More than 70 people gathered in the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Administration Building lobby for a surprise celebration to honor Liz Strickland and Charlene Kelley for their years of outstanding service at the institution.

More than 70 people gathered in the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Administration Building lobby for a surprise celebration to honor Liz Strickland and Charlene Kelley for their years of outstanding service at the institution.

Their service to UAPB totals more than 50 years combined.

Strickland has served as assistant to every chancellor since Herman Smith, the second person to hold that title when the institution joined the University of Arkansas System. Kelley worked with Calvin Johnson when he served as Dean of the School of Education and again recently when he came to the chancellor’s office on an interim basis.

“This is an awesome opportunity to say farewell to two individuals who have worked so diligently over the years,” Johnson said. “I have had the privilege of working with both of them together over the last 13 months.”

Accolades were also extended by administrative coordinator for student affairs Elbert Bennett, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Pauline Thomas and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Mary E. Benjamin.

The surprise celebration was the brainchild of newly appointed Chancellor Laurence Alexander.

“The kind words heard here today ring so true,” he said. “I can attest that in the short period of time I have known you, I have observed all of the qualities that have been described by the speakers today.”

Alexander talked about the honor of emeritus status given to retired faculty and administrators and desired to give the same honor to staff. He announced to the crowd that the title of assistant emeritus has been bestowed upon each of them.

“It was a total surprise and I am so appreciative,” Strickland said.

She said she could hear people talking in the lobby and had no idea of the reason for the occasion. Although her retirement was effective July 1, she has been volunteering her time to help Janet Broiles in her new position as assistant to the chancellor. Broiles assisted Alexander for six years while at the University of Florida.

“I am so surprised I’m almost speechless,” Kelley said. “I really sincerely appreciate this.”