Baxter Regional Medical Center and three individuals were inducted into the Mountain Home Education Foundation’s Hall of Honor on Thursday night.
The Mountain Home hospital joined retired teacher Ralph Ingram, retired classified employees Mike and Joy Walker and 1968 MHHS graduate Dean Sanders as the 2019 inductees into the Hall of Honor.
The four honorees were registered Thursday night at a ceremony held at the Vada Sheid Community Development Center on the campus of Arkansas State University-Mountain Home.
BRMC was inducted as a Community Partner, a distinction given to organizations that team up with the Mountain Home School District to teach students health-related skills and to introduce students to healthcare careers.
Ron Peterson, president and CEO of BRMC, said that the hospital puts a major emphasis on community service.
“When you look at being community driven, then you have to look and say, ‘What is the responsibility to this community and to the students in this community?’” he said. “It’s really a win-win benefit for us, because it makes us a good, responsible corporate citizen of Mountain Home but it also it’s also our future workforce, and there’s no way that we could survive without having people come from the high school and working at Baxter Regional Medical Center.”
Over the past 15 years, Mountain Home seniors have had the opportunity to intern at BRMC. Hospital employees work with the medical intern students in several departments and career fields throughout the semester.
“Many of those students go on into the healthcare field to be doctors, nurses, therapists and techs,” said Alecia Czansktowski, the high school’s medical internship supervisor. “I’ve seen many of them at the hospital with my new interns … It’s always good to see those friendly faces and know they started out as interns in our department.”
BRMC also provides guest speakers and hands-on learning opportunities across the district. A number of BRMC employees serve as mentors at the high school and visit those classrooms monthly. Students have received tours of emergency vehicles and have learned life-saving procedures from BRMC professionals.
The hospital also provides shirts to the high school’s Health & Human Services Academy and provides the district with an athletic trainer on staff and with other medical personnel during athletic events. It has also help fund several EAST projects and supported students’ Eagle Scout projects over the years.
“There’s no way to measure the impact that our partnership with BRMC has had on students, on our community, and beyond,” said Mountain Home Superintendent Dr. Jake Long. “BRMC is invested in the future of our community, and they have recognized the importance of inspiring and training the future workforce by partnering with our schools.”
Baxter Regional Medical Center opened as Baxter General Hospital in 1963 with 39 beds and four physicians. Today, the nonprofit hospital employs more than 1,700 people, with more than 180 primary care and specialist physicians and mid-level providers on staff and more than 500 volunteers in the BRMC Auxiliary. The facility features 268 all-private beds and encompasses more than 500,000 square feet.
“In 1966 the first Mountain Home High School student came to Baxter Regional as a candy striper,” Peterson said. “That started the relationship, and from there that relationship has blossomed.”
Ralph Ingram, who taught math in the Mountain Home district for 44 years, was inducted into the MHEF Hall of Honors on Thursday night as the 2019 Retired Teacher honoree.
Ingram said he always enjoyed being able to share mathematics with young people.
“I just enjoyed seeing them learn and enjoy themselves,” he said. “I just enjoyed seeing them grow up.”
Ingram said he could not have accomplished much in his teaching career if he had not enjoyed being around the students.
“I liked the kids, and I think you have to like them if you’re going to be successful,” he said. “You know, love begets love. Some of my students didn’t think too much of me at the time, but I think that there was respect there, and later on they’ve proven that there was respect.”
At the high school level, Ingram taught Geometry, Algebra II, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus. His favorite course to teach was Algebra II, he said.
“I just enjoyed the course,” Ingram said. “It was high enough up that it was challenging to the students, and it was interesting to me.”
Ingram graduated from Calico Rock High School in 1959 and attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with dreams of becoming an engineer.
“I realized I wasn’t engineering material; it wasn’t for me” Ingram joked. “So, I decided soon to go into education, and I went in with math and science as a teaching subject.”
After graduating, he was offered a full-time teaching position in Springdale for $2,800 a year.
“When I would tell that story to my students, they would say ‘You mean $2,800 a month, don’t you?’” Ingram said. “I would say, ‘No, that was what they offered for the whole year.’ ”
Ingram was hired to teach science and math at the Mountain Home Junior High. He taught at the junior-high level for six years before transferring to an open math position at Mountain Home High School, where he taught for the next 38 years. He retired in 2007.
“When I started out, well everything was pencil and paper,” Ingram said. “There were no calculators when I started, and later on when calculators came in, well that was a big improvement, but it was also a big change.”
During his time as a teacher, he saw many changes and trends. “In the history of my time, they changed to what they called ‘Modern Math,’ but it really wasn’t all that much different. They just rearranged the concepts,” Ingram said. “A lot of people were scared of it — particularly elementary teachers. They were scared that it would really be something different, but the only changes really were in terminology and that sort of thing.”
