NPC Board of Directors honors outgoing director with honorary degree
The National Park College Board of Trustees awarded an honorary Associate of Arts degree to Trustee Gail Ezelle at a special meeting called Wednesday to celebrate her retirement after 38 years of service.
Having joined the board in 1983, Ezelle has served with all four NPC presidents while serving on three 10-year accreditation cycles for the NPC. Ezelle was re-elected to Position 5 of the Board of Directors in the 2018 general election. According to the NPC website, her term expires in November 2024.
“It’s been a pleasure working with the community and all the people here who have helped make (NPC) a better place, and I love each and every one of you,” Ezelle said.
NPC Board Chairman Forrest Spicher congratulated Ezelle on her long tenure and thanked her for her service.
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“I had the privilege of serving with Gail as a board member as well as an officer,” he said. “She has been an integral part of NPC’s significant growth and progress over the past 38 years. Under her leadership, NPC has awarded thousands of degrees and certificates and improved lives through academic achievement. We would never have could not accomplish such without his wise counsel.”
Helping to lead the college through a merger with the Quapaw Technical Institute in 2003, Ezelle went on to play a key role in the school’s 2015 renaming and rebranding, the resurrection of athletics in 2016, the offering of the first bachelor’s degrees on campus in 2019, the approval of the first Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2021, and the construction of the school’s first residence hall and many other facilities across campus.
NPC President John Hogan said what he remembers most about first meeting Ezelle was how proud she was of her family and the college. He noted his appreciation for Ezelle’s support and the integrity she demonstrated as both a leader and advisor.
“She reported to me on how many of her family members had benefited and attended directly and indirectly Quapaw Technical Institute, Garland County Community College and National Park College,” he said. “So the connection for her was a passion, and it came to fruition and I won’t forget that in our very first conversation.”
Former NPC President Sally Carder said the college was part of Ezelle’s legacy.
“I don’t know anyone in Hot Springs who has been a member of more organizations, who has given back more to this community, than Gail Ezelle,” she said. “And you can see that in the time and energy she has put into not just this university, but Hot Springs as a community. We have spent a lot of time together and I can tell you that Gail has been a wonderful mentor to me and a wonderful friend. It’s been a blessing to have someone who is recognized throughout our community, even our state, with the Senior Olympics. But it’s been a wonderful, positive thing for the National Park College and my years with you have been great.”
As a member of the Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club, Leadership Hot Springs, and many other councils and civic organizations, Ezelle also established the Senior Arkansas Sports Organization as a nonprofit in 1993 and served on the board of directors of the National Senior Games Association. Governor Mike Huckabee presented him with the Governor’s Leadership and Fitness Award for 2003.
In addition to participating in the Arkansas State Parent Teacher Association and serving four years as an education lobbyist, Ezelle has earned other accolades, including “Outstanding Woman of the Year” from the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Spirit Award from the Baptist Medical Center, and a “Special Congressional Recognition Certificate for Outstanding Work and Commitment to the Arkansas Senior Olympics” from former U.S. Representative Mike Ross.
Melinda Gassaway, retired editor of The Sentinel-Record, said it was a privilege to know Ezelle when she started the Senior Arkansas Sports Organization in 1993.
“At the start of this working relationship, I could see that she was a true torchbearer, someone who championed the many causes and challenges of our diverse and growing community,” she said.
Gassaway said Ezelle’s greatest reward was “reaching out and finding new ways to help.”
“He’s a true Olympian, a person who sets ambitious goals and works hard to achieve them,” she said. “Not for self-gratification, but for the welfare of all. There is no doubt that Gail has been an example of selfless service to civic and non-profit organizations for her children and grandchildren and a a strong advocate for the importance of continuing education. Although she has stepped down from her role as Administrator of the NPC, I know for sure that Gail will continue to work hard for the betterment of Hot Springs and all of its citizens. .
Joyce Craft, NPC board secretary and former superintendent of the Hot Springs School District, said that for about 15 years, she and Ezelle were the only two women on the board. She counted Ezelle as her mentor, her role model and an example of what a board member should be and how a board member should act.
“I saw his compassion, commitment and dedication to the board,” she said. “Her main concerns were always what was best for the students and the direction the college was going. So for me to know a woman like Mrs. Gail Ezelle who had such skill, compassion, dignity and strength is awesome. remember the quote, ‘In the moments when you are touched by a friend’s soul, you suddenly realize the importance of their being, then no other task on earth seems as important to a friend as being a friend .'”
Ezelle said that while she is sad to step down from the board, she feels that NPC has some of the best people in the world to help take care of the school and move it in the right direction.