College of Education and Health Professions to Honor Three Outstanding Alumni

March 1, 2014

Karen Jennings Crawford, from left, Anna Reed and Jerry Robbins will be honored at commencement exercises May 10.
Karen Jennings Crawford, from left, Anna Reed and Jerry Robbins will be honored at commencement exercises May 10.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas will honor three of its alumni at commencement exercises May 10 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Karen Crawford Jennings of San Antonio, retired senior executive vice president for AT&T, will receive the Outstanding Alumni Award in Health and Human Services. Anna Reed of Little Rock, executive director of Bridge2Rwanda, will receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Jerry Robbins of Ann Arbor, Mich., will receive the Outstanding Alumni Award in Education.

The awards honor alumni of the college for exceptional professional and personal achievements and extraordinary distinction in their fields.

Tom Smith, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions, and the Alumni Awards Committee of the Dean's Advisory Council made the selections.

"It's our pleasure to recognize these three people as outstanding examples of the contributions our alumni make to their professions and their communities," Smith said. "Each has made a significant difference in the lives of other people. They are successful people and they have helped countless other people be successful."

Karen Crawford Jennings who earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1972, led the human resources and corporate communications division of AT&T and had worked as a manager and executive of AT&T and its predecessor Southwestern Bell for more than 31 years. She was one of eight senior executive vice presidents who reported to Chairman Ed Whitacre as Southwestern Bell grew from a five-state enterprise with 50,000 employees to become AT&T with more than 350,000 employees in 19 states and 22 countries. She also oversaw health care and pensions of more than 700,000 employees and retirees of the company.

Jennings championed numerous innovations to improve efficiency and focused on diversity efforts in hiring, promotions and vendor spending. Throughout her career, she earned numerous awards, including being named 2005 Human Resource Executive of the Year by Human Resource Executive magazine. She serves on the boards of Frost Bank and the Ladies Pro Golf Association and is a past board member of the San Antonio Spurs.

Anna Reed earned a bachelor's degree in communication disorders in 2004 from the University of Arkansas and then a master's degree in speech pathology from the University of South Carolina. She worked as a speech-language pathologist at Arkansas Children's Hospital for nearly three years before she moved to Rwanda. There, she taught English at a local high school and worked at King Faisal Hospital, where she started the first speech pathology program in the African country to serve children and adults with communication disorders and hearing loss. She managed the Starkey Hearing Foundation's program that provided hearing aids to more than 2,500 people and helped organize follow-up efforts for local training and increased services throughout the country.

Reed, who was the 2003 homecoming queen at the U of A and was a Senior Scholar with a 4.0 grade-point average, is the executive director of the Arkansas based nonprofit, Bridge2Rwanda. She also co-founded the Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program that trains top Rwandan students to compete for international university scholarships. Her team has sent more than 50 Rwandan students to 35 universities in five countries with a total of $9 million in scholarship funding.

Jerry Robbins earned a master's degree in education in 1963 and a doctorate in education in 1966. He began his career as a mathematics and music teacher in Clinton, Ark., served as a high school principal in Missouri and moved on to teaching at the college level. He worked for 25 years as the dean of colleges of education at three universities, retiring in 2004 as dean of the College of Education of Eastern Michigan University. At the time, Eastern Michigan was the nation's largest producer of educational personnel, according to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Robbins had previously served as education dean at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Georgia State University.

Robbins' education honors including winning the AACTE Volunteer Service Award in 2005. He has held many offices in professional associations and led three institutions through six successful reviews by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. He has written extensively about educational leadership and other education topics and done community volunteer work in education and music.

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