Lyle Rupert is as adept at handling a row of numbers as he is a row of musical notes; he’s an introvert and a people person, too.
“Dad was strictly the numbers guy, the logic. Mom was the word person and the music person. I got the best of both worlds,” Rupert said.
Rupert, a professor of economics and business at Hendrix College in Conway, hit the jackpot this year with four honors that reflect the many facets of his personality.
“Do they know something I don’t?” he said, laughing. “For some reason, all four of the things hit me in one year.”
Those honors include the following:
• The 2017-2018 United Methodist Church Exemplary Teaching Award, which recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching, civility and concern for students and colleagues, commitment to value-centered education and service to students, the institution and community.
• The Carole Herrick Award for Excellence in Academic Advising, which recognizes high-quality academic advising, including contributions in advising that help students formulate and achieve their intellectual, career and personal goals.
• The Faculty Appreciation Award, which Hendrix seniors select.
• The C. Louis and Charlotte Cabe Distinguished Professor of Economics and Business, which faculty select.
“How I did it, I have no idea,” he said. Rupert will have the title formally bestowed on him Aug. 30 at a convocation. He is also chairman of the department of economics and business. David Sutherland, associate provost for academic affairs, said only six distinguished professorships are awarded at Hendrix. “It’s the highest honor you can get on campus,” he said.
The honor that is closest to Rupert’s heart is the one chosen by students, he said.
“I think I have a reputation for being tough in the classroom but very approachable,” he said.
Rupert said students come to him for everything from help with homework and assistance in finding an internship to guidance in their personal lives. One student a few years ago was having problems with his father, and Rupert recalled that the student sat in his office and cried.
“I supported him like a son,” Rupert said. “There’s a trusting rapport between students and faculty at a place like Hendrix because we know our students.”
Hendrix graduate Samantha
Stockdale said Rupert “is the kind of professor everyone wishes for during their time as a student in college.”
An economics and business major, she graduated in 2017 and is an admissions counselor at the college.
“It’s not just his accreditations in his field that makes him so outstanding at what he does, but how he treats every student he works with like family and wants nothing more than to watch them succeed. His efforts to know every student he works with in his department on an individual basis, learning what each one strives for and is passionate about, are beyond admirable,” Stockdale said. “He’s kind, compassionate and cares deeply about what he does. He is always willing to go out of his way to help not only his own students, but the rest of the students and faculty at Hendrix as well.”
She said Rupert never misses an athletic or social event or a seminar on campus. She called him “the embodiment of the Hendrix community and everything we strive to be and uphold as an institution. Simply put, Lyle Rupert is more than the kind of professor who is simply a great teacher. He’s the kind of professor who leaves an impact and changes the lives of the students he
Rupert has also made an impact on thousands of high school students at the Arkansas Governor’s School, which will begin June 10 at Hendrix. The six-week summer residential, educational program for gifted and talented high school seniors has taken place at the college since the program’s inception in 1980. Four hundred Arkansas
students, who first are nominated by their schools, come to campus for an immersion in one of several areas.
Rupert is serving his 13th summer at the Governor’s School and his 12th and final as director. He’s decided it seemed like the right time to “bow out” and travel with his wife, Sheila, and spend more time with his grandchildren.
The first year he was asked to be the director, “I turned them down,” he said. “I was awed by it and didn’t think I could do it.” However, about a month later, he agreed to take the position.
“Sheila and I talked about it and decided it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” he said. “I don’t regret it. I’ve had a great 13 years with the program — at least I hope I do. This is the 13th summer.
“It is absolutely near and dear to my heart, and I support it 100 percent. If they need me, I’ll come help. It is absolutely a wonderful program for our high school seniors. I especially see a great transformation with students from small schools. They may think they’re the strange ones because they like to learn; they like to delve into things. Not only are we an educational program, but we’re a social program. We have adults write us 25, 35 years down the road saying Arkansas Governor’s School was a significant academic and social development in their lives.”
Rupert said he has enjoyed hearing some of the world-renowned speakers invited to campus, such as Joseph Sebarenzi, the former head of the Rwandan Parliament, who lost all but three of his family members in the genocide in the 1990s.
Phil Plait, who worked on the Hubble Telescope and had a series on the Discovery
Channel, comes to the
Governor’s School every year.
“He uses astronomy for his platform for critical thinking; that’s pretty cool. And I get to have breakfast with him. He wants French toast from Stoby’s. A couple of years ago, I had to give him the bad news that Stoby’s burned,” Rupert said. This year, he’ll take Plait to the rebuilt restaurant.
Rupert said the Arkansas Governor’s School program is a member of the National
Conference of Governor’s Schools, and he has been on the national executive committee the past nine years.
At the annual conference, participants share best practices and bounce ideas off each other, he said.
“I’ve been amazed at what respect they have for the
Arkansas program,” Rupert said. He compared it to the iconic
E.F. Hutton commercial: “When Arkansas speaks, they listen. That makes me so proud of our program, our state.”
The youngest of five children, Rupert, who was born in Salina, Kansas, moved to Fayetteville while he was in junior high school. He graduated from Hendrix in 1982 with a degree in accounting, and he also had the equivalent of a minor in music. He sang in the madrigals and the choir and took organ lessons.
He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and passed his CPA exam during that time.
His father was the controller at J.B. Hunt before he retired, and the company went public while Rupert was pursuing his master’s degree.
“It was interesting, or fun, to follow along what was happening with the company while I was sort of learning the theory in my classes,” he said. His parents, Thomas and Helen Marie Rupert, are deceased.
Rupert also earned a doctorate in interdisciplinary leadership studies-higher education from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
In 1987, Rupert started teaching at Hendrix, which has grown in students, faculty and programs.
“Hendrix, for the longest time, had a target of 1,000 students. … Then a decade, 15 years ago, the president decided if we were a little bigger, we’d have more efficiencies. Now it’s 1,300, 1,350 students,” he said.
Hendrix added football five years ago, too.
“A lot of the athletes are business students, so I have the privilege of seeing them in class and seeing them play on the field,” Rupert said.
He’s also led two mission trips to Costa Rica through the Miller Center for Vocation, Ethics and Calling.
“That’s one of the neat things about teaching at a small liberal arts school — all these extra opportunities,” he said.
Rupert has played organ for years at the annual Candlelight Carol services at Hendrix, and he often plays for weddings in Greene Chapel on campus, as well as in the community.
He was the music director for 23 years at First Presbyterian Church in Conway and is now the organist at Grace Presbyterian Church in Conway.
Rupert was the accompanist for several UCA Torreyson Library Murder Mysteries, collaborated on some of the scripts and performed in several.
“I played everything from a sophisticated French detective to a nerd,” he said.
For someone who loves numbers, that might seem incongruous.
“I’m probably more of a people person, … but on all the personality tests, I’m a big introvert. Where I am comfortable, where I gain my energy, is in small groups or with family. I don’t mind getting up in front of groups, especially if I can put on a costume,” he said.
In addition to traveling with his wife in the summers after he is through directing the Arkansas Governor’s School, he has several goals.
“I do some music composition; I’d love to write an anthem for a church choir. I hope before I die to read the complete works of Mark Twain. I’m writing a textbook on accounting information systems. The ongoing focus is, I want to be the best teacher and mentor at Hendrix that I can be, the best musician at my church I can be and the best community member I can be and, of course, Grandpa.”
None of those is incongruous for someone like Rupert.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.