SAU Honors College

The SAU Honors College was founded in 2003 by Dr. David Rankin, president of SAU. Dr. Lynne Belcher served as founding director and recently retired from SAU. The Honors College seeks and admits qualified students who seek to pursue a serious academic program with equally gifted peers and committed teachers. Honors classes are small and provide academically enriching opportunities for students and the faculty who teach them. Currently, SAU enrolls nearly 170 honors students and graduates about 66% of admitees in four years or less. Anyone interested in applying to the Honors College or seeking further information should contact the director, Dr. Edward P. Kardas at or at 870 904-8897.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Honors College Recognition Ceremony Speech

David Wingfield

As many of you know, our former Assistant Director, David Wingfield, passed away in August of last year.

David was present at the founding of the SAU Honors College in 2003 and served it loyally until his end.

In many ways he inspired students, faculty, and staff during his long tenure at SAU. Soon, a memorial bench will be installed and unveiled on campus to remember him.

He is the inspiration for the theme of my talk today: transitions.

But, before I launch into it, let me first thank and acknowledge the many who have made today possible.


First, let’s have a hand for our graduates. While this year there were only eight, they are a weighty eight as you will soon see.

Let’s have a hand for their families and friends too.

We cannot forget to thank ARAMARK and Gigi Baucum either.


Now, let me share some numbers.


Look at the table tents at each of your tables. There are 12 of them.

Each tent represents a minimum donation to the HC of $100. One is $500, another is $250. The total pledged or donated is $1750! That is a new record.

We have received donations from local businesses:

the Peoples Bank, Albemarle, and Southern Aluminum

From SAU former and current administrators:
David Rankin, Trey Berry, David Lanoue, Donna Allen, Robin Sronce, Connie Wilson, and Abdel Bachri

From the two directors of the Honors College:
Drs. Odendaal and myself

These monies supplement and enhance our state funding and enable the Honors College to fund travel, purchase supplies, and house and  feed students when they attend professional meetings. THANK YOU
Let’s give our donors a hand!


Four of the graduates are holding a 4.00 GPA (and hopefully will not lose it during their last semester)

The lowest GPA is 3.64. So, the other three are bracketed from there to 4.00.

The AVERAGE was 3.91. Also a new record.

Guess what, time for some more applause, right?

Need I remind you that 3.25 is the minimum GPA to remain in the Honors College


Arkansas will award undergraduate degrees to all students who exceed a 2.00 GPA


Let me now transition to that topic

We all experience many transitions in life, we don’t remember the warm, wet, womb we were expelled from or cut out of, do we? Probably just as well.

We exited into a cold, well lit room, most likely. Not long ago we might have been born at home. My mother in law and her three sisters were each born at home a couple of generations ago.

I don’t plan to review every transition we experience, but I’d like to highlight a few.

Nowadays, many children, and perhaps some of you, ended up early on in a daycare. While that may have been scary most children soon adapt. They learn circle time, lining up by height, and holding hands when the class crosses streets.

Kindergarten teachers can easily tell which of their students did not go to daycare. When little Johnny is wandering around the room after “circle time” is called and all the others are sitting in front of the teacher, that’s the tell.

The first day of high school. I’ve always said that teens survive high school, how could I have known how real that word, “survive,” has become.

I began videoing students in Honors Seminar in 2010. I wanted them to see how far they had come from then till now.

Nearly all of you saw your Honors Seminar selves on the video. Chance, I regret that Covid deprived you of that embarrassment. You see, Chance was in the Honors Seminar class that met, for the only time ever, online. Sorry.

Truli was in the next Honors Seminar class. You noticed that she removed her mask before speaking. I had all of the students that year start with their masks on. I did that for posterity. We tend to forget all too soon.
As you saw, these grads did very well academically. Soon, all will transition to graduate education or to a career. As they will soon hear, their lives will commence at commencement. That’s probably a misnomer, if I ever heard one. It’s also a little bold of a college to say their students’s lives just began at graduation. They were living long before they stepped foot on a campus.