Ingram said he has fond memories of his colleagues in Mountain Home.
“I really liked everybody I worked with,” he said. “I taught with so many people who were excellent educators.”
Mike and Joy Walker
Mike Walker and his wife, Joy, were recognized Thursday as the 2019 Earnest Perry Retired Classified Staff inductees into the MHEF Hall of Honors.
Mike Walker was auxiliary services director for 20 years, and in her 25-year career with the district, Joy Walker worked in the Nelson-Wilks-Herron Elementary computer lab, the elementary’s front office, at the district’s Central Office, and the front office at the Mountain Home Kindergarten.
“It was an interesting experience, because when I was in the classroom, I thought the whole world revolved around that computer lab and as long as I got what I needed in there, then things were good,” Joy Walker said. “Then I took a job in the office and realized that my classroom had just been one part of a whole school. Again, when I went to the Central Office, I realized that my school building had been just one part of a whole district. It was interesting to see things from different perspectives.”
Joy Walker has been retired for two years, while Mike Walker retired a little over a year ago.
When the couple first moved to the Mountain Home area, Mike Walker worked in construction building spec houses and as an electrician. That would change with a phone call from Superintendent Steve Singleton, who wanted to talk about the district’s open Director of Auxiliary Services.
Previously, that position had been held by a certified employee, but now that it was vacant, the school board was interested in hiring someone with a lot of construction expertise. The board had purchased more than 60 acres of land and had big plans for developing it. Today, that acreage contains Hackler Intermediate School, the Central Office, and McClain Park, the district’s new baseball and softball complex. Mike Walker worked on all those projects and countless others during his 20 years in the district.
“I first thought the job was about building buildings,” Mike Walker said. “It really wasn’t. The longer I worked there, I figured out it was really about kids — taking care of kids and educating kids. That was the greatest thing about the job.”
Both Mike and Joy Walker said they enjoyed engaging with students regularly during their careers. “Schools are a healing place,” Joy said. “Children just make you feel good.”
Mike agreed that his contact with kids was his favorite part about working in the district. “The biggest and most important job I had there was to open car doors for kindergartners in the mornings,” he said. “It’s the best.”
On Thursday night, Joy Walker shared five things she had learned over her 25-year career with the school district.
“You need to keep a level head when you’re in choppy waters and high winds,” she said. “You need to act like an adult when it’s necessary. You need to give compliments … Costumes are fun. And you need to give hugs often, because everybody needs one.”
Dean Sanders, a Mountain Home High School graduate and a former president and CEO of Sam’s Club, was inducted into the MHEF Hall of Honors as the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus.
Sanders is a 1968 Mountain Home graduate. During high school, he played football all four years, was a member of FBLA and served as a fire marshal.
“Mountain Home is the ideal place to grow up and go to school,” Sanders said. “I made friends for life: Bob Bryant, Rick Russell and Jerry Silzell, and many others. We water skied, fished, hunted, rode horses and played sports.”
While working toward a Business Administration degree at the University of Arkansas, he also began working as a store clerk at the Fayetteville Walmart.
After graduation, Sanders joined Walmart’s Assistant Managers Training Program. He was promoted to store manager at 24, becoming Walmart’s youngest store manager at that time. Under his leadership, the Siloam Springs Walmart named the retailer’s “Store of the Year.”
Sanders was eventually promoted to the Walmart General Office in Bentonville. He became an Executive Vice President of Walmart Stores and served on the Walmart Executive Committee. He was then chosen to run the Sam’s Club division as president and CEO. He served in that capacity for two years before retiring at 45 after 25 years of service to Walmart.
During his time at Walmart, Sanders worked closely with founder Sam Walton and is even mentioned Walton’s book about the retailing giant.
“I was blessed to have Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, as my mentor,” Sanders said. “He taught me to be a servant leader — caring about the people who worked for me. I cared about making others successful, and my hard work and dedication to Walmart made me successful.”
While working at Walmart, Sanders began showing and raising quarter horses and showing at National Cutting Horse shows throughout the United States. He won a number of horse shows, including one of the largest — The Super Stakes. His horse was chosen as NCHA horse of the year in 2001, and the runner-up that year was another of his horses. In 2005, Sanders was inducted into the National Cutting Horse Hall of Fame.
While in college, Sanders married his high school sweetheart Cindy Nevius, a native of Mountain Home.
“The best thing about living in Mountain Home was meeting my Cindy,” Sanders said.
Dean and Cindy Sanders visit Arkansas from their home in Spring, Texas, regularly to see their family and to visit friends in Mountain Home.
“What a great place to grow up,” Sanders said.
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