Business Hall of Fame Won’t Add New Class in 2021

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Citing “continuing uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the board that oversees the University of Arkansas’ Arkansas Business Hall of Fame said Thursday that it won’t induct a new class of honorees in 2021.

Jason LaFrance, principal of Dale Capital Partners who led the 12-member board that selects honorees, said the board decided during a videoconference meeting this month to “pause the selection of a new class” because of the coronavirus.

“We know how much gathering family, friends, colleagues and others to share in the honor of being inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame means to the inductees and their families,” LaFrance said in a news release. “We did not want to choose a class that wouldn’t be able to celebrate their big night in Little Rock, so we have decided to pause selection of new inductees for a year.”

The hall of fame, overseen by the Sam M. Walton College of Business and housed at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development at the UA, typically announces its new inductees around this time of the year. The 2021 induction ceremony was scheduled for Feb. 10 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

The university said nominations for the hall of fame are usually considered active for five years. Existing active nominations will have one year of eligibility added, and nominations received this year will be considered “new” next year.

Reynie Rutledge, the chairman and CEO of First Security Bancorp of Searcy and a 2020 inductee, said that making sure new inductees were properly celebrated was a priority.

“It was a special night for me and I want every inductee into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame to have the same opportunity to celebrate,” Rutledge said in a news release. “We owe it to each new hall of fame member to properly celebrate them and their business and community accomplishments.”

In addition to Rutledge, this year’s inductees were Gerald Alley, president and CEO of Con-Real, LP; Olivia Farrell, retired CEO of Arkansas Business Publishing Group; and Charles Nabholz, chairman emeritus of Nabholz Corp. LaFrance’s late father, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., founder of USA Drug, was inducted in 2015.