Volume I  Issue # 13   
Monday, April 5, 1999

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The President's Post

In the last issue of the "Communiqué," I wrote about our recent trip to Central America. I focused primarily on Honduras and the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch on that country and its people. We also visited El Salvador and Nicaragua and were able to see a number of Walton Scholar alumni, their parents, and several new students for next year's class.
   In El Salvador and Nicaragua the Walton alumni organized seminars, which we attended, for local business men and women. The major speakers were from Wal-Mart and Procter and Gamble. Seminars of this nature and other community service projects are examples of positive contributions our Walton alumni provide for their countries. The professional positions the almuni hold are quite impressive, and everyone we met was at a management level with a major business or corporation. Many of you on this campus were mentioned as their favorite teachers or most positive influences, and they credit this University as the reason for their success. The Walton International Scholarship Program is making a difference in Central America. El Salvador is an energetic and beautiful country. The capital city of San Salvador seems as modern as most cities in North America. The countryside vegetation and landscape are remarkable, and we enjoyed our day's travel into the mountain region to see the coffee plantations rich with beans and aroma. In San Salvador we were privileged to meet the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Ann Patterson, whose family lives in Fort Smith. We also met Karla Rodriguez ('94) who works for the American Embassy and is married to Walter Rodriguez ('94) who was the primary organizer of the seminar. We listened to Claudia Cruz ('95) on the radio. Claudia is manager for a Christian radion station and has brought her station to number eight in ratings. One evening we ate at Pizza Hut, a growing chain in El Salvador, and visited with Juan Paniagua ('98) who manages a Pizza Hut. Another evening we dined with over thirty Walton alumni from each of the three universities in the program.
   Nicaragua is the size of Arkansas with two and a half times the population. The capital city of Managua is about as busy a place, in regard to traffice and shops, that Sheree and I have ever visited. The people were unusually friendly and quite interested in the United States. Nubia Robleto ('95) is the banquet and special events director at the Camino Real Hotel where we stayed in Managua, and Enrique Mejia's ('98) mother assists in managing the hotel. We traveled one afternoon with Oscar Navarette ('97) and Ivan Quant ('98) to see an active volcano. During the drive we stopped for bottled water at a store owned by Otto Mejia's father. Oscar and Ivan walked with us to the top of the volcano (ask Sheree about this experience -- she almost made it to the top), and we looked down into the belching smoke and fire. Indiana Jones has nothing on "Arkansas Niece!" A transcending cross is stationed by the opening of the volcano because the people believe that this had to be the mouth of Hell. That night we ate a traditional and delicious Nicaraguan dinner in a restaurant owned by Ivan's mother.
   During the trip we signed several new students into the Walton program. I cannot express how rewarding it is to watch the faces of the students and their parents while Rickey Casey explains what they are receiving. I also cannot express enough gratitude to Rickey and Lisa Casey. The love that the alumni and their parents show for Rickey and Lisa is a pleasure to witness. The alumni always ask about Jackie Whitson and tell us the many wonderful things she did for them. All three of them -- Rickey, Lisa, and Jackie -- are regarded by our students and alumni as second parents.
   And that ends my reflections on our trip to Central America. Thanks for your patience as I recounted the many events. You do have to admit this format was better than five hours of slides.

Rick Niece, Ph.D.

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