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story.lead_photo.caption Katherine Ligon holds a photo of her extended family and a photo of being carried as a child by her mother. Ligon moved from the Ukraine to the United States to go to college at Harding University and to earn her master’s degree in teaching. She now teaches at Arkansas State University-Heber Springs and is actively involved in the Cleburne County Rotary Club. She was named outstanding president by Rotary Club International in 2011. - Photo by Rusty Hubbard

Katherine Ligon of Heber Springs has always loved studying and has devoted her life to doing just that.

While she was growing up, Katherine’s mother encouraged her to try different activities to find what appealed to her.

Ligon’s mother gave her the opportunity to take ballet, art, gymnastics and piano lessons as a child, but Ligon said she always enjoyed studying.

Ligon, a native of the Ukraine, graduated from Dnipropetrovsk National University in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, in July 2004 with a “red diploma.” She received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in labor economics.

A red diploma signifies that a student in the Ukraine received all A’s in their classes.

Prior to graduating from Dnipropetrovsk, Ligon met her husband, James Ligon.

James, who is a native of Moro, took a trip to Europe after graduating from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and soon fell in love with the continent, and Katherine.

“It was love at first sight,” Katherine Ligon said. She met James through a mutual friend, and the couple were married in June 2003 at the Cathedral of

Transfiguration in Ligon’s hometown of Dnipropetrovsk. After she received her bachelor’s degree, the couple moved to Arkansas.

English is Ligon’s third language. After moving to Arkansas, she wanted to pursue a master’s degree but found that English was challenging for her at the time.

“My husband was always very supportive, and Liz Blankenship, the owner of Southridge Village Retirement Center [in Heber Springs] gave me an opportunity [to work],” Ligon said.

Ligon’s first job in America was working as a resident service manager with the retirement center from 2005 to 2006.

“I learned a lot about business operation,” Ligon said. “I wasn’t familiar with the quality of care for elderly people [in America].”

While working at Southridge, she enrolled in English-language classes at Arkansas State University-Heber Springs and also took accounting classes. Ligon said the courses she took were “very helpful,” and while enrolled, she discovered Harding’s Master of Business Administration degree.

“I applied and was accepted [to the master’s program] in 2005,” she said.

She began pursuing her master’s degree while still working at Southridge and finishing up two classes at ASU-Heber Springs.

In January 2008, the couple had their first child, and Ligon graduated summa cum laude from Harding University the following May.

“It was a big achievement for me,” she said.

After earning her MBA, Ligon began working as an adjunct instructor at ASU-Heber Springs in January 2009. She teaches classes that include developmental algebra and microcomputer applications. She also instructs students in three online classes that she teaches for ASU-Beebe.

“I enjoy making a difference in students’ lives,” Ligon said. Her favorite class to teach is Principals of Academic Success.

Ligon said the students who are enrolled in the class are first-generation students or are unsure about choosing a major.

“I help them learn more about themselves and help them be confident,” Ligon said.

Ligon officially became a U.S. citizen in December 2008.

“I lost my Ukrainian citizenship because you can’t have dual citizenship,” she said.

Aside from teaching, Ligon is actively involved in the Cleburne County Rotary Club. She became a part of the Rotary Club in November 2007 and has held the position of public relations chairwoman, president and membership chairwoman.

In 2011, Ligon’s year as president, the Cleburne County Rotary Club was selected as Club of the Year in District 6150. In addition to the club receiving recognition, Ligon was named President of the Year among medium-sized clubs.

“I thought I could make a difference in the community and the world,” Ligon said.

Her involvement with the Rotary Club has given her students opportunities as well. Ligon said members of the Cleburne County Rotary Club help mentor the students in her classes.

“[Members] come to my class and share their success stories,” Ligon said. “Some of them have overcome the same difficulties that some of my students are going through.”

Ligon said she tells her students they can achieve all of their desires.

“They have a benefit [because] they are in their native country,” Ligon said. “[My students] should take a trip out of the United States to see how other nations live and their lifestyle. They need to appreciate what they have here.”

Ligon is in the process of applying to pursue a doctorate in leadership studies at the University of Central Arkansas.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or

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