HSU celebrates Founders Day

Oct. 5, 2012

Henderson State University celebrated Founder’s Day with an academic convocation on Oct. 4. Five alumni were inducted into the Henderson Academy of Scholars, which is comprised of Henderson graduates who have gained distinction in their professional fields. Faculty excellence awards were also presented.

Joining the academy this year are Dr. Thomas Aiello, Bobbie Lee, Becky Jester, Cal McCastlain and Matthew Hass.

Thomas Aiello
Dr. Thomas Aiello, an assistant professor of history and African American studies at Valdosta State University, received his bachelor’s degree from Henderson State University in 2000 and a master’s degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2004. In 2007, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas.

Aiello is a prolific writer, publishing dozens of articles on American history, philosophy, religion, linguistics, sports and culture. He has also published three novels and many other shorter works of fiction.

Aiello is editor of Dan Burley’s Jive, and Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess, and the author of Bayou Classic: The Grambling-Southern Football Rivalry and The Kings of Casino Park: Black Baseball in the Lost Season of 1932. He has completed the manuscripts for four additional books, and is working on another.

Before joining Valdosta State in 2010, Aiello was a visiting professor of history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, an instructor for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, instructor at the University of Arkansas, and a teaching assistant at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Bobbie Lee
Bobbie Lee, county supervisor for the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services in Clark County, is a 2001 graduate of Henderson State University with a major in human services and minor in sociology.

Lee interned at the Department of Human Services before becoming an investigator for the Office of Child Support Enforcement in 2001. In 2004, she joined the Arkansas Department of Human Services as a family service worker, and became a resource worker in 2008. Lee was named DCFS county supervisor for Clark County, and acting supervisor for Pike and Howard counties in 2011.

“It is my goal to ensure that the children in our community are safe and free of abuse and neglect,” Lee said. “I want to increase awareness of child abuse and empower families to break cycles of abuse.”

Becky Jester
Becky Jester recently retired as director of the Dawson Education Cooperative in Arkadelphia, a position she held for six years. The Dawson Co-op provides services and training for teachers and administration in Clark, Garland, Dallas, Hot Spring, Pike and Saline counties. With 173 employees, it is the third largest of 15 education cooperatives in Arkansas.

Jester graduated from Henderson State University in 1969 with a B.S.E. in elementary education. She earned her M.S.E. in elementary education from Henderson, along with her reading specialist, K-12, designation in 1973. In 1987, Jester received her curriculum specialist certification from Henderson and Ouachita Baptist University, and her elementary principal certification from Henderson. She received her administrator certification in 1989 from the University of Central Arkansas.

Before becoming director of Dawson Co-op, Jester served as assistant director for five years, and coordinator of special projects for 11 years. She also worked for the Gurdon School District. In all, Jester has worked in education for 43 years.

Jester was recently named Citizen of the Year by the Arkadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce, and the cooperative was named Large Business of the Year.

Cal McCastlain
Cal McCastlain, a 1981 graduate of Henderson State University, is an attorney for the Dover Dixon Horne law firm in Little Rock. He serves as general counsel for corporate clients, including public and special purpose agri-business entities.

After graduating from Henderson, McCastlain received his law degree from the UALR School of Law in 1984, and his master’s degree in tax law from Georgetown University Law Center in 1988. He is a member of the Arkansas Bar Association, American Bar Association, and Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants.

McCastlain is a retired colonel in the Arkansas Army National Guard Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He served as a commissioner on the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals from 1985-1988. From 2000-2002, McCastlain served as a member of the USDA Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology. He currently serves as a director for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Matthew Hass
Matthew Hass, who received his bachelor’s degree in communications from Henderson in 1999, is executive director of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association. He is only the third person to hold the position in the organization’s 50-year history, and the youngest to lead the organization’s nearly 1,000 members.

Not long after graduating from Henderson, Hass became Democratic Party Chair in Saline County. He began to focus on public policy and advocacy work, leading efforts in areas of education, healthcare and consumer advocacy. Hass began managing the political activities of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association in 2004. He was responsible for managing one of the state’s largest political action committees and representing the interests of the injured before the Arkansas General Assembly. He was named executive director in 2009.

Hass currently serves on the executive committee of the National Association of Trial Lawyers Executives.

Excellence in Teaching awards
Six Henderson faculty members were honored with Excellence in Teaching awards during the ceremony, including Dr. Harroon Khan (liberal arts), Dr. David Bateman (mathematics, science & nursing), Paul Glover (fine arts), Don Benton (Teachers College, Henderson), Kathie Buckman (School of Business), and Dr. Allison Harris (Outstanding New Faculty Member).

Haroon Khan
Dr. Haroon Khan is a professor of political science whose accomplishments in the area of research have been both numerous and of the highest quality. He has published three books and several articles in leading international, national and regional journals in his field. Khan involves students in his research and regularly has his students presenting at the Arkansas Undergraduate Research Conference.

David Bateman
Dr. David Bateman, an assistant professor of chemistry, currently directs four students in research that explores the potential therapeutic activity of structurally diverse compounds. His research interests include the total synthesis of biologically active natural product molecules and environmental impacts of mercury on the local environment. Bateman also has a goal to incorporate the principles of practical medicinal and synthetic chemistry and the principles of environmental chemistry into the undergraduate chemistry lab experience at Henderson.

Paul Glover
Paul Glover, associate professor of communication, has helped moved Henderson media into the 21st Century in a creative way through his area of expertise – mass media: radio and television. Glover works with students to produce high quality programs for the community to share information about Henderson. He has also produced various films for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.

Don Benton
Don Benton is an assistant professor in the Department of Advanced Instructional Studies and Educational Leadership. He is the director of the Hot Springs Technology Institute, and he recently launched the Schools Without Walls Conference in Hot Springs. Benton also founded a new organization where educators can examine current issues and concerns, and can seek creative ways to use technology in preparing for the future.

Kathie Buckman
Kathie Buckman is coordinator of technical services for Henderson’s Huie Library. She began working at Henderson in 1994 as instructional services librarian. Buckman has published numerous articles and has an extensive list of awards and presentations. She has also served as a judge and moderator for various events.

Allison Harris
Dr. Allison Harris, assistant professor of physics, began working at Henderson in 2010. She has created and added two new upper division physics elective courses to the curriculum. Harris also created the Physics Focus Room, an informal setting where students can work on physics problems and receive assistance from instructors and student tutors. Her research includes cutting-edge development of numerical calculations for atomic collisions, and she is currently mentoring several undergraduate research students in this area.


Ali Brown is biology major and dance minor from Atlanta, Texas who plans to attend medical school after finishing her bachelor’s of science degree at Henderson. To some, this might seem odd, but she explains, “I love science and dancing allows me to study the movement of the body and also be artistic which to me, is something that everyone should venture out and experience.”
“I am going to medical school because I've always had an interest in the body and in health. Being a doctor will allow me to have a job where I will be able to love what I do.”

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Ali BrownBachelor of Science - Biology, Sophomore
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