HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — The National Park College (NPC) board of trustees and campus community celebrated the the retirement of Gail Ezelle, who spent the past 38 years on the board.
Ezelle was also given an honorary degree after a special-called meeting of the board of trustees, which convened and passed a resolution in her honor.
Speakers at the meeting included Dr. Sally Carder, former NPC President; Reverend Robert Odom, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church; Melinda Gassaway, retired editor for the Sentinel-Record; Joyce Craft, NPC Board of Trustees Secretary; Forrest Spicher, NPC Board of Trustees Chair; and Dr. John Hogan, NPC President.
“I have had the privilege of serving with Gail as a Board member as well as an officer,” Spicher said. “She has been integral to the important growth and advances at NPC over the past 38-plus years. Under her watch, NPC has conferred thousands of degrees and certificates and improved lives through educational attainment. We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish such without her wise counsel.”
Hogan stated that Ezelle was committed to NPC’s mission of student success since joining the board in 1983.
“She has assisted me as both a leader and advisor, and she did both with the highest levels of honor and integrity,” said Hogan. “Among many accomplishments, she oversaw the merger with Quapaw Technical Institute in 2003, our name change and rebranding in 2015, and, very importantly, three successful accreditation cycles. I am grateful for her support of this campus and our students.”
Ezelle presented a theme that leadership is about action, not just about a title.
“It doesn’t matter what title you have as long as you go forward and get the job done. That’s what makes the difference,” said Ezelle.
Ezelle first joined the NPC Board of Trustees in 1983. She served with all four presidents and helped lead the College through a merger with Quapaw Technical Institute in 2003, a name change and rebranding in 2015, the resurrection of athletics in 2016, the first bachelor’s degrees on campus with Southern Arkansas University in 2019, approval of the first NPC bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2021, three 10-year accreditation cycles, and construction of the first residence hall on campus. She also contributed to the construction of 10 new facilities including Charlotte Phelps, Gym Complex, Fisher Campus Center, faculty office buildings, Lab Sciences, Frederick M. Dierks Center for Nursing and Health Sciences, Dogwood Hall, Student Commons, and Marine Technology.
Ezelle is a member of the National Park Rotary Club, Leadership Hot Springs and numerous other civic boards and organizations. She was interested in serving on the Board of Trustees because of her long-time involvement in education which began when she worked as a librarian while her children were in school. She participated in the Arkansas State Parent Teacher Association and served four years as an educational lobbyist.
She established the Senior Arkansas Sports Organization as a non-profit in 1993 and served on the Board of the National Senior Games Association.
Ezelle received the Governor’s Leadership and Fitness Award for 2003 from Governor Mike Huckabee as well as previously being selected by the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce as ‘Outstanding Woman of the Year’. She was awarded the Spirit Award from Baptist Medical Center in August 2006 and also received a “Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for outstanding work and commitment to Arkansas Senior Olympics” from Congressman Mike Ross. She previously participated in swimming events during the games and has qualified for the national games. Her late husband, Ralph, former Senior Olympian, was the Arkansas Senior Olympic Results Manager. Together, they have five children and many grandchildren.
Ezelle’s legacy of service in education is proof that promoting her family’s education was always her top priority. Nine of Ezelle’s children and grandchildren have attended NPC and two of them have gone on to earn a doctorate degree. She explained that titles are of little importance in life and that she began her journey of educational service as a mother of five involved with parent and teacher organizations in Texas. She later moved to Arkansas and she became Parent Teacher Association President of Arkansas.