Lyon College will inaugurate Dr. W. Joseph King as its 18th president at 2 p.m. on April 20, 2018. Held in Couch Garden on the Lyon campus, the ceremony will both welcome the College’s new leader and celebrate the accomplishments he has achieved since taking office on July 1 of last year.
In only ten months, he has worked with the College’s faculty and staff to hammer out a new strategic plan for Lyon’s future, develop a new recruitment model, increase retention, establish more summer courses for students, build a new, larger digital network for the College and enact other campus improvements. Notably, he led the College’s movement towards a pet-friendly campus, created several new faculty positions in subjects of higher need and added four new varsity sports and four club sports that will enliven student life.
John Robinson is Executive Vice President of the Amon G. Carter Foundation, which supports work in the fields of art and culture, civic and public affairs, education, health, and human services. A person familiar with King’s work history, he states that “Joey King’s vision for the future of Lyon College is drawn from his past experience with academic excellence, best practices, and strategies to make meaningful improvements which will benefit students, faculty, and the entire campus.” He adds, “I look forward to seeing Joey, his leadership team, and the Board of Trustees take these next exciting steps.”
The festive celebration will include a march to Couch Garden led by the Lyon College Pipe Band. The Presbytery of Arkansas, the Synod of the Sun, delegates and guests from other colleges and universities, the class of 2018, staff, faculty, and the Board of Trustees will follow. The event will feature several musical performances and will allow members of the Lyon community to communicate to Dr. King their expectations of his presidential duties before Perry Wilson, chair of the Lyon Board, and Phil Baldwin, vice chair, inaugurate him.
Dr. Eugene M. Tobin, Senior Program Officer for Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will deliver the inaugural address. Tobin served 23 years at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, as a faculty member, department chair, dean of the faculty and president. He holds degrees from Rutgers University and Brandeis University and has written or served as editor of several scholarly articles and books.
As it searched for a new president, Lyon required a leader in academe, technology, and business. King offered an outstanding record in all three areas. Before coming to Lyon, King was senior advisor to the president of Emory & Henry College in Virginia, vice president of innovation at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and a research scientist at the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Washington.
At Rice University he was executive director of Connexions, a prominent open education system which began the MOOC (massive open online courses) movement, offering online access to thousands of college courses. Literally millions of students in dozens of countries have made use of open education options.
As executive director of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, Dr. King helped almost 140 liberal arts colleges across the nation to integrate inquiry, pedagogy, and technology to become more strategic and innovative.
He is co-author, with Dr. Brian C. Mitchell, of the best-selling book in higher education administration, How to Run a College, published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Their second book, The Creative Generation, is forthcoming from Stanford University Press.
Of his co-author, Dr. Mitchell says, “Dr. King is an insightful, thoughtful, and creative leader who understands how the various puzzle pieces fit together in higher education. At the institutional level, he is a conservative and pragmatic steward who “wrote the book” on how to run a college. Lyon College will be a better place — more relevant, sustainable, and creative because of the work that Joey, the faculty and staff, and other key stakeholders can accomplish together.”
King currently serves as chairman of the board of Teachers Without Borders, an international non-profit organization that enables local educators to connect with colleagues globally. He is also on the board of directors of the Council on Library and Information Resources, the advisory board of the Theodore Roosevelt Center, and the advisory council of Stanford University Libraries.
He is a long-time supporter of liberal arts education, having endowed the King Creativity Fund at his alma mater, Southwestern University. Each year this fund supports “innovative and visionary projects” of students there. While the term “creativity” usually refers to the design and creation of something new, to King it also invokes the use of imagination, the willingness to tackle problems in unorthodox ways, a readiness to take risks, an openness to new perspectives, and an interest in innovation.
Taylor Hutchison, a 2016 Southwestern graduate and beneficiary of the King Creativity Fund for two years, says “I really don’t think that I would have had the same opportunities if I had not been able to participate” in fund-supported research. Now a student in Texas A & M’s Ph.D. program in astronomy, Hutchison was offered a Diversity Fellowship, reserved, she points out, “for extremely promising individuals who would provide a unique outlook to the program.” He attributes his success in getting this fellowship to the “many diverse research projects I had completed in my four years at Southwestern” which the Creativity Fund made possible.
