2023 Alumni Awards Recipients

Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients 

Ellis “Scooter” Register

Ellis “Scooter” Register was born in 1951 in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised in Clarendon, Arkansas. He was a three-year football letterman playing for legendary coach Rush F. “Buddy” Harding. He earned his Bachelor of Science and his Master of Science degrees from Henderson. 

Register served as a coach for over three decades, serving students at Forest Heights Junior High, Booker Junior High, Henderson Junior High, Little Rock McClellan, El Dorado, Catholic High School, and Little Rock Central.

Register's hard work and dedication to his players helped produce many playoff and championship wins. Register received the Sporty Carpenter Award in 2005. He has been named the KARK-TV Friday Night Flights Coach of the Year, Little Rock Metro Coach of the Year, 5A Central and 4A South Conference Coach of the Year, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Coach of the Year, and was selected to serve as a coach for the AHSCA All-Star game. Register was inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2021.

In addition to coaching, Register had a successful 25-year career as a basketball official. He worked 14 years on the collegiate level. In 2013, Register was inducted into the Arkansas Officials Hall of Fame. 

Register has been married to his wife, Sandra, for over 40 years. They have two daughters, Randi and Toni, and he is "Pooh" to three wonderful grandchildren, Ellis Tucker, Mari Francis Tucker, and Hilton Russell Smith. 

V.L. Cox 

VL. Cox was born in 1962 in Shreveport, Louisiana, and was raised in Arkansas. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Henderson State University in 1991. 

Cox is a professional artist of 30 years whose work has been highly active in projects that involve Human Rights and Equality. In 2015 she launched her National “End Hate” project, an anti-discrimination series based on segregation-era doors. The doors were placed twice on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol and twice at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Images of the door installation went viral and were seen on Yahoo News, USA Today, and in numerous newspapers across the country and as far away as India and South Korea.

In 2020, Cox was one of 20 national artists featured in "Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020," a New York City billboard project which made the New York Times "Most Important Moments in Art in 2020" list. Her work has opened at prominent locations such as The LGBT Center in New York, The Virginia Longwood Center for the Visual Arts Museum in collaboration with the Moton Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, coinciding with the Equal Justice Initiative, National Memorial for Peace and Justice opening, and the Virginia Holocaust Museum. Cox currently resides in Peeksill, New York, in the Arts District. 

Debra and Chris Wewers

Debra and Chris Wewers have consistently supported their alma mater since they were students on campus. They are members of the Reddie Club. In addition, they both have endowed scholarships with the Debra L. Nutt Wewers Scholarship Endowment, which supports education students, and the Christopher M. Wewers Scholarship Endowment, which supports business students.

Debra received a bachelor's degree in education with an early childhood emphasis in May 1993, graduating Cum Laude, and a master's degree in education in May 1995, graduating Summa Cum Laude. Debra is a Zumba instructor with the most rewarding and challenging job of all in raising their two children.

Chris is the Chief Financial Officer for Southern Bancorp Inc. and Southern Bancorp Bank. Chris graduated Summa Cum Laude in the Fall of 1992. Chris is a member of the School of Business Advisory Board and is chairman of the HSU Foundation Board. While at Henderson, he played on the golf team for two years, served as a residence hall assistant for two years, and was a member of Alpha Chi.

H Award Recipients

The Late Malachi Smith

Malachi Smith served the campuses of Arkadelphia Methodist College, Henderson College, Henderson-Brown College, and Henderson State Teachers College for more than 40 years. He became the head cook in 1903 and retired from Henderson in 1947.

After the fire of 1914 destroyed much of the Henderson–Brown campus, Smith and his kitchen staff contributed $25 to help rebuild the college, which was an immense amount of money at the time.

Smith served Henderson as head cook and owned a silent picture show, restaurant, barber shop, and dance hall for many years. In addition, Smith attended Greater Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Arkadelphia as a longtime member, trustee, and deacon.

The legacy of Malachi Smith continues to live on throughout the Henderson State campus. His family established the Malachi Smith Memorial Scholarship, which celebrates student leadership and diversity. In addition, on February 3, 2023, the dining hall was officially renamed the Malachi Smith Dining Hall in his honor.

Young Alumni Award Winner

Nikki Chandler

Nikki Chandler is a 2013 graduate of Henderson State University who is originally from Genoa, Arkansas. Nikki and her husband, Ben, also an HSU graduate, reside outside Sparkman with their four children Maddox, Malia, Cash, and Conan. 

Nikki is a self-motivated and community-minded individual who recently headed the local Chamber of Commerce for almost two years. Her success in bringing the community together with her sponsored events was unparalleled. That has catapulted her into a role she recently accepted with the newest corporate addition to the Arkadelphia community, Hostess Brands.

Nikki places a high value on giving back to her community and continues to serve on many local boards and committees, including the Baptist Health Advisory Board, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park Committee, Arkadelphia Rotary Board, and Henderson State's Board of Visitors.