ASMSA honors former Oaklawn general manager at luncheon

1 month ago

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts is a success story for Hot Springs as well as Arkansas, but the state and community must be ready to help it expand for it to continue to succeed, said Eric Jackson, the former general manager for Oaklawn Racing and Gaming.

Jackson was the keynote speaker during the school’s annual Community of Learning Luncheon held Friday at the Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa. He called ASMSA “one of the great Arkansas success stories of the last 25 years,” becoming a leader in American education.

To give the audience perspective on the importance of a school such as ASMSA, Jackson described a giant retail store. Whatever items the store sells, it includes at least one item by every manufacturer of that product. On a particular shelf are 50 boxes made by 50 different manufacturers. They are lined up from the best quality and most expensive on one end down to the least expensive and lowest quality on the other end.

In this case, the product is the end result of what’s produced by public education systems in each state, Jackson said. “Up here on this shelf, where do you see the box that says ‘Arkansas education?’” he asked the audience. “More toward the end up there or more toward that end down there? And second question, which I think is more important, where would you like to see the box that says Arkansas?”

In the past, Arkansas has compared poorly to other states in many statistical categories, including education. “Thank God for Mississippi, we’d say. We’d almost make a joke out of it, as if it were funny. But we would see over time it wasn’t funny at all,” he said.

Slowly over the years the state has seen improvement in many quality-of-life categories, including education. The best illustration of that progress—“the best example of what we as a state are capable of accomplishing when we put our minds to it—is the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts,” Jackson said.

“Little more than a pipe dream roughly a quarter of a century ago, this school has vaulted to the top echelon of all secondary schools in America,” Jackson said. “In fact, if up here on this shelf you lined up all 40,000 high schools in America side by side based on quality and reputation, ASMSA would be way up on that end. Way, way up on that end. So far up on that end you would have to walk past 39,900 others to get to the small, elite group that includes ASMSA.”

ASMSA ranked No. 10 in the nation in The Daily Beast’s 2014 survey of “America’s Top High Schools.” Since then the school has been ranked among the Top 25 schools nationally by Newsweek and The Washington Post.

Jackson said he didn’t fully appreciate how the school had grown until he spoke at ASMSA’s commencement ceremony in May 2015. As he watched the students walk across the stage, hearing the numerous towns from which they came to ASMSA and the places from which they earned millions of dollars of scholarships, he realized how special the school is.

“In fact, I don’t know how you could be prouder of an Arkansas moment,” he said.

That moment also led him to begin to wonder about the future of the school. The population of Arkansas has grown by 30 percent since the school was created 25 years ago, and over the next 25 years, the U.S. Census Bureau says it will grow by another 20 percent, Jackson said. That means ASMSA will need to grow its capacity for additional students.

“So if future Arkansas students are to have the same statistical opportunity to attend this school as students did 25 years ago, ASMSA will have to keep pace,” Jackson said. “So many possibilities. So man opportunities. But they are all going to require the same two things that were needed 25 years ago. They will require resolve and resources.

“I think we’ve demonstrated as a state that we have the resolve when we want to. But it also takes resources, both public and private.”

He used as an example the work of Helen and John Selig. Helen Selig was a strong advocate for bringing the school to Hot Springs in the 1990s. She and her family continue to support the school to this day.

The Selig family recently established the Helen Selig Promise Kept Endowment with a $40,000 gift, the largest single endowment in school history. The endowment will provide an ASMSA faculty member a grant annually to support research, explore new technologies or test new approaches to learning.

The Oaklawn Foundation also gave ASMSA a $300,000 grant to be used for the construction of the $4.5 million Creativity and Innovation Complex, the first new academic building to be built on campus since the school opened in 1993. The building will provide classroom and work space for computer science and digital arts courses as well as an assembly space for the school.

The grant was the largest single gift in the school’s history. It will support the creation of a Community Center, which will provide a campus meeting space and conference center as well as a music lab on the second floor of the CIC.

Jackson said it was examples such as those that should inspire the community and the state to have the resolve to provide the needed resources today.

“I would say to you, if you are proud of what has been accomplished and would like to be part of one of the great Arkansas success stories of the last 25 years, you can help too. Whether you can help a lot or a little, the important thing is simply to demonstrate your support so that ASMSA can continue to fulfill its promise to Arkansas and continue to be a leader in American education.”

Continued Fredinburg support

The 2016 Community of Learning Luncheon honored Dan Fredinburg, a member of the Class of 1999. Fredinburg was serving as an executive at Google when he was killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest in April 2015.

Fredinburg’s sisters announced a $50,000 gift for the Creativity and Innovation Complex from the Fredinburg Foundation, established after his death, at last year’s luncheon. Additional gifts from his friends and family as well as friends of ASMSA eventually raised more than $100,000 for the project.

Paul and Cathy Fredinburg, Dan’s parents, announced an additional $25,000 gift to ASMSA during Friday’s luncheon. The Fredinburgs made the gift during ArkansasGives, a project of the Arkansas Community Foundation that promotes smart giving to improve communities, on April 7. The gift will go towards the CIC building.

Paul Fredinburg said Dan thrived academically with the school’s higher expectations. “He loved the challenge of being with the brightest students and being taught by the best faculty in the state,” he said.

Dan was accepted into the University of California, Irvine, one of the top computer science schools in the country, upon graduating from ASMSA, Fredinburg said.

“Dan could only have been accepted to this university due to reputation of ASMSA,” he said. “Dan’s grades improved every single year as ASMSA had taught him ‘how to learn.’ ASMSA prepared Dan for the rigors of a highly competitive major as he had to take a math class every single quarter of the program.”

Dan Fredinburg would go on to earn a master’s degree in intelligent robotics from the University of Southern California and worked for Boeing before later becoming an executive at Google. At the time of his death he had filed 52 patent applications for his work.

“Dan was a late bloomer, and none of this could have ever occurred without the educational foundation provided by ASMSA,” Paul Fredinburg said.

The first floor of the CIC will be named in honor of Dan Fredinburg. The Dan Fredinburg Technology Center will offer space for computer science classrooms, a digital arts lab, networks infrastructure and the admissions office. It will also house the Fredinburg Innovation Lab, which will include a maker space and computer science laboratory.

He said nothing is more important than the education of our brightest students. He encouraged those in attendance to “pay it forward.”

“To paraphrase Dan’s motto, let’s put a dent in the universe,” he said.

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