Ouachita honors 331 graduates, awards honorary doctorate to Larry Kircher

Trennis Henderson

Ouachita Baptist University

ARKADELPHIA – Celebrating Ouachita Baptist University’s 129th spring commencement on May 14, university officials conferred a total of 337 degrees on 331 graduates, including Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees as well as Ouachita’s first Associate of Arts degrees earned through the university’s Ouachita at New Life Church program.

This year’s graduating class featured 142 honor graduates, including 21 who graduated summa cum laude with a grade point average of 3.95 or higher, 54 who graduated magna cum laude (3.75 GPA) and 67 who graduated cum laude (3.5 GPA). University officials also recognized 14 graduates who completed Ouachita’s Carl Goodson Honors Program and 32 members of the Alpha Chi national honor society. Also honored were three graduates who were commissioned with the rank of Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army: Benjamin Adcock, Joseph Hughes and Noah Myers.

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Dove Award-winning gospel artists, The Martins, in concert June 3 at Arkansas Governor’s Mansion

LITTLE ROCK – A traditional gospel singing featuring Arkansas’ own, The Martins, will be held 6:30 p.m., Friday, June 3, at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock.

The Dove Award winning and Grammy nominated trio (siblings, Joyce, Jonathan and Judy) originated in Hamburg, Arkansas and have enjoyed countless radio hits and performances at concert halls, arenas, auditoriums and churches worldwide. During the 1990s, The Martins rose to national and international success, showcasing their distinctive harmonies before a vast array of audiences, from singer/songwriter Bill Gaither’s multi-award winning Homecoming Video and Concert series to the White House to Carnegie Hall.

Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased online at All concert proceeds benefit the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that raises funds for the restoration and preservation of the Governor’s Mansion. For more information, call 501-324-9805.



Retha Kilmer, beloved music teacher-leader, dies at 54

Retha Kay Kilmer, 54, died May 5 after a long battle with cancer.  

Kilmer was a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia with a bachelor’s and master’s in music education.                                                                                     

She was preceded in death by her parents and an infant brother. She is survived by a brother.                                                                                           

Kilmer taught public school music for 29 years, with 23 of those being in the Malvern School District. She was named “Southwest Arkansas Choral Director of the Year” in 2004-2005 and 2011-2012. Her teaching helped many students to develop a love for music, to receive college scholarships in music, and to pursue careers in school and church music.                

She served on several church staffs throughout her teen and adult years, and at the time of her death, she had served as pianist at First Baptist Church of Sherwood for 22 years and was also the handbell director.     

She was an important part of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention’s music ministry, serving as state handbell consultant, an officer and keyboard player for the Master’Singers, the registrar and assistant director of JoyWorks and PraiseWorks worship arts camps, and accompanist at PraizFest state student choir event. She had a lasting influence on many young people through those events.                                       

A memorial service will be held May 14 at First Baptist Church of Sherwood. A special tribute service will be held May 15 at First Baptist Church in Malvern.



Sarabel Leech, long-time organist, dies at 96

Sarabel Leech, 96, of Benton died May 1.    

Leech was preceded in death by her husband, John D. Leech, whom she married in 1988.

She was baptized at the age of 10 and joined First Baptist Church, Benton, where she served as organist for 54 years. 

Leech attended Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) in Arkadelphia and earned a master's from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. 

She taught business education at Benton High School from 1943-1979.

She is survived by a stepson and a stepdaughter.

Funeral services were held May 3 at First Baptist Church in Benton, followed by burial at Old Rosemont Cemetery in Benton.     




John Donar, missions volunteer, dies at 80


John L. Donar, 80, of Greenbrier died April 20.                                                       

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Alice Donar, two sons, one daughter, a brother and nine grandchildren. 

Donar had served as church administrator at CrossPoint Baptist Church in Greenbrier.         

He had a focus on missions his entire life. He spent time with Wycliff Bible translators, volunteering on mission fields around the world installing phone systems for schools and hospitals.                                               

Donar served 26 years in the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Little Rock as captain.                                                   

A memorial service was held May 7 at Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Conway.