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Hall gives back to Lyon, Little Rock communities

Pictured above: Gretchen Hall (left) has mentored fellow Lyon alumna Debbie Onukwube.

Gretchen Hall, ‘01, learned lessons in the classroom and on the basketball court at Lyon College that she has used to give back to both her alma mater and community through the years.

“I’m a huge believer in what sports can teach you off the court as much as on the court,” Hall said. “You learn about work ethic, teamwork, and communication skills.”

She applied those lessons to her career with the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB), becoming president and CEO in May 2011.

Hall said she credits Lyon for teaching her how to write better and be an effective communicator.

“No matter what field you go into that will benefit you,” Hall said. “I really learned how to articulate my thoughts at Lyon through all of my classes.”

She majored in business administration and economics, mentored by Associate Professor of Economics Dr. Mahbubul Kabir and former Professor of Accounting Dr. Alan McNamee.

“I always thought I was pretty good at math until I got to Accounting II,” Hall said, laughing. “It’s hard when you hit the peak of basketball season and travel a lot. I struggled a bit there, but [McNamee] was very good at helping me catch up.”

“I also dearly loved Dr. Mark Schram. He was a big supporter of our basketball team, so, even though I didn’t take very many of his biology classes, he was a consistent face. I felt like I had a special relationship with him.”

Hall has paid those experiences forward, mentoring local basketball players in Little Rock.

“My former high school coach convinced me to coach here,” she said. “She had a group of parochial kids that needed a coach, and she twisted my arm to do that.”

Lyon alumna Debbie Onukwube, ‘13, was on that team.

“Debbie was a raw talent and needed some direction,” Hall said. “Over time, she kind of became my child and would introduce me as ‘her second mom.’ She ended up earning a basketball scholarship at Lyon and kept the tradition going for our nontraditional family. That was a unique tie.”

Hall has also worked diligently to give back to the Little Rock community, including the $70 million renovation of the Robinson Center Performance Hall. She served on the team representing the City of Little Rock and the Little Rock Advertising & Promotion Commission, the owners of the facility. 

The project took two and a half years to complete, and the performance hall reopened in November 2016. She said the facility is now bringing lots of additional events, activities, and people to Little Rock, which is creating a great economic boost for tourism.

Hall said the experience is one of the highlights of her career.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime project and became a labor of love,” she said, “even taking over my life for a while.”

“I had lots of personal and professional ties to that building. You naturally take ownership of a project like that and want to make sure it’s done right because it serves our community and benefits the local economy.”

Through her work with LRCVB, Hall became the first woman to solely receive the Downtown Little Rock Partnership’s Top of the Rock Award in 2017. She was recently named Tourism Person of the Year at the 2019 Henry Awards in February.

“That was awfully humbling because I know I was selected by my peers throughout the state to be honored,” Hall said. “That is one of the highest regards in our industry in this state.”

She said she is fortunate to have a career she loves.

“It’s important for everybody to find their niche and find something they truly enjoy doing,” Hall said. “I’ve truly been blessed to find a professional career that drives me every day.”

“We end up spending so much time at work, it makes it all the better when you enjoy what you do.”