Awards banquet will honor six Henderson alumni March 31

Alumni Awards composite

Clockwise, from top left: Ellis "Scooter" Register, Debra and Chris Wewers, V.L. Cox, Nikki Chandler, and Malachi Smith.

Henderson State University will honor six outstanding alumni at the Alumni Association’s annual awards banquet March 31.

Distinguished Alumni awards will be presented to Ellis “Scooter” Register, V.L Cox, and Chris and Debra Wewers. The late Malachi Smith will receive the “H” Award, and the Young Alumni Award will be presented to Nikki Chandler.

The event will be held in the Garrison Center’s Grand Ballroom at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online at

Distinguished Alumni

Ellis “Scooter” Register is a high school coaching legend who was inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2021. He was head coach at Little Rock McClellan (1990-1994), El Dorado (1995-2002), Little Rock Catholic (2003-2009), and Little Rock Central (2010-2017).

Register compiled a record of 172-143-1 in 28 seasons as a head coach, winning or sharing five conference championships. He retired in 2018.

In addition to coaching, Register had a 25-year career as a basketball official. He worked 14 years on the collegiate level, and was inducted into the Arkansas Officials Hall of Fame in 2013.

Register was raised in Clarendon and attended Henderson State where he earned both his bachelor’s (1974) and master’s (1979) degrees.

V.L. Cox is a professional artist who has been highly active in projects that involve human rights and equality. In 2015, she launched her national “End Hate” project, an anti-discrimination series based on segregation-era doors that were twice placed on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol and at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Cox was one of 20 national artists to be featured in a New York City billboard project entitled “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020.” Her work has opened at several prominent locations across the country.

Cox earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Henderson State in 1991. She currently resides in Peekskill, New York’s Artist District.

Chris and Debra Wewers have consistently supported their alma mater since graduating from Henderson. They are members of the Reddie Club and have established endowed scholarships in business and education. Chris is a member of the School of Business Advisory Board and serves as chairman of the Henderson Foundation Board.

Debra received a bachelor’s degree in education with an early childhood emphasis in May 1993, graduating Cum Laude, and a master’s degree in education in May 1995, graduating Summa Cum Laude. Chris received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting, graduating Summa Cum Laude in December 1992. While at Henderson, he played on the Henderson golf team for two years, was a resident assistant for two years and was a member of Alpha Chi. Debra teaches Zumba, and Chris currently serves as the chief financial officer for Southern Bancorp Inc. and Southern Bancorp Bank. They reside in Fairfield Bay.

“H” Award

Malachi Smith served the campuses of Arkadelphia Methodist College, Henderson College, Henderson-Brown College, and Henderson State Teachers College for more than 40 years. He became the head cook in 1903 and retired from Henderson in 1947.

After the fire of 1914 destroyed much of the Henderson-Brown campus, Smith and his kitchen staff contributed $25 (an immense amount of money at the time) to help rebuild the college.

Smith also owned a silent picture show, restaurant, barber ship, and dance hall for many years. He attended Greater Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Arkadelphia where he was a longtime member, trustee, and deacon.

Earlier this year, Henderson’s dining center was named the Malachi Smith Dining Center.

Young Alumni Award

Nikki Chandler is a 2013 Henderson graduate who has been very active in the community, including a leadership role with the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance and Area Chamber of Commerce.

She recently accepted a new role with the area’s newest corporate addition, Hostess Brands.

Chandler serves on many local boards and committees, including the Baptist Health Advisory Board, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Committee, PEO, Arkadelphia Rotary Board, and Henderson State’s Board of Visitors.

Her husband, Ben, is also a Henderson graduate.