After 46 years of service to the U of A as a professor, administrator, and leader, William A. Schwab, executive director of the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History at the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, is retiring .
Schwab began his career at the University of Alberta in the Department of Sociology and Criminology in 1976 before eventually becoming a university professor in the department. Schwab also served as department chairman twice, from 1989 to 1993 and from 1998 to 2008.
Additionally, Schwab served as associate dean of Fulbright College from 1993 to 1998 and dean of the college from 2008 to 2011 before assuming leadership of the Pryor Center in 2018.
“In the 150 years that the University of Arkansas has been a major educational force in the state, I can’t imagine that many faculty have had more accomplished careers than Bill Schwab,” said Dan Ferritor, Chancellor Emeritus of the U of A.
“Bill had an academic career in textbooks. He excelled in teaching both at the graduate and undergraduate levels; launched and worked continuously in a successful career as an urban sociologist with books, articles and grants of research; served admirably in every major college. administrative post; …and provided leadership to the Pryor Center at a crucial time.”
“When you look at this academic record as well as his many leadership positions in our community, it is clear that University Professor Bill Schwab’s name deserves to be among the best professors in the long and distinguished life of the University of Arkansas,” Ferritor added.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in urban planning and sociology, Schwab earned his doctorate in sociology from The Ohio State University in 1976 and joined the U of A faculty the same year.
Schwab has written five books and numerous technical articles, papers and reports and has received research grants totaling over $2.5 million. Schwab has worked with organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the US Department of State’s Office of Academic Partnerships. He has also served as an international development consultant in Bolivia and Jordan for the United States Agency for International Development.
His research has focused on urban ecology, community, and demography, and Schwab has studied the Hispanic community in northwest Arkansas since 2007. Much of his research has focused on children and youth undocumented, which is shared in his books. Right to DREAM: Immigration Reform and America’s Futurepublished in 2013, and Dreams Derailed: Undocumented Youth in the Trump Era, published in 2018.
Longtime Schwab colleague Steven K. Boss, a professor of environmental dynamics and sustainability as well as geosciences, said Schwab’s commitment to “broadening participation and increasing diversity at the university” has been particularly inspiring.
“Bill was instrumental in developing a cooperative agreement between the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and Fort Valley State University (a historically black university in Georgia) which established dual degree in chemistry-geology, math-geology, chemical engineering, and mathematical engineering across institutions,” Boss said. “This program has enabled dozens of black students to earn degrees at the University of Arkansas .”
Additionally, Schwab is known for recruiting top talent to the U of A, including Kevin Fitzpatrick, now a college professor himself, who also holds the Jones Chair in Community and director of the Community Institute and Family from the Department of Sociology and Criminology. .
“I’m here at the university because of Bill’s commitment to my career as a young assistant professor,” Fitzpatrick said. “He recruited me in 2005 with the opportunity to come to the U of A and be part of something special. Bill’s commitment, wisdom and leadership have been incredible gifts to the community, the university, the department and for me personally.”
In her most recent role at the Pryor Center, Schwab helped create and lead initiatives such as the center’s signature lecture series, Pryor Center Presents; a weekly show on KUAF highlighting the center’s KATV news archive called Pryor Center Profiles; and Pryor Center Showcase, a program that showcases and showcases musical talent.
“When Bill joined the Pryor Center, he brought with him an expanded mission of education, research and outreach,” said Susan Kendrick-Perry, the center’s operations administrator. “He immediately began to weave the Pryor Center into the fabric of Fulbright College by launching the Pryor Center Presents lecture series and starting conversations that have blossomed into projects and partnerships on campus and across the state. Thanks to Bill, we have a complete and solid foundation to build on.”
Under Schwab’s direction, the Arkansas Memories Project, a series of interviews with Arkansans of distinction, continued with episodes featuring Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, General Wesley Clark , Congressman Steve Womack and others.
Schwab has also presented themed interview projects like the Walton Arts Center Founders Project, the Symphony of North Arkansas Interview Project, the TheatreSquared Interview Project, and Blue to Red: The Rise of the GOP in Arkansas.
The Arkansas Story Vault, a student-run oral and visual history program, was also created under Schwab, and journalism, history, sociology, and other departments now offer several courses, seminars, and lectures at the Pryor Center.
“Bill’s diplomatic leadership allowed us to expand our reach to both students and the wider community, guided us through the pandemic, and paved the way for greater connections and opportunity,” said Steff Leffler, editor at the center. “Bill’s expertise has broadened the visibility of the Pryor Center, allowing us to honor our founding vision and mission. He will be greatly missed.”
Additionally, Schwab has also helped the Pryor Center establish collaborative relationships with The University of Arkansas Press, Arkansas PBS, the Butler Center of the Central Arkansas Library System, the Clinton School of Public Service, the Clinton Library, Crystal Bridges, and d ‘other non-profits and centers throughout the State.
“We were blessed to have Bill as part of our family at the University of Alberta and Fulbright College for so long,” said Todd Shields, Dean of Fulbright College. “He has accomplished so much as an educator, mentor, researcher, administrator, leader and – I would be remiss if I did not add – a dear friend to all.”
“Bill has also always been an advocate for the university’s connection to the greater Arkansas community and has provided so many students with hands-on research experiences over the years,” Shields added. “He will be greatly missed, but we wish him much happiness in his retirement.”