Dr. King is proud to have mentored students whom he characterizes as “some of the most exceptional in America.” One such mentee is Rice University graduate student Pelham Keahey, one of the inaugural winners of a National Cancer Institute’s prestigious pre-doctoral/postdoctoral transition award, which helps fund graduate school and postdoctoral training. Keahey, who is pursuing a doctorate in applied physics, said the funds will support his development of low-cost, point-of-care optical imaging and molecular probes to improve the detection and treatment of cancer.
Another of his protégé is fellow Texan Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and CEO of Birchbox, a beauty e-commerce site and product-sample subscription service. Birchbox has more than 300 employees, 1 million subscribers, 4 million total customers, 800 brand partners, operations in six countries, and brick-and-mortar stores in New York City and Paris.
Senior vice president for academic and student affairs at Willamette University, Carol Long, says, “Having worked with Dr. King during his time at the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, I know him to be a person of vision. He will lead the Lyon College community to new accomplishments with grace and integrity.”
Similarly, University of Richmond’s Tucker Boatwright Professor of Humanities and President Emeritus Ed Ayers says, “Dr. King and Lyon College will be a great team. He brings energy, vision, and boldness to everything he does and the college is positioned to take advantage of those attributes. The coming years are certain to be exciting and productive.”
In addition to his work in academe, he is also an entrepreneur and scientist. Dr. King was on the founding team and served as a chief scientist of F5 Networks. The technology company currently employs some 4,500 workers worldwide. F5 is publicly traded, with a market capitalization of $7.5 billion. It replaced Kodak in the S&P 500. Dr. King worked as a research scientist at Hughes Research Laboratories and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute. He served as a consultant to Atari Games, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Microsoft Research.
King grew up on a ranch in Texas. Graduating with honors from Southwestern University with a double major in computer science and experimental psychology, he was the first in his family to get a college degree, and he went on to earn a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction from the University of Washington. He and his wife, Dr. S. Leigh King, are the parents of two children.
Lyon College is now offering a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a degree increasingly sought across the country after a slump in the earlier 2000s. With the growing capabilities of cell phones, enrollments in computer science have risen across the country again, as they did when personal computers first came on the market and during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. The College previously offered the degree but has offered only a minor since 2010, when student interest and enrollment dropped.
Currently, students interested in computer science apply, but with no official major in the field, few from that group enroll. According to Matt Crisman, Vice President for Enrollment Services, Lyon expects to see enrollment gains from reinstating an updated version of the Computer Science major.
Provost Melissa Taverner noted that while most people are end-users, computer applications now offer vital tools for use in most fields across the entire scope of careers. These people rely on professionals who understand both hardware and software development. Adding the major, she says, “gives our students a background to go into an area where they can be very successful in the future.”
She added that Introduction to Programming in C will be offered in Lyon’s first of two summer sessions this year, at half the cost of courses taken during the regular school year. “We hope to enroll community members who want to develop computer programming skills, especially employees of our area school systems,” she said.
Lyon’s newest major requires courses in mathematics, including Calculus I, programming, and operating systems. In addition it requires Introduction to Digital Logic, which covers concepts foundational to machine design. Students must also choose three electives, which can include supervised internships and individual work on special topics in computer science.
Students who arrive at Lyon with programming experience may “challenge” a course by passing an examination over the material covered in that course. David Sonnier, Associate Professor of Computer Science, says that students are beginning to arrive at Lyon with some programming experience, and he expects this trend to grow as high schools begin to offer more sophisticated courses.
A new freshman-level course open to any interested student is Digital Humanities, which is an introduction to such topics as digital text encoding (XML), text computation and analysis, data visualization, and geographic information system (GIS) mapping. This course is designed to introduce students to computer science and its applications in other fields.
Digital Humanities is a special interest of Anthony Davis, who will join the program full-time in the fall. He is presently Chief Information Officer for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and has also been GIS Lead/Deputy Director and Senior GIS Analyst at the Arkansas GIS Office, a state agency reporting directly to the Governor’s Office.
A 2004 graduate of Lyon who double-majored in history and computer science, he has taught as an adjunct at the College for the past year. His master’s degree work at Vanderbilt emphasized digital humanities in connection with historical studies. Davis is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science at UALR.
Four senior art majors at Lyon College will exhibit their Senior Thesis projects in Kresge Gallery in the Alphin Building from April 9 through April 20.
The show will consist of work from Amber Evans, from Piggott, AR, printmaking; Charlie Gills, Erwinville, LA, painting; Callly Irvin, Gravett, AR, painting; and Clarissa Wyatt, Batesville, AR, sculpture.
