Merlene Whitten dies at 72 after life of service

Merlene Whitten, 72, died July 31. She was born March 24, 1941, in Stillwater, Okla., to Merle and Opal Jackson. She married Phil Whitten Sept. 2, 1960. While her husband served as a pastor, Whitten served in a variety of ministry roles, including as coordinator of children’s choirs at Grand Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Smith and as children’s director in Sunday school at Oak Cliff Baptist Church, Fort Smith. She is survived by her husband of 52 years, three children and three grandchildren. Funeral services were held Aug. 3 at Oak Cliff Baptist Church with burial at Roselawn Cemetery in Fort Smith.


Ouachita approves 2014-15 tuition rate increase of 4 percent

ARKADELPHIA – Helping prospective students and their families make plans for fall 2014 enrollment, Ouachita Baptist University’s Board of Trustees voted Sept. 12 to set tuition rates for the 2014-15 academic year.

The new rates include $11,400 per semester for tuition plus $260 for activity and tech fees and $3,450 for room and board for a total cost of $15,110 per semester, an increase of about 4 percent from the current rates.

With more than 95 percent of Ouachita students receiving scholarships and other financial aid to significantly reduce out-of-pocket costs, the announced rates allow students to begin exploring financial assistance opportunities.

Based on a study of peer institutions from Arkansas and surrounding states, Ouachita’s per-semester cost ranks 14th among the 18 colleges and universities surveyed. Brett Powell, vice president for administrative services, told board members that a primary goal in budgeting for tuition costs each year is to “stay at an affordable rate compared to our peer institutions.”

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Williams Baptist climbs in rankings

WALNUT RIDGE – Williams Baptist College (WBC) has moved higher in the rankings of U.S. News & World Report. The magazine issued its annual college rankings Tuesday, and Williams is again listed in the top tier of liberal arts colleges in the South.

Williams is now ranked 51st among colleges in this region of the country, which is an improvement of four spots over last year. WBC has been in the magazine’s top tier for four straight years and has climbed incrementally each year.

"It is very gratifying to see Williams moving up again in the US News rankings, and we firmly believe it indicates the growing reputation of the college," said WBC President Tom Jones. "This is a great example of Williams fulfilling its mission to provide an excellent, Christian, liberal arts education." 

WBC is a four-year, liberal arts college at Walnut Ridge.


Williams Baptist College enrollment boosted by large freshman class

WALNUT RIDGE – Williams Baptist College (WBC) recorded its second largest freshman class in recent history this fall. The influx of freshmen, coupled with increased numbers at off-campus extensions, helped WBC notch a slight increase in its overall enrollment.

Total enrollment at Williams this fall is 574 students, compared to 566 last year. The number includes 156 freshmen on the main campus at Walnut Ridge, which is a 14 percent increase over last year.

“We are delighted with the number and the quality of students in this freshman class. This was only three students short of a record for us.  Equally important, this group of freshmen is engaged and already working hard on their college education,” said Angela Flippo, vice president for enrollment management.

WBC’s headcount was also boosted by numbers at its off-campus extensions, where 73 are enrolled this fall.  Williams offers courses at Bradford, as well as Hoxie High School and Ridgefield Christian School in Jonesboro.

“Our admissions office is to be congratulated for a great job in recruiting such a large and high caliber group of students,” said WBC President Tom Jones. “Our focus is to help these students become exceptional graduates prepared to engage local and global cultures through a Christ-centered worldview.”

The number of WBC students at the Walnut Ridge campus stood at 501, which is down from last year’s 520. The college attributed the decline to a drop in returning students, as well as fewer transfer students. The full time equivalent, or FTE, on the main campus fell from 521 last year to 503 this fall. 

“We had an uncommonly large graduating class in May, which decreases the number of students returning in the fall,” Flippo said.  “We are also implementing new strategies to increase our retention, and we are confident these will help us build enrollment in the future.” 

Williams is a four-year, liberal arts college at Walnut Ridge.


Johnnie Charles “John” Bell dies at age 78

Johnnie Charles “John” Bell, 78, of North Richland Hills, Texas, died July 29. He is survived by his wife, Nadean Riley Bell. Formerly of Van Buren, he was active in First Baptist Church, Van Buren. John served as president of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey in 1983.

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