Henderson State University honored four new Distinguished Alumni at a banquet Oct. 24 in the Garrison Center Grand Ballroom. The event was part of homecoming week at Henderson.
This year’s honorees are: Emma Williams Watts, who recently retired as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith; Lonnie Watts Jr., a retired professor of sociology at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith; Charles Gibbs, president of CRG Investment Corp.; and Bridgette Blackman Shannon, an accomplished chemist.
First awarded in 1972 to honor outstanding graduates, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor Henderson bestows on it graduates. Honorees have made outstanding achievements and contributions in their career, community, education, politics, social service, and humanities. Each year, the Henderson Alumni Association Board of Directors selects these distinguished alumni to represent the university.
Emma Watts received her degree in business administration from Henderson in 1975, followed by her master’s degree in education in 1978 and a master’s degree in business administration in 1991, both from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. She also received certification in secondary and adult education in 1978.
Watts taught in the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith’s Department of Business for 21 years, and in the College of Applied Science and Technology for 10 years. She received the Whirlpool Master Teachers Award in 1998 and was advisor of the Black Student Association.
She has participated in many community organizations and projects, and received several honors and awards.
Watts is married to Lonnie Lee Watts, and they have five children and eight grandchildren.
Lonnie Watts Jr.
Lonnie Watts earned his degree in sociology from Henderson State in 1975, and received his master’s degree in sociology in 1978 and master’s in business administration in 1992, both from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
Watts taught at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith for 25 years, serving in several positions before retiring in 2013. He was chair of the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Anthropology from 2002-2006.
Watts has served on a variety of boards and committees and has been active in several civic and professional organizations.
He is married to Emma Watts. They have five children and eight grandchildren.
Charles Gibbs is a 1960 graduate of Henderson State with a degree in psychology and participated in the ROTC program.
After working for the American Red Cross until 1964, Gibbs joined Southwestern Bell Telephone. In 1979, he went to work for A.G. Edwards & Sons and began a career in the securities industry. He later worked for Paine Webber, Investment Management & Research, Spelman & Co., and Expert Witness (Securities) Various Law Firms. In 1980, he became president of CRG Investment Group, a position he still holds.
Gibbs has received numerous sales awards, and has been involved with several community service and civic organizations.
Shannon earned her degree in chemistry from Henderson State in 2002, and received her master’s and doctorate degrees in chemistry from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. She was the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry at UA.
Shannon has worked at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences (UAMS), University of Arkansas-Fayetteville Department of Chemistry, L’Oreal USA Manufacturing, and Corning Inc.
She was featured in Fast Company and Essence magazines and received the Little Rock Mayor and Board of Director’s Award, both in 2011. Shannon was a World Technology Awards Corporate Finalist in 2012.
Shannon is married to Dr. Simon Shannon and they have two children.