A reception and artists’ talk will be held on April 12, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the gallery. The show is free and open to the public.
The Arkansas Scottish Festival will take place April 13-15, with most events happening on the Lyon College campus. This year, however, the College has scheduled several Friday events in downtown Batesville as a way to introduce tourists attending the Festival to the city’s historic Main Street and all it offers.
At 4:30 p.m., bagpiper Patrick Regan and storyteller Ricky Pitman will perform in the Pocket Park, located on the north side of Main between 3rd and 4th Streets. Regan has won countless piping championships and placed in professional competitions in Scotland. Pitman, known as the “Bard of the South,” is a folk singer and author as well as a teller of stories that build appreciation for Celtic cultures, music and history.
At 4:30, registration for the Kilted Mile, a run down Main Street from 12th to Ringgold, will open at the Landers Theater, across the street from the Pocket Park. Cost is $15, and the first 100 participants will receive a kilt to wear in the run. The race will begin at 5:30.
At 6 p.m., doors will open at the Melba Theatre, 115 W. Main, for a free showing of Braveheart. The film will begin at 7, with a short introduction by Dr. Mark Wallace, a Lyon history professor whose expertise is Scottish history.
At 10 p.m., Patrick Regan will be at CIX, the popular restaurant at 109 Main. He will perform until midnight.
On March 22, Lyon College’s Mortar Board hosted a Student Creative Arts and Research Forum (SCARF) where students shared the work they have pursued in and outside of the classroom with their peers through presentations and posters. While the College has hosted the event in the past, Mortar Board breathed new life into it, bringing SCARF back to the campus after a year of absence. Dr. Melissa Taverner, the new provost at Lyon who sponsored the event, gave the keynote speech that lent SCARF the formal structure of a research conference, allowing students to experience something like the conferences they might attend if they continue to graduate or professional schools.
“With a mix of posters and oral presentations, SCARF was an outstanding showcase of the quality of original work that is accomplished here at Lyon by students working closely with faculty or professional mentors. The presentation quality was very high; student presenters were well-prepared and able to explain their work and to answer questions from the audience members, both experts and novices alike,” said Taverner. “I am hopeful that in the coming years more Lyon students will take the opportunity to work with faculty mentors to address questions or issues about which they are passionate and, through that work, to contribute to the body of knowledge that we all share.”
Students and faculty from diverse fields such as fine arts, humanities, and the sciences participated in the event. Research topics ranged from pottery-making to the American dream in literature to the presence and perception of climate change. Both freshman and upperclassman presented in hopes of winning cash prizes for first place oral presentation, first place poster presentation, and runner up for both categories. The selection committee included Mr. Eric Bork, Dr. Paul Bube, Dr. Jeremy Chapman, Dr. Anthony Grafton, Dr. Terrell Tebbetts, and Dr. Nikki Yonts.
Dr. Irosha Nawarathne, faculty advisor to Mortar Board, said, “In my opinion, undergraduate research is the best way to accomplish the teaching objectives of a liberal arts college. SCARF 2018 was a wonderful event recognizing the creative work and research efforts of our students while appreciating the support they got from their faculty mentors. While enjoying what we accomplished this year, I look forward to the growth of SCARF in the years to come.”
Mentored by Dr. Irosha Nawarathne, Jordan Trant won first place in oral presentation for her research “Fighting Drug Resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis with Modified Rifamycins.” Mentored by Dr. Jonathan Sczepanski at Texas A&M University, Ian Hall won first place for his “Selection of L-DNA Aptamers Against D-Pre-miR-155.” The runner ups for these categories included Marisa Ayers and Hannah Templin, Rebecca Philpott, Makala White, and Alice Bewley and Luke Shackelford. Other participants included Logan Hunt, Becca Burrow, Emerson Smith and Zachary Hodge, Victoria Hutcheson, and Alexandra Keene.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Trant said, “I tried my best with my presentation, and it was great for all of my hard work to be recognized. It was great to be able to hear what everyone else at Lyon had accomplished, and I hope we can do SCARF again next year!”
Similarly, Hall said, SCARF was an exciting opportunity for students to share their ideas with the Lyon College community. I am honored to have won an award for my poster presentation.”
Mortar Board would like to thank the Lyon community, including its marketing and printing team and Sodexo catering, for its support. Mortar Board President Kristen Blagg said, “I remember attending SCARF two years ago and thinking how awesome it was for students to be able to present their hard work and be awarded for it. It was an honor to be able to organize the event this year.”
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