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Founders Day 2013

CONWAY, Ark. (October 24, 2013) – A century ago, John Hugh Reynolds became president of Hendrix College and led the institution through the Great Depression and two World Wars, as well as master planning process that produced facilities that continue to serve students and faculty today.

Hendrix celebrated Reynolds' legacy and the spirit of its founding leaders today at its annual Founders Day Convocation.

Reynolds played a pivotal role toward the advancement of science at Hendrix. After the famous Scopes trial in 1925, state legislatures across the country proposed – and many passed – laws that banned the teaching of evolution.

On the eve of a vote on an anti-evolution bill in the Arkansas legislature in early 1927, Reynolds referred to the measure as a war on science and said, "The Bible and Christianity do not need the Arkansas legislature to protect or save them."

His work attracted the attention of the General Education Board of New York, which proceeded to commit $150,000 toward the construction of a new science building on the Hendrix campus. This building was dedicated in 1931 with an address by Nobel Prize physicist Robert A. Millikan.

"President Reynolds' values are still part of the core of Hendrix," said Acting President W. Ellis Arnold III. "The College that Dr. Reynolds envisioned when he became our fourth president 100 years ago is still standing, still committed to academic freedom and to excellence, still growing, still evolving, and still changing the lives of those who can change the world."

"I believe that Dr. Reynolds would be proud of what we've accomplished since he stepped down in 1945," Arnold added. "More than that I believe he would be excited about our future."

As part of Founders Day tradition, the Hendrix College Board of Trustees awarded the Odyssey Medal to three Hendrix alumni.

"Today we honor Dr. Reynolds and all our Founders by bestowing Odyssey Medals on three outstanding individuals who – by virtue of their lives and their accomplishments – illustrate not just the value of liberal arts education, but the value of a Hendrix education, and the impact of a well-lived life on the world," Arnold said.

"They have entertained and enlightened us through the production and promotion of film as creative medium; they have turned a fascination with physics into a successful entrepreneurial enterprise; and they have pushed the boundaries of the known through research and shared new discoveries widely using the latest technology," he said. "We present today's medalists as exemplars of the achievement and personal growth that engaged liberal arts education makes possible."

Liz Langston '84 received the Odyssey Medal for Artistic Creativity.

Langston, a film writer and producer, is co-founder and executive director of the 48 Hour Film Project, the world's oldest and largest timed filmmaking competition.

"I'm extremely honored and very surprised. It was something of a miracle I got here in the first place," said Langston, thanking the college's donors who made her scholarships possible.

Langston majored in international relations at Hendrix and got a master's degree in applied psychology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She researched traffic safety at the Urban Institute and Pacific Institute for Research and Analysis in Washington, D.C., where she and a group of friends first launched the 48 Hour Film Project, which is now active in 120 cities worldwide.

Physics major Charles H. "Chuck" Chalfant '81 received the Odyssey Medal for Professional and Leadership Development.

Chalfant is president and CEO of Space Photonics, Inc. (SPI), an Arkansas-based optical communications company. A native of Booneville, Ark., Chalfant earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Hendrix College and a master's degree in laser physics from the University of Arkansas, before moving to California to work for Lockheed Space Systems. He later joined the R&D division of Optivision, a small high-tech company founded at Stanford, and in 1996 moved his family back to Arkansas, while continuing to work for the company. In 1997, he and several Optivision colleagues formed Optical Networks Inc. The company experience rapid growth and when the decision was made to take it public, Chuck started Space Photonics, Inc., an optical communications company.

"I never planned on starting my own company," said Chalfant, who originally wanted to be an astronaut. "It was based on total fear of not having a job."

More than a decade later, Space Photonics remains a successful privately held company, and Chalfant is now leading the company's pursuit of commercial laser communications solutions for the wireless information and rural broadband infrastructure. In his career, Chalfant has led more than 20 optical product development efforts in his career, and authored more than twenty publications. SPI is now one of the world's leading innovators in optical communications technologies. SPI's patented LaserFire® laser communications systems were recently licensed and are now in production by world-renowned innovator and manufacturer SCHOTT for military and government markets.

Chalfant applied nine times unsuccessfully to be an astronaut.

"I haven't learned that greed is good like you hear in the movies," he said referencing Gordon Gekko from Wall Street. "But delusion is better. I'm just as delusional now."

Derek Lowe '83 received the Odyssey Medal for Research.

Lowe is a research fellow at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and writes the "In the Pipeline" weblog. A native of Harrisburg, Ark., Derek earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Duke University in 1988. He then landed a prestigious Humboldt Fellowship to study in Darmstadt, Germany, for a year. After returning to the U.S. in 1989, he worked at Schering-Plough in New Jersey doing research on schizophrenia and Alzheimer's. In 1997, Lowe began a decade of work for Bayer Pharmaceuticals in Connecticut, working on diabetes, metabolic disorders, and cancer. After Bayer closed its North American research operations, he moved to the Boston/Cambridge area to work for Vertex Pharmaceuticals. At Vertex, his work has focused on antibacterials, antivirals, and multiple sclerosis. He is currently part of a group investigating "undruggable" targets of all kinds.

In his acceptance speech, Lowe thanked Dr. Tom Goodwin, his organic chemistry professor at Hendrix, for allowing him to do summer research.

"There's nothing like being the first person to do something and understand why it happened," he said of science research. Lowe presents frequently at national and international conferences, and has an extensive list of scientific publications and more than 25 patents to his credit.

Lowe said he originally had no idea what he would major in because he liked science, literature, and history, but he figured he'd make science his "day job" and have a library in his home.

"I had no idea that it would work out exactly like that," he said.

In 2002, he started a blog site about drug discovery, chemistry, and other scientific news that is now the oldest continuously-running science blog on the internet, garnering about 20,000 page views a day. He also writes a monthly column for Chemistry World, a magazine published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in Great Britain, and a monthly column for Contract Pharma, a U.S. trade publication.

Nominations for the 2014 Odyssey Medals are due Dec. 31, 2013 and may be emailed to For more information and a nomination form, visit

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. For the sixth consecutive year, Hendrix was named one of the country's "Up and Coming" liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the latest edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges, as well as the 2014 Princeton Review's The Best 378 Colleges, Forbes magazine's list of America's Top Colleges, and the 2014 Fiske Guide to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit