News Center

A Tale of Two Couples: Source of Anonymous Gift Revealed

Brightons reunite with Chappells, share their reasons for Martin Hall gift


Dr. Chuck Chappell ’64, Melissa Taulbee Brighton ’97, President Karen Petersen, Dr. Carol Weygandt Chappell ’70, and Drew Brighton ’98 in front of historic Martin Hall earlier this spring. The Brightons honored their friends and mentors the Chappells with a gift to support the renovation of Martin Hall, where both Drew Brighton and Chuck Chappell lived as students. The RA suites on the second floor are named for the Chappells.

CONWAY, Arkansas (April 29, 2024)—The start of April brought both a reunion and a revelation to Drs. Chuck Chappell ’64 and Carol Weygandt Chappell ’70. 

First, the reunion: At the invitation of President Karen Petersen and the Office of Development, the Chappells came to the Hendrix campus for a lunch with friends they hadn’t seen in about a decade. Drew Brighton ’98 and Melissa Brighton ’97 have spent much of their married life in the Washington D.C. area, where Drew founded D.C.-based data and technology company TargetSmart. Early in the company’s history, Drew was joined by Hendrix classmates Ben Stroud ’98 and Shane Craig ’98 and together the three have helped drive the company’s growth over the past 18 years. All three Hendrix alumni are still with the company, but the Brightons have recently begun splitting their time between Maryland and Little Rock.

Melissa freely admits she burst into tears of joy when she saw her college advisor. “The bond that students have with the faculty, it’s lifelong,” said Melissa. “I was so happy to see him again. He was such a formidable part of making me the person I am today.”

The connection extends back to high school for Melissa, which is when she started dating Drew and joined his friend group in hanging out at the Chappells’ Little Rock home. She later worked summers in Carol’s ophthalmology office. Drew met Chuck and Carol even farther back—in fifth grade, he became friends with one of the Chappells’ three sons, his Pulaski Academy classmate Tim Chappell ’98. 

“Carol made sure we had a swimming pool, so it became teenage central over here,” Chuck said in a phone interview from their home. “Our sons’ friends, we have been so fortunate to get to enjoy them.”

Melissa was the first of the group to head for Hendrix, following her brother, Todd-Paul Taulbee ’94, and requesting Dr. Chappell be her advisor as she focused her coursework on American literature and secondary education. A group of boys bound for the Class of ’98 soon followed.

“I know [then-President] Ann Die thanked us,” Chuck said, for so many Pulaski Academy graduates matriculating at Hendrix in the fall of 1994. Tim recruited several friends to join him at Hendrix, including Drew (though Melissa’s presence surely helped, as well).”

Next, the revelation.

During Martin Hall’s recent renovation, Drew reflected on how he and Melissa might make their gift to the effort a special one. “I didn’t really want to name a room after myself,” he said, “so I started thinking, ‘How about someone who actually made a lasting impression on the College?’” 

He and Melissa landed on giving a gift in honor of “Dr. C and Dr. Chappell,” as they called their friends’ parents (the English professor gets the “C” and the ophthalmologist gets the full last name). 

“We could always see how they were a team” as a couple, Melissa said. “And we love the Chappells. We think they epitomize everything good about Hendrix. Their success in their careers, their success as a couple, their success as parents and in the community. We should all try to be more like Dr. C. and Dr. Chappell.”

The Brightons decided to fund two resident assistant suites in Martin Hall, one in the name of each Dr. Chappell, to recognize them as individuals for their own contributions to Hendrix in addition to thanking them as an influential pair in the younger couple’s lives. While Chuck’s 30 years as a professor may get the most attention on campus, the second suite acknowledges Carol Chappell’s contributions to Hendrix as an alumna and parent herself, as well as her support through being the spouse of a faculty member.

The gift was initially anonymous, but Drew had let Tim Chappell in on the secret almost from the beginning. Tim later told his brothers, Michael ’03 and Chris. A few months ago, Tim approached the Brightons and said that the secret was getting harder to keep. 

“Word was, Tim told them that Chuck really likes mysteries, but he wants them resolved,” Carol said. “We had tried to think of who might have honored us with the naming, and we didn’t really know where to start.”

The Brightons told Tim they would be willing to reveal who was behind the gift, but only if it could happen in person.

And so, at the lunch in early April, the Brightons and the Chappells reunited in a dining room on campus, along with President Karen Petersen and Interim Vice President for Advancement Rock Jones ’80 and Ginny McMurray, Associate Vice President for Development. 

“What a privilege it was to witness the mutual admiration and respect shared between the Chappells and the Brightons,” President Petersen said. “The beauty and value of the Hendrix experience comes from community and the deep relationships that originate here and last a lifetime. Moments like their reunion capture so perfectly what makes Hendrix special.”

After taking time to catch up, Drew and Melissa revealed themselves as the donors who named a room for each of the Chappells.

“It took a minute to register, and we were delighted,” Carol said.

“They’re just a marvelous couple,” Chuck said, calling his former advisee “a very determined and disciplined person, and just as graceful and loving as can be.”

Melissa credits Chuck Chappell with transforming her negative impression of William Faulkner’s writings from high school assignments into a deep appreciation for the author’s work. “He taught that course with such joy that he was almost dancing around the classroom,” she recalled. “He was a great professor.” 

Drew majored in business with an emphasis in economics, though he’s grateful for the required accounting courses he admits he didn’t particularly enjoy (“I use those classes now every day,” he says). He played soccer for two years, and representing the College in a team uniform was meaningful to him. In his career, he says he particularly enjoys seeing Hendrix degrees on applicants’ resumes because “Everyone who goes to Hendrix has the ability to write.”

And the vitality of his Hendrix connection certainly benefits from the running text thread he keeps with Class of ’98 friends who lived on the same Martin Hall corridor, including Tim Chappell, Tommy Keet, Fuller Bumpers, and Toby Watkins.

The Chappells, for their part, have a fresh appreciation for the lasting strength of Hendrix relationships. 

“It makes us wonder what other secrets are out there, but we really don’t want to know!” Chuck said with a laugh.