JONESBORO — At a gathering to announce a new scholarship honoring emeritus professor Dr. Rick Neeley, former students, colleagues and friends recalled his exemplary dedication to teaching and service at Arkansas State University.
“Today we are marking a great milestone,” said Dr. Amy Shollenbarger, chair of the Department of Communication Disorders in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.
She introduced Kayle Myers, an alumna and past president of the A-State chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. Myers proudly declared that former and current members of the chapter had achieved their goal to recognize one of their most beloved professors, Dr. Rick Neeley.
“I’m excited to announce that we have raised $25,000 to initiate a graduate scholarship named for the entire Neeley Family. Dr. Rick, his wife Phyllis and his daughter Erin are here today with us,” Myers said. “Every student in our program is a part of today, and on behalf of each of them, thank you Dr. Neeley.”
Dr. Scott Gordon, dean of Nursing and Health Professions since Aug. 1, noted he has been learning about the history of the college’s programs and its people.
“When I was told that Dr. Neeley’s students fundraised this graduate scholarship to honor him, I knew he was a professor who touched the lives of his students in a deep and profound way, that they were driven to honor him in this way,” Gordon said. “On behalf of the college, I want to thank you, Rick, for literally decades of service. And to you, Kayle, and all of our current and past members of the chapter, thank you for creating this scholarship.”
Chancellor Kelly Damphousse also emphasized Neeley’s impact as a faculty member.
“I have had the opportunity to meet Rick Neeley, and I cannot think of a greater ambassador for our communications disorders program,” he told those gathered. “In fact, it’s fair to say that he is the program. His devotion to Arkansas State is remarkable.”
After earning a master’s at A-State in 1976, Neeley worked in private practice for a few years before finishing his doctoral degree at Tennessee in 1987. He returned to Jonesboro and A-State that year, and eventually climbed through faculty ranks to full professor.
“He was instrumental in elevating communications disorders from a program to a department in the college. It was his vision that inspired the offices and clinical spaces you see here today in the Reynolds Center,” Damphousse added. “For 19 years, he served as the department chair.”
He also quoted one of Neeley’s former colleagues, who said, “What Dr. Neeley is most known for is his listening ear. He welcomes students into his office and mentored generations of speech language pathologists as they reached their academic potential. He is what A-State should always be about.”
Damphousse continued, “It is that kind of devotion to our students that separates A-State from everyone else. And it is that kind of love that motivates students to honor a professor. Today, with the funding of our students, I am proud to announce the Neeley Family Graduate Scholarship in Communication Disorders, and welcome back Rick and his family to present the inaugural scholarship to a deserving graduate student.
The first recipient is Katie Beth Pankey of Blytheville, who is working toward the Master of Communication Disorders degree.
Additional information about this and other privately funded scholarships at A-State is available through the Office of Development, (870) 972-3940 or Development@AState.edu.