Chamber of Commerce honors four from U of O

Release Date: 4/24/2013

Several members of the University of the Ozarks community were recognized by the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce during the chamber's 92nd annual Awards Banquet, held April 23 in the Rogers Conference Center on the U of O campus.

Ozarks President Dr. Rick Niece, who is retiring in June after 16 years, received the Lee White Legacy Award, the chamber's most prestigious award that is named after the long-time Clarksville banker and former U of O trustee. The award is presented to an individual who is a member of the chamber, in a leadership position, has lived in community for a minimum of 10 years, and is retiring or leaving the community. The award is presented to someone who has "made a difference, been a visionary and has committed their time and resources to the community."

The chamber recognized Niece's success at Ozarks and as an ambassador for the university and for Johnson County. Under Niece's leadership Ozarks has seen student enrollment increase, the endowment grow by more than 300 percent and the number of full-time faculty almost double. The University has also completed two successful capital campaigns and raised more than $140 million during his tenure. He and his wife, Sheree, have hosted more than 40,000 students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends in the President's Home since 1997. In 2003 he was given the District IV Chief Executive Leadership Award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Dr. Rickey Casey, professor of management and executive director of the international studies program at Ozarks, was honored with the Pillar of Progress/Lifetime Achievement Award. This award goes to a chamber member who "possesses leadership qualities and whose outstanding actions over a period of years have enhanced the quality of life of the citizens of Johnson County."

Casey has led the Walton International Scholarship Program since 1987. Casey has also served as a member of the Johnson Regional Medical Center's Board of Directors from 1992-2013.  As director of the international studies program, Casey and his students have contributed thousands of community service hours in endeavors ranging from business education workshops to translation services for hospitals and schools. Dr. Casey will step down from his duties as executive director of the international studies program in June but will remain a full-time faculty member in the Division of Business, Communications and Government. 

Karla Wood, development officer and special projects manager, received the Community Volunteer of the Year Award for her work as an ambassador for the chamber.  Wood has worked in the Advancement Office at Ozarks since 2000, helping to coordinate the University's development functions over the course of two fundraising campaigns that raised more than $100 million for the University.   She has served as a volunteer advocate for the Ozark Rape Crisis Center for the past nine years and in 2011 received a commendation from Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe for her volunteer work for the center. She was a member of the 2013 class of Leadership Johnson County.

Brett Stone, an assistant professor of health and physical education at Ozarks since 2008, was named by the chamber as the U of O Educator of the Year.  Stone was the recipient of the 2012 Leadership Award by the Arkansas Governor's Council on Fitness and Baptist Health and has been a local and state-wide advocate for health and fitness, especially for youth and seniors. He was voted by his peers as the recipient of the 2012 Bagwell Outstanding Faculty Award and has served as co-sponsor of the University's Sports Shooting Club.

Chamber Award Recipient

The Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce recognized (from left) President Dr. Rick Niece, Karla Wood, Dr. Rickey Casey and Brett Stone during the 92nd annual Chamber Awards Banquet on April 23.