Barbara Lofton on the surprise Zoom call announcement of a scholarship established in her honor.
The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas has established the Dr. Barbara A. Lofton Endowed Scholarship for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to honor the long-time leader of the college’s effort to make sure all are welcome.
The endowed scholarship, announced Thursday, Jan. 14, by Matt Waller, dean of the Walton College and the Sam Walton Leadership Chair, honors Barbara A. Lofton, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, whose 26 years of service to the college has made a lasting impact in the lives of innumerable students.
“This scholarship will be an enduring, meaningful resource that helps students from diverse backgrounds succeed,” Waller said in the surprise announcement made during a Zoom call that included Lofton’s family, friends, colleagues and many former students.
“Thank you so, so very much from the bottom of my heart,” Lofton said. “I am so honored and pleased and grateful. I had no idea this was going to happen. This is amazing.”
In August 2020, Lofton was promoted to assistant dean as she continues to lead the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Walton College, which she has done since its inception in 1994. It was the first diversity office on the U of A campus.
Lofton influences the strategic direction of the college, creates a welcoming environment for students and works to recruit and retain minority students. In addition, she has built and maintained an engaged advisory board and collaborates across campus and throughout the Southeastern Conference to promote diversity and inclusion.
The scholarship is being endowed by a fund-raising push spearheaded by members of the Diversity and Inclusion Corporate Advisory Board, who set a target of $50,000 to honor Lofton’s legacy.
Those gifts are being matched dollar for dollar by a generous donation by the Gerald Alley family up to $50,000.
“Dr. Lofton has been the mother on campus to two of my children as they studied and graduated from the U of A,” said Gerald Alley, who graduated from the business college and the U of A in 1973. “She has helped students from all different backgrounds and underserved students in too many ways to name. She has proven that the value of one’s life should be measured by how you impact others.”
Gerald and Candace Alley, along with two of their children, Gina and Byron, were on the call. Gerald, Gina and Byron are all graduates of the Walton College.
“When I was in school, you were literally the biggest champion for black students on campus – no matter what college they were in,” Gina Alley said. “You not only wanted us to excel. You cared.”
There is still time to give in support of the scholarship. To make a gift, contact Wren Wallace, senior director of development and external relations, at 479-575-7688 or email@example.com or Synetra Hughes, associate director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, at 479-575-3917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the same time as Waller surprised Lofton with the announcement of the scholarship, he also announced that the office would be renamed the Dr. Barbara A. Lofton Office of Diversity & Inclusion at the Sam M. Walton College of Business in honor of Lofton.
“Congratulations Barbara!” Waller said. “This recognition is well deserved and speaks volumes to your tireless efforts and the impact that you have made on so many.”
Lofton said it was important for all students to see the kind of legacy that the office naming will be. “I always say, you can’t be what you can’t see,” she said.
The office has the mission to support, advocate and assist the college in developing plans for diversity. During the school year, the office helps students in a multitude of ways, including finding them scholarships and study-abroad opportunities, aid in career placement and more.
Lofton also teaches both undergraduate and doctoral students, including the class, The African American Experience in Business.
She was a driving force behind the highly successful fall 2020 program “Let’s Talk About Integrity and Race” conducted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative at the Walton College that endeavored to give students, faculty, staff and the community a new means of understanding and learning how to talk about race.
Lofton’s many honors include the Tony Walker Diversity Champion Award from the Gerald and Candace Alley Foundation, a Staff Gold Medal from the university’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards and being named an honorary alumna by the university’s Black Alumni Society. The American Association of Blacks in Higher Education presented Lofton with the AABHE Exemplary Public Service Award for her work to improve the lives of African Americans, and the Northwest Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Council honored Lofton with a lifetime achievement award. She was awarded a scholarship to attend a leadership forum sponsored by the American Council on Education and the Management Development Institute at Harvard.
Lofton has said that when the diversity and inclusion office began, the focus was on student recruitment and graduation. However, she wanted it to do more. She wanted to see her students get internships, go to graduate school and find jobs.
She also has said her job is not yet complete. With the growing diverse population in Northwest Arkansas, she would like to create classes that will enable students from all backgrounds to make their mark in the business world.
To learn more about Lofton’s life and her accomplishments, read “EPIC Spotlight: Barbara Lofton” at the Walton College website.
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