Allison and Cash to Receive Honorary Doctoral Degrees at Spring Commencement
JONESBORO – Chancellor Kelly Damphousse received approval to award honorary doctorates from Arkansas State University to alumnus Johnny Allison and patron of the arts Rosanne Cash at today’s ASU System Board of Trustees meeting.
The recommendation of honorary degrees for Allison and Cash began with the A-State on-campus faculty committee earlier this semester. With official board approval today, they will be awarded at the 2020 Spring Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 16, at First National Bank Arena.
“These two individuals have made tremendous, indelible contributions to Arkansas State University, and I cannot be more pleased with the opportunity to present them with one of the institution’s highest honors,” Damphousse said. “The support Arkansas State has received from Johnny Allison is unmatched in our university’s history. The commitment of Rosanne Cash to the history and heritage of this region has ensured that the A-State Heritage Sites draw visitors from around the world.”
A long-time philanthropist and artist who helped inspire and guide the restoration of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, the Dyess Colony headquarters house, and a pivotal member of both the Johnny Cash Music Festivals and the Johnny Cash Heritage Festivals, Cash will receive her doctorate of letters at the 10 a.m. ceremony.
A 1966 graduate of A-State in business, Allison will receive his doctorate of letters at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony, coinciding with the graduates of the Griffin College of Business.
Allison and Cash are the 19th and 20th recipients of honorary doctorates from Arkansas State. The most recent was alumnus Neil Griffin at the 2018 Spring Commencement.
About Johnny Allison, from his letter of endorsement to the ASU System Board of Trustees:
"John Warren Allison attended Arkansas State University and earned his business administration degree in 1969. His career at Arkansas State began as a kindergarten student, continuing as a part of the former Demonstration School until sixth grade. Along with serving in several student leadership roles, Mr. Allison was also a walk-on football player.
Mr. Allison is a self-made success in the world of business and banking. His career began locally working in his father’s business in Jonesboro. Upon graduation, he relocated to central Arkansas and by his late 20s had multiple factories creating mobile homes. Over time, he expanded his portfolio to include banking starting in 1983. Shortly thereafter, he acquired his first financial institution, and built his first group which sold in the 1990s.
Returning to the banking industry in 1998, he and partners created Home BancShares, which does business across Arkansas, Florida, Alabama, and New York as Centennial Bank. Centennial was named the top-ranked bank two years in a row in Forbes’ Best Banks in America, 2018 and 2019.
Mr. Allison served on the ASU Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1984, and was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1998. At his alma mater, Allison has become a significant contributor to the private construction projects of the Red Wolves Foundation, making the largest three individual contributions to the Arkansas State Athletics Department. The resulting transformation of Centennial Bank Stadium includes the Johnny Allison Tower on the west side and the Centennial Bank Athletics Operations Center in the north end zone. He was honored with the naming of Allison Field at Centennial Bank Stadium.
Mr. Allison’s contribution to higher education and to the public good are worthy of recognition, and we believe it only fair and appropriate for Arkansas State University to award him with an honorary doctoral degree."
About Rosanne Cash, from her letter of endorsement to the ASU System Board of Trustees:
"Rosanne Cash is one America’s great singer/songwriters, woman of letters, and historic preservationists. With 15 albums of extraordinary songs earning four Grammy Awards and 11 additional nominations, she is author of four books and numerous essays in national publications. A performer who tours around the world, she has partnered in programming or served as an artist in residence at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, San Francisco Jazz, the Minnesota Orchestra, and The Library of Congress.
Cash was awarded the SAG/AFTRA Lifetime Achievement for Sound Recordings in 2012 and the 2014 Smithsonian Ingenuity Award in the Performing Arts. In 2015, she was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2019, she was a key contributor to Ken Burns’ multi-episode documentary, “Country Music.”
A long-time supporter of Arkansas State University’s Heritage Sites, Cash is one of the family founders of the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, and a founder of the Historic Dyess Colony & Johnny Cash Boyhood Home. Her philanthropic work has provided significant support to this one-of-a-kind museum that celebrates the work of the New Deal program that created farmer colonies across America during the Great Depression as well as documenting the formative years of her father and his family.
Her personal devotion to the Heritage Sites projects has secured the donation of key artifacts from the New Deal era, restoration of the Dyess Colony circle, and the Boyhood Home as a museum to the life and times of the farmers of the era. She has continued her commitment through creation of the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, which includes academic sessions tied to the history, music, culture, and social impact of both her father and of the colony project.
Rosanne Cash’s contribution to higher education and to the public good are worthy of recognition, and we believe it only fair and appropriate for Arkansas State University to award her with an honorary doctoral degree."
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