President Bill Clinton to Speak at Academic Signing Day


April 11, 2012

The Honorable William J. Clinton, 42nd President of the United States and Founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, will be the keynote speaker for Academic Signing Day, for this year’s recipients of the El Dorado Promise scholarship program.  

The event is to take place Tuesday, April 17, at 12:30 PM, in the El Dorado High School (EHS) Wildcat Arena.  This sixth-annual event will celebrate more than 300 graduating seniors, who will each be receiving El Dorado Promise scholarships, as well as others. The agenda also will feature Dr. Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas State Commissioner of Education; and Claiborne Deming, Chairman of Murphy Oil Corporation Board of Directors.   

Announced in January of 2007, the El Dorado Promise is a $50 million scholarship program, funded entirely by Murphy Oil Corporation. “Having President Clinton as keynote speaker for Academic Signing Day really capitalizes upon how special and important it is to graduate with the El Dorado Promise,” said EHS Principal Jim Tucker.  

Over the past five years, the El Dorado Promise has provided over $8,500,000 in funding to 997 EHS graduates attending 57 colleges and universities, according to Murphy CEO David Wood. The Promise provides qualifying students with up to 100% of tuition and mandatory college fees, he added. Additionally, when combined with the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship or others, it may be used for other college expenses, such as room-and-board.   

Most recently, according to Sylvia Thompson, El Dorado Public Schools (EDPS) Director of El Dorado Promise, 90% of last year’s Promise-eligible class have gone on to attend college, higher than both state (63%) and national (67%) averages. Prior to the Promise, on average, 60% of graduates had enrolled. “Many of them are first generation higher-education students, making this program even more important,” she added.  

“We have been pleased to see the impact the El Dorado Promise has made each year in increased college enrollment and better-than-average college retention," stated Wood.  "We are also seeing now that the program’s impact reaches even further, as students from kindergarten through twelfth grades are shifting trends in a positive direction in enrollment, test scores, drop-out rates and graduation rates.”  

After the Promise was announced, the school district began to see other dramatic improvements, stated Bonnie Haynie, EDPS Director of Professional Development. For example, both dropout and graduation rates have improved significantly. Additionally, the district has seen many more students enrolling in college-level Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In 2011, AP exam pass rates were over twice the rate from 2005. Test scores at pre-high school levels also have increased (source: Dr. Gary Ritter, Office of Education Policy, University of Arkansas, January 2012).  

Alice Mahony, a member of the Arkansas Board of Education and Vice-President/Co-Founder of the El Dorado Education Foundation (EDEF), noted how the Promise has changed the community. She stated, “Academic Signing Day not only celebrates the achievements of students, it also commemorates the generosity and community-mindedness of Murphy Oil, as well as the commitment of the local school board, EDEF, and the city.”  

Since the Promise was announced, the city’s citizens passed a 2007 millage for a new $43-million high school, which was completed in August; as well as a one-cent sales tax to help fund a new conference center and for further economic development. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Henry Florsheim stated, “Creating a skilled workforce is one of the community’s most important tasks. The Promise is giving our citizens opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”  

EDPS Superintendent Bob Watson added, “This event is designed to celebrate our Promise graduates’ hard work – especially for their parents, other students, and their invited guests.”    

According to Magen Olive, Murphy Oil USA spokesperson, Promise students can attend any accredited two or four-year college or university in the United States, and the Class of 2012 will sign EHS letters of intent for 36 separate colleges or universities.   

Out-of-state colleges and universities to be included this year will be: Rice, Baylor, University of Virginia, Texas A & M, Belmont, University of the South, University of Mississippi, University of Alabama, Louisiana State, Texas Christian, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana State at Shreveport, Grambling, Oklahoma State, Sam Houston State, Samford, University of Louisiana at Monroe, and the University of Memphis.  

In-state colleges and universities will include: Arkansas State, Arkansas Tech, Central Baptist, Harding, Henderson, Hendrix, John Brown, Lyon, Ouachita, Philander Smith, South Arkansas Community College, Southern Arkansas University, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas at Monticello, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and University of Central Arkansas. Graduates joining the military begin scholarships after completing tours of duty.  

According to Thompson, Promise recipients already have graduated from among the following schools: (out-of-state) Notre Dame, Emory, Westminster, Southern Methodist, Louisiana State, and the University of Texas; plus (in-state) Harding, Henderson, Hendrix, Ouachita, Southern Arkansas University, South Arkansas Community College, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas for Medical Science, and University of Central Arkansas. Some of these graduates also are continuing their education; she added, in medical, dental, veterinary, and/or law school.  

Academic Signing Day’s title sponsor is First Financial Bank. The event is a partnership of EDEF, EDPS, Murphy Oil Corporation, and the El Dorado Promise. Other sponsors are: the El Dorado News-Times, the College Avenue Church of Christ, and W.I. Bell Photographer. Academic Signing Day committee members are: Co-chairs Alice Mahony and Bonnie Haynie, David Wood, Bob Watson, Magen Olive, Diane Alderson, Jim Tucker, Lila Phillips, Don Wales, and Sylvia Thompson.  

Further details on the program can be found at: www.eldoradopromise.com.  The Press Kit is available at www.eldoradopromise.com/asd.pdf


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