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At the bottom of page 72 in Why It Matters, I share a story I told at a recruitment event in Little Rock and mention that the story convinced one student to attend the University of Arkansas. He became student body president before he graduated. Several students who attended the event and chose to attend the University of Arkansas were among the record-setting number of Chancellor’s Scholars. Shown below is a copy of an email message I received from another student who attended the recruitment event and chose to attend the University of Arkansas.

From: William Richardson <>
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2022 2:38:48 PM
To: John A. White Jr. <>
Subject: A note of thanks.

Dear Dr. White,

I don’t expect you to remember, but we met twenty years ago in the lobby of Embassy Suites in Little Rock, after you addressed a crowd of highschoolers (myself included) and made a case for us to attend the University of Arkansas. The crowd was predominately honors students, many of whom (myself included) were strongly considering leaving our home state of Arkansas to attend “more prestigious” universities around the country. You clearly and passionately laid out a convincing case for why we should instead stay in Arkansas to attend the U of A, and many of us (myself included) decided to take you up on it. I was skeptical, but you shook my hand in the lobby and invigorated my spirit for the path before me.

Fast-forward twenty years after my B.S. in Biological Engineering here at U of A (2003-2007), Ph.D. at Texas A&M (2007-2012), Postdoctoral Fellowship at University of Virginia (2012-2015), and Assistant Professor at Clemson University (2016-2022), I have now returned full circle back to the University of Arkansas as a tenured Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering and ready to commit a long, long time to strengthen the educational, research, and service impact of this great university on our state, our country, and our world.

I am thankful I get to give back to the state of Arkansas that poured so much into me as a child. I am thankful I get to teach students at the same place I was once a student and the same place my grandmother (Mary Etheridge Sawyer) and great-uncle (Hampton Etheridge) were students. I am thankful for your impact on this university at the biggest scale through fundraising campaigns, building endeavors, and casting long-term vision, but I am equally thankful for your impact on this university at the smallest scale through small words of encouragement to a naive highschooler twenty years ago.

My sincere gratitude and very best wishes to you!



Will Richardson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Bates Teaching Endowed Professorship in Chemical Engineering
University of Arkansas

When I met with high-ability high school students from Arkansas, I challenged them to help me build a top-notch university by coming, receiving their undergraduate degree, going to a highly ranked graduate school for their doctoral education, and returning to the University of Arkansas as a member of our faculty. In addition to Will Richardson, three members of the industrial engineering faculty are among those who did so! For them, being a UA faculty member is not a job, it’s an opportunity to make a difference for their alma mater and home state. And what a difference they are making!


Next: Sense of Humor—Part I