Despite their high GPAs, their college years were historically unusual thanks to Covid. They lived through a college experience unlike any other. Just a few days ago, the president declared the Covid emergency over and we hope he’s right.

Recall the fear Covid caused and the changes it made to all levels of society. I can count on one hand the few movies I have seen in a theatre since March 2020. Only now, do I no longer put a mask in my left pocket. I still keep 6’ between myself and the person in front of me in a line.

Let’s remember the victims of Covid too. Let’s give thanks to the many doctors, nurses, researchers, undertakers, janitors, retail employees, and other critical workers who had to, literally put their lives on the line.

Online Education

Many of you have heard me say in the past that I would never teach online. Well, guess what? Covid took care of that too.

Earlier this week, I wrote the following to a colleague:

“Not quite Paul on the road to Damascus, but I became a convert to online education and have spread that gospel since.”

But, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I plan to always meet the Honors Seminar face to face. As all of you will recall that is not how we first met, but it was where we first got to know each other.

The rest of you might not realize that honors students and I don’t really see much of each other following Honors Seminar. In a way, today is a kind of class reunion for us. I hope never to have to teach that course online ever again. It is too important to all of us that honors students receive a worthwhile introduction to the Honors College and the university experience.

Having said that, I was at Backyard BBQ a few months ago and handed my credit card to the cashier. She exclaimed, “I took your course!” I asked her right away what her grade had been and she said she had earned an A. By the way, if you have never dined there, do so, order the ribs!

The Future

Let me share with you some transitions our soon to be graduates  will likely experience after they commence in May.

I’ll start at the end so as not to end this speech on a depressing note.

When I explain the word “prognosis” in class I tell the class, here is your prognosis:

We are all going to die.

I quickly follow that up by saying that a better prognosis would include the words: When and How.

Right now, my father in law, John, is in a hospice hospital in Texarkana. He’ll likely not reach his 87th birthday in May.

On our first date (36 years ago), Julie, my wife, told me that her father had bad heart disease and was likely to die soon. Well, she was not much of a prognosticator, was she?

None of us know when we will take our last breath. None of us knows the future.

But, I know, retrospectively, some of the transitions that I have lived through. You, too, will share some of these transitions.


For example, you will soon make many decisions: life partner, career, children, and many others.

I met Julie at a VHS video parlor (I know some of you have no idea what that is). Less than a year later we were married and we will celebrate our 35 anniversary on July 3. That was, for me at least, a fortunate decision.

Julie and I are now grandparents. Our oldest, Christian and his wife Susie, are the proud parents of John Edward Kardas. They named him John after his great grandfather. I don’t know where his middle name came from however. (That’s not true, obviously, and it gives me great pride and brings a tear of happiness to my eye.)

Let me conclude by repeating something you should have heard before. That is, at college we cannot teach you everything you need to know. But, we can teach you how to solve those unforeseen problems that arise from time to time.

Hardly anyone was prepared for Covid. But, eventually, we adapted but at a tremendous cost.

On December 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor, most Americans wanted nothing to do with Hitler and his designs to take over Europe. Americans were even more unprepared for the Sunday morning surprise attack by Japan on Hawaii than we were for Covid. Overnight, public opinion changed and Americans were suddenly ready for war against Japan. Again, a tremendous cost was paid worldwide by all sides in World War II.

What else did that war do? Basically, everything changed. For one thing, it made my life possible. I would not be here except for World War II. It took my father from Philadelphia to Cairo. There, he met my mother (and the rest is history).

So, the most important transition you will face is the one that has not happened yet, the unpredictable one. But, because of the transitions you have already conquered you will be ready for that one too.

Many of the decisions you will make will be important and some will be life changing. Nevertheless I know you will be ready to make them. Use what you have learned when the time comes.

Maybe that theme of commencement is not so bad after all.

Thank you.

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