Connections: winter 2020


Owen Olbricht has written a book, Kingdom of the Messiah. He has authored numerous other books as well as workbooks, personal worker lessons and articles. He has spent more than 50 years leading campaigns and mission efforts in 30 states and 14 countries. He taught for 10 years at Harding. He is editor of Unique for Christ, a publication for university students. 


Mike Philpot is the new vice president of economic development for Jonesboro Unlimited. He came to the business development organization from Leland, Mississippi, where he served as the director of economic development for Delta Strong & Delta Council. He is married to Robin Gill (’80). 


Elizabeth “Liz” Herrel O’Shea was awarded a grant from the R.E.B. Foundation for Teaching Excellence to travel to London, Normandy and Paris for a World War II professional development experience. She has taught English at L.C. Bird High School in Chesterfield, Virginia, for 10 years and became National Board Certified in 2017. 


Richard Johnson became president at Crowley’s Ridge College, Jan. 1, 2020. He was formerly vice president for advancement. 


Christopher B. Pillay is the president and CEO of Semele, formerly the product division of Meridian Technologies, an award-winning IT consulting, staffing and technology company that he co-founded in 1998. He attended executive education programs at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He currently serves on the board of directors of Consulting Solutions International. 


Steven Fitzhugh was honored by Ouachita Christian School with the naming of the football field in his honor Sept. 6, 2019. He is in his 22nd season as the Eagles head coach and his 26th year at the school. His team won the 2019 state title. He and his wife, Jana Stegall (’94), have four children, Harding student Grant, Will, Ellie Kate and Maddox. 

Carla Tipton Sumner was one of seven graduates from Arkansas State University’s College of Nursing and Health Professionals recognized as distinguished alumni Oct. 26, 2019. She earned her master’s in communication disorders from ASU in 1994. She has practiced as an SLP for 24 years in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, private practice, outpatient clinics, home health and skilled nursing facilities in Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee. She has given back to the profession by supervising multiple speech pathologists in their clinical fellowship year and many student clinicians throughout the years. She serves on the advisory council for the graduate communication sciences and disorders program at Harding and has supervised graduate clinicians at Harding’s international program in Zambia for three summers. She and her husband, Ryan (’96), have three children. 


Becky Hackney married Vassar Davis on Oct. 26, 2019. Becky works as an academic coordinator for K-6 English Language Arts in Dayton, Ohio. Vassar works in inventory control in Cincinnati.


Natalie Smeltzer Fortenberry is now a shareholder of the law firm Polsinelli PC. Her husband, Zeke, is managing member of the Fortenberry Firm PLLC. They reside in Dallas and have one son, Jack. 


Zachary Crow is director of DecARcerate, a non­profit working to end mass incarceration in Arkansas through education, legislation and community action. The first full-length book of his poetry, Dancing in the Eddies, was released in 2018. Written in 34 parts, he describes it as an autobiographical examination of birth, death, love, loss and the danger of being in the wake of dismantled dreams. 


Chad Burris was named one of Dealerscope 40 under 40 DM Parker Lifetime Achievement award honorees. He is a product protection program manager for Nationwide Marketing group. He
and his wife, Cristy, have three children, Ava, Lexi and Brooks.


Clay Williams completed surgical residency in Little Rock, Arkansas, and is now a board-certified general surgeon at Searcy Medical Center. He is married to Erica Strate (’11), who is a physician assistant in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

J.D. Adams is teaching at the College of Charleston after spending two years at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He has his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas. His wife, Allison Evins, has her Psy.D. from the University of Denver. They have a daughter, Tate.


Robert Cook has been promoted to manager in Draffin Tucker’s Resource Solutions division in the Atlanta office. Since joining the CPA and advisory firm in 2012, he has become an integral part of the consulting services practice. He holds a Master of Accountancy degree from University of Alabama and is a member of GSCPA’s Young CPAs Advisory Council and is president of the Accounting Alumni Young Professional Board for University of Alabama. 

Brian and Kacey Persaile Eastman announce the birth of twin sons, Judson Wesley and Roman Dean, Aug. 23, 2019. They also have a daughter, Lorelei Jean.

Sean Simons holds both a master’s and doctoral degree in school psychology from Oklahoma State University. He is the school psychology program coordinator at Murray State University, a Kentucky licensed psychologist, a board-certified behavior analyst, and a nationally certified school psychologist.  


M. Christine Dillard has joined PPGMR Law Firm’s Little Rock, Arkansas, office. She graduated from University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, where she served as editor-in-chief of the UA Little Rock Law Review. She holds a petroleum land management certificate from Texas Christian University M.J. Neely School of Business and a paralegal studies certificate from Southern Methodist University. 

Samantha Simpson is listed in the 2020 class of Nashville’s Top 30 Under 30 by the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She graduated from Belmont University College of Law in May 2016 and serves as an assistant attorney general in the criminal appeals division of the Tennessee attorney general’s office. She also is an adjunct professor at Belmont University. 

Spencer Adams is a teacher and football coach at Farmington High School in Farmington, Arkansas. He has a son, Michael Spencer Adams III. 


Hailey Ashlyn Hickerson married John Harper “Jack” Thomas on Oct. 19, 2019. Hailey is a student clinician at Pediatrics Plus, and Jack is a business development project manager for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. 

Categories: Connections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *