Turmoil in Rearview, Arkansas PBS Foundation Adds 3 Members

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The Arkansas PBS Foundation has a new name, a new board president and new board members as it supports a bigger role than ever for Arkansas PBS, formerly the Arkansas Educational Television Network.

The Conway-based network proved “just how essential and valuable the network is to the citizens of Arkansas” through a pandemic year of educational services, including curriculums for students learning at home and development programs for readjusting teachers.

The foundation has a relatively new executive director, Marge Betley, after it healed a rift with its parent network that widened over the firing of longtime foundation COO Mona Dixon in 2019.

That split, which led Arkansas PBS CEO Courtney Pledger to give up her dual leadership of the foundation last year, has been patched over as educator Cherisse Jones-Branch, governmental affairs expert Toni Lindsey and attorney Ed McClure join the board.

Betley was hired to lead the foundation in September.

“I am very pleased to welcome these three excellent new members to the Arkansas PBS Foundation Board at this important moment,” Jonathan Rhodes, Arkansas PBS Foundation Board president, said in a news release. “As Arkansas PBS expands its broadcast signal to reach almost every resident in the state, the foundation is also focused on expanding the geographic diversity and professional skills of our board members.”

Jones-Branch is dean of the Graduate School at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.  She received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from the College of Charleston, South Carolina, and a doctorate in history from Ohio State University.  Jones-Branch is the author of “Crossing the Line: Women and Interracial Activism in South Carolina During and After World War II,” and the co-editor of “Arkansas Women: Their Lives and Times.” Another of her works, “Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps: Black Women’s Activism in Rural Arkansas, 1914-1965,” is coming from the University of Arkansas Press. She is commissioner of the state Black History Commission and a Persian Gulf War veteran.

Lindsey is director of Governmental Affairs for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas, and she directs the Leadership Arkansas program. With a bachelor’s degree in political science and communication from the University of Arkansas, she worked for the university’s athletics department for 16 years and has completed coursework for a master’s degree. She lives in Bentonville and was also director of media relations for the Miss Arkansas Scholarship Program.

McClure is a partner at Matthews, Campbell, Rhoads, McClure & Thompson P.A. in Rogers. Originally from Iowa, he graduated from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, in 1982. He worked for a year in the Iowa House of Representatives before attending the University of Arkansas School of Law, graduating in 1986. While in law school, McClure began working as a law clerk for Matthews, Campbell, and Rhoads, a small law firm in Rogers, and eventually became an associate attorney and eventually a full partner. He serves as a lay member of the Annual Conference for the First United Methodist Church of Rogers and has served as an interim municipal judge, a member of the Rogers Historic District Commission and the Arkansas Bar Association Board of Governors.

The board also includes Phil Kaplan, vice president, a Little Rock attorney; Gayle Corley, secretary/treasurer, also a Little Rock lawyer; Catherine Bays, chief development officer of the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock; Annette Herrington, a Little Rock CPA; Chris Jones, executive director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in Little Rock; Peggy Matson, former director of the Arkansas State Board of Collection Agencies in Little Rock; Scott Pace, partner, Impact Management Group, Little Rock; Courtney Pledger, executive director, Arkansas PBS; Dr. S. Lynne Rich, associate professor at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway; Larry Ross, president of Ross Consulting in Sherwood; and Ronnie Williams, vice president for Student Services at UCA.

Last year, Rhodes succeeded Rich as foundation board president.

The Arkansas PBS Foundation exists to support Arkansas PBS’s mission and gives Arkansans chances to connect with Arkansas’s only statewide public media network by becoming donors, corporate or foundation partners, and other givers and volunteers.

Arkansas PBS, the only statewide public media network, delivers award-winning productions and classic PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers through digital and broadcast platforms.

Pledger, chosen to lead the network by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2017, has modernized production and operations and broadened Arkansas storytelling to a national audience.