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Joel Anderson was a major figure at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) for over four decades at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Beginning as a member of the teaching faculty, he served in numerous administrative roles on his way to becoming chancellor, a post he held for thirteen years. In that time, he oversaw an impressive transformation of the campus and the school.
Joel Edward Anderson Jr. was born on January 20, 1942, in Newport (Jackson County) to Joel E. Anderson Sr. and Norris Hall Anderson. He grew up on a farm east of Swifton (Jackson County). There, he received his early education while also playing on the basketball team and serving as Arkansas State 4-H Club president. He was also a national 4-H Achievement Winner.
Anderson graduated from Harding University in 1964, having majored in political science. That same year, he married Ann Gaskill; the couple went on to have three sons. After graduation, Anderson earned an MA in international relations from American University, whereupon he returned to Harding, teaching there for a year from 1966 to 1967. The couple then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan; Anderson earned a PhD in political science from the University of Michigan in 1974.
While still working on his doctorate, Anderson accepted an offer to return to Arkansas and, in 1971, began his lengthy association with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, assuming the position of assistant professor of political science. He became a professor and then, in 1977, the founding dean of the graduate school. In 1984, he was named provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. In 2003, he was named chancellor, a post he held until his retirement in 2016.
As chancellor, Anderson presided over a virtual transformation of the campus. He oversaw the development of the Donaghey College of Engineering, the establishment in 2011 of the Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity (named for him in 2016 upon his retirement as chancellor), and the completion of a $100 million comprehensive fundraising campaign. In addition, under Anderson’s leadership, the university increased online course opportunities and on-campus housing. He had a major hand in bringing public radio to the campus, with the establishment of stations KUAR and KLRE. In addition, Anderson oversaw renovations of some of the campus’s major building and public areas, including the University Plaza Shopping Center, the Ottenheimer Library, the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, Gary Hogan Field, and the Bowen School of Law. New construction included the Charles W. Donaldson Student Services Center, the Nanotechnology Center, the Coleman Sports and Recreation Complex, and the Jack Stephens Center. All of this was necessary to accommodate a major increase in enrollment at the university.
Anderson served on the boards of the Arkansas Research Alliance, the Little Rock Downtown Partnership, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and the civic organization Fifty for the Future. In addition, he served as chairman of the boards of the Arkansas 4-H Foundation and the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority. He was also president of the Little Rock Rotary Club.
In December 2016, Anderson received the William F. Rector Memorial Award for Distinguished Civic Achievement from Fifty for the Future. After a year away, in 2017, Anderson returned to the campus, taking on the role of scholar in residence at the institute that bears his name. Anderson often spoke of his early experiences with the issue of race in the segregated South, and he often speaks of having gone with friends to Oxford, Mississippi, in the midst of the effort to enroll James Meredith, because he recognized it was an important moment in history.
Anderson and his wife continue to live in Little Rock (Pulaski County).
For additional information:
Dishongh, Kimberly. “Joel Edward Anderson, Jr.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 4, 2008, pp. 1D, 3D, 9D.
“Joel Anderson Returns to UA Little Rock as Scholar in Residence.” UA Little Rock University News, September 11, 2017. http://ualr.edu/news/2017/09/11/joel-anderson-scholar-residence/ (accessed May 22, 2018).
“UALR Chancellor Anderson Announces Retirement.” UA Little Rock University News, September 2, 2015. http://ualr.edu/news/2015/09/02/retire-chancellor-joel-anderson/ (accessed May 22, 2018).
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated 5/22/2018
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