By Jacie Sellars, Editor
November 14, 2022
On October 21, the Ouachita Development Office hosted Stepping up for Ouachita, a lunch to benefit women’s scholarships. Step Up for Ouachita has honored notable former women since 2010, and the event has raised approximately $750,000 for scholarships since its launch. Guests at the event enjoyed a fine meal at the Chenal Country Club in Little Rock. This year, Stepping up For Ouachita paid tribute to Nancy Benton, Sheila Powell Strickland, Sarah Shell Teague and Toni Thrash.
Nancy Benton graduated from Ouachita in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in education. She strongly believes in the lasting impact of Ouachita on her students. “We all succeed because someone else has helped us along the way, and Ouachita has done that in all of our lives,” Benton said. After graduating, Benton married her husband, Murray, and raised three children. She currently sits on the board of Ouachita, and she feels incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to make Ouachita the best place it can be. Benton also serves on the board of directors of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Baptist Memorial Healthcare Foundation of Memphis, and the Community Foundation of the NEA Baptist Hospital of Jonesboro. She cares deeply about her community and always helps others.
Sheila Powell Strickland graduated from Ouachita in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting. She currently works as a financial analyst at the Strickland Group, which she helped establish with her husband, Richard. Strickland believes in the value of women’s ministry and owns the Welcome Home Retreat in Weatherford, Texas, which hosts about 30 women each weekend for crafts and scrapbooking. “When you work with someone’s photographs and quilts, you really hear their story,” Strickland said. Strickland serves Ouachita as a board member of the Hickingbotham School of Business. She attended Ouachita without any financial aid, one of her goals is to help students in similar situations. “I want to give back what I got from Ouachita to someone else,” Strickland said.
Sarah Shell Teague graduated from Ouachita in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and French. Teague went on to earn his Ph.D. while raising three sons with her husband, Jeff. She has published essays and short stories, and she has served as associate editor of three local magazines. Teague is active in her community. She was president of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries Board and she was a member of the Ouachita Development Council. Teague believes in the value of the arts and is a patron of several art museums. She is grateful that her upbringing in Ouachita prepared her for success.
Toni Thrash was a schoolteacher for 34 years and won Arkansas State’s Teacher of the Year award. She describes herself as a caretaker and has cared for her family and students for many years. Thrash discovered Ouachita through her husband, Tom, who played soccer and graduated from Ouachita in 1977. Thrash says she can always recognize Ouachita alumni because of their kindness and intelligence. The Thrashes have a generous spirit and they have contributed significantly to the Ouachita football field. “God has given us so abundantly that the least we can do is give to others,” Thrash said.
The event honored these successful women and raised funds for scholarships through ticket sales, sponsorships and donations. The Ouachita Development Council is proud to have the opportunity to honor elders and empower a future generation of women in Ouachita.