No. 1097



Several weeks ago my good friend Craig O’Neill, news anchor for KTHV Television in Little Rock, spoke for our annual Bookcase Fundraising Banquet. He did a fantastic job. While sitting at the head table before the meeting started, he asked me this question. “Why is Conway so successful? He had just observed our big new shopping center on Interstate 40, and he knew we are the fastest growing city in our state. I thought for a moment and then responded. “I can give you the answer with one word, and that word is EDUCATION!”
I know there are many other reasons, but I went on to explain that we have a university and two colleges here, plus three separate school districts. When you consider that a couple of these institutions of higher education are more than 100 years old, and that a good percentage of the graduates remain here after they graduate, this has raised the educational level of our community. In fact, 36 percent of the adults in our county have at least a bachelor’s degree. When you consider that the state average is about 16 percent, you begin to get the picture. I would state further that when you find a community thriving and doing well, at least here in our state, you would find a college or university in this community.
At this point I am going to make a bold statement, and then do my best to defend it. Education is the linchpin of progress. The definition of a linchpin is “a pin placed through the end of an axle in order to keep a wheel from sliding off.” Thus the analogy, the linchpin of progress is “education,” as this is what, in many respects, keeps the wheels of our society from coming off. It has been said that education actually began the first time a caveman hurled an insult instead of a spear.
While every state has its own background and story when it comes to education, what I hope you will consider if you are reading this column anywhere in America is the fact that there are important people who are largely responsible for your progress. One of the key people in our state’s educational history is the late Arch Ford, who was commissioner of the Arkansas State Department of Education from 1953 to 1978 and served during the terms of five different governors.
Personally, I am grateful for a retired history teacher, Cindy Beckman, who has done a tremendous amount of research and writing to leave both present and future generations with a fantastic book, “Man of Vision – Arkansas Education and the Legacy of Arch Ford.” There is no better way to give a quick overview of this book than to share a portion of what is printed on the back cover. “Arch Ford’s vision was to expand educational opportunities because he believed education was the foundation for improving people’s lives. Throughout his career, he campaigned for increased educational funding, better-qualified teachers, and higher teacher’s salaries.
“Ford helped to lead the state in peacefully integrating its schools and established 23 vocational-technical schools. He also spearheaded the Arkansas Educational Television Network to provide instructional programming across the state. Further, he helped opportunities that include kindergarten, special education, community colleges, and adult education.”
To say it simply, Arch Ford truly made a difference. If you could read Cindy’s book you would be truly informed and educated about this most important topic. Obtain a copy from or
(Editor’s Note: THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY – Begin your day on a positive note – 365 days for $12. This will benefit the Bookcase for Every Child project. Go to to subscribe.)