Three named to Hall of Honor
Ceremony set in October to formally induct newest additions
FAYETTEVILLE — A teacher, philanthropist and historian will join the public schools Hall of Honor this year.
The Fayetteville Public Education Foundation on Thursday named Martha McNair, Laura Underwood and Kathleen DuVal as the hall’s newest additions. A ceremony will take place in October to formally induct the nominees.
The foundation for 21 years has put money raised from the ceremony toward grants for teachers. Superintendent Matthew Wendt, who took on his role last year, said the foundation sets the standard nationally for supporting public schools.
“I know that you know this, but I’m here to confirm it for you,” Wendt told those in attendance at Thursday’s luncheon. “We have wonderful people in Fayetteville public schools.”
McNair, who taught at the high school from 1990 to 2012, grew up in rural eastern Arkansas but always had plenty of reading material. The family had the New York Times delivered every week as well as daily newspapers from Memphis and Little Rock and the local Newport publication plopping on the porch.
She grew up with entire sets of literature in her grandmother’s library. Reading a dictionary or encyclopedia was nothing out of the ordinary, she said.
McNair started teaching at Parkview High School in Little Rock fresh after graduating in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She got her master’s
in 1979 and shortly thereafter became a lecturer for the university English Department.
At Fayetteville High School, McNair taught advanced placement literature, language and composition along with English classes as needed across the school’s grade levels. She chaired the English Department in the late 1990s.
McNair said she made it a point to assign a variety of fiction and nonfiction reading so her students could develop a writing voice of their own. She always preferred teaching high school students old enough to have meaningful discussions.
“They’re not worried as much about the next time they can brush their hair,” McNair said. “I could really work well in the classroom at that age.”
Underwood, a Texas native, gave computer lessons to students and teachers when everyone still used floppy disks. She taught at Fayetteville High School from 1987 to 1996, just when technology improved and an internet connection became commonplace in households.
Voters later that year elected her to the School Board, a position she held until 2006. The board had to close some schools during her terms and opened others. She described the experience as, “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Underwood has served on a smorgasbord of boards, including Washington Regional Medical Center’s Friends of Hospice, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Fayetteville Junior Civic League, the Yvonne Richardson Community Center and Susan G. Komen Foundation of Northwest Arkansas.
Underwood said she has never stopped learning, since her time in school in Dallas to the valuable experience she gained on the School Board to her current community service.
“That’s what life, to me, is about,” she said.
DuVal, a Fayetteville High School graduate, received tenure in 2009 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she serves as a history professor.
Critics have praised DuVal’s works, including Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution, her most recent book released in 2015. She has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, William and Mary Quarterly and others.
DuVal’s books and articles have garnered numerous prizes and awards. She appeared on The Diane Rehm Show, The State of Things and documentaries featured on the American Heroes Channel.
DuVal’s parents, John and Kay DuVal, accepted the nomination on their daughter’s behalf during the luncheon. DuVal was unavailable Thursday.
Susie Stewart (from left), a 2016 inductee into the Fayetteville Schools Hall of Honor, Martha McNair, a 2017 inductee, Laura Underwood, a 2017 inductee, and Thelma Tarver visit Thursday prior to the formal announcement of the 21st Annual Hall of Honor inductees at Fayetteville High School. The announcement of the inductees by the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation also included 2017 inductee Kathleen DuVal.