35 million its first year; thefacility was completely debtfree at the end of 20 months, he said.
But the university sphere was calling Meadors again, and in 1987, he took a position as professor and chair of the department of health administration at the University of Oklahoma at Oklahoma City. He eventually became dean of the College of Public Health and stayed at University of Oklahoma for three years.
Meadors become a professor and the first dean of the newly formed College of Health, Social and Public Services at Eastern Washington University in 1990.
But in 1994, Meadors accepted a new challenge: He became CEO and dean (now called the chancellor) of Penn State at Altoona.
"Up until I started teaching those classes in Kansas City, teaching college had never crossed my mind," Meadors said, reflecting on his gradual climb from professor to chancellor of a university. "But I really enjoyed that - I enjoyed the opportunity to hopefully help students prepare for the rest of their lives."
In 1999, Meadors was hired as chancellor of University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
In February, Meadors said he got a phone call from the presidential search advisory committee at UCA asking him if he'd be interested in the position.
"For the last 15 years, I [had] said to students that I hoped at some point they'll come back to the university and give in any way they can," Meadors said. "I thought it'd be hypocritical if I didn't explore it."
When he found out that he'd been named president, Meadors said he said both excitement and anxiety.
"It's one thing talking about going back to your alma mater, and it's another thing doing it," he said, smiling.
But Meadors is nothing but optimistic about his future at UCA as well as the future of the school itself.
"'We want to get everybody back to feeling good," he said. "We've got a great faculty, a great university, a great location - I can't think of a better place in the country to get a college education."
He said the key to healing UCA from the difficult events of the past year - the Lu Hardin scandal and the campus shootings - is simply time.
"It's a matter of folks seeing your commitment to the students and the faculty," he explained. "Once they see that, we'll be able to put the negative past behind us.
"It's very important for everyone to understand that it's not the university that had problems, it was individuals that had problems," he added.
These days, Meadors is busy preparing for the fall semester, which leaves little time for rest. But he's working tirelessly - even before classes have officially begun - to adhere to a belief that, as a UCA alum, he holds dear.
"I get up every morning, and I feel good going to work," he said. "If I couldn't go to [UCA], I couldn't even imagine my life without a college education. We always talk about college and ask, 'How is it going to help you get a job?' It's really going to help you get a life." - esharp@ arkansasonline.commatter of fact
Hometown: Van Buren (Conway now)
My family is: My wife, Barbara; our sons Tyson,
25, and Jarrett, 24; my parents, H.B. and Allene
Meadors; and Sallie Mae, our English bulldog
Favorite food: Probably a good steak
Favorite movie: Heaven Can Wait and The
My favorite teacher was: Ms. Alvy in high school
I can't live without: Exercise
When I was growing up, I wanted to be: A
Favorite quote: "The whole problem with the world is
that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves,
but wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand
The world would be a better place: If we lived by
the Golden Rule.
Most people don't know that I: Truly admire
individuals who have the ability to write creative
Some day, I will: Return to my alma mater (hey, I just
River Valley Ozark, Pages 132, 133 on 07/19/2009