By Jacie Sellars, Staff Writer
November 14, 2022
On Oct. 21, the Ouachita Office of Development hosted Stepping up for Ouachita, a luncheon benefiting scholarships for women. Stepping up for Ouachita has honored notable female alumni since 2010, and the event has raised around $750,000 for scholarships since its start. Guests at the event enjoyed a nice meal at the Chenal Country Club in Little Rock. This year, Stepping up For Ouachita honored Nancy Benton, Sheila Powell Strickland, Sarah Shell Teague, and Toni Thrash.
Nancy Benton graduated from Ouachita in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She strongly believes in Ouachita’s lasting impact on its students. “We are all successful because someone else has helped us along the way, and Ouachita has done that in all of our lives,” Benton said. After graduating, Benton married her husband, Murray, and raised three children. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Ouachita, and she feels incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to make Ouachita the best place it can be. Benton also serves on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Baptist Memorial Healthcare Foundation of Memphis, and The Community Foundation of NEA Baptist Hospital, Jonesboro. She cares deeply for her community and always helps others.
Sheila Powell Strickland graduated from Ouachita in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting. She currently works as a financial analyst at the Strickland Group, which she helped establish with her husband, Richard. Strickland believes in the value of women’s ministry, and she owns the Welcome Home Retreat in Weatherford, Texas, which hosts around 30 women each weekend for crafting and scrapbooking. “When you work with someone’s photographs and quilts, you really hear their story,” Strickland said. Strickland serves Ouachita as a member of the board of the Hickingbotham School of Business. She attended Ouachita without any financial help, one of her goals is to assist students in similar situations. “I want to give back what I got out of Ouachita to someone else,” Strickland said.
Sarah Shell Teague graduated from Ouachita in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and French. Teague went on to earn her Ph.D. while raising three sons with her husband, Jeff. She has published essays and short stories, and she has served as associate editor for three local magazines. Teague is active in her community. She served as president of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries Board, and she has been a member of the Ouachita Development Council. Teague believes in the value of the arts, and she is a patron for several art museums. She is thankful that her Ouachita education prepared her for success.
Toni Thrash was a schoolteacher for 34 years who won the Teacher of the Year award for the state of Arkansas. She describes herself as a caretaker, and she has cared for her family and students for many years. Thrash found out about Ouachita through her husband, Tom, who played football and graduated from Ouachita in 1977. Thrash says that she can always recognize Ouachita alumni because of their kindness and intelligence. The Thrashes have a generous spirit, and they contributed significantly to Ouachita’s football field. “God gave so abundantly to us that the least we can do is give to others,” Thrash said.
The event honored these successful women and raised money for scholarships through ticket sales, sponsorships and donations. The Ouachita Development Council is proud to have the opportunity to honor alumni and empower a future generation of women at Ouachita.