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Betty Oliver remembered as Arkansas Extension Service icon

April 9, 2016

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Longest-serving University of Arkansas System employee at 58 years
  • Was volunteer coordinator for Arkansas Extension Homemakers Clubs
  • Former Pulaski County extension staff chair
  • Member of Ouachita Baptist Board of Trustees

LITTLE ROCK – Betty Oliver, former Pulaski County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and extension volunteer coordinator, is being remembered as an icon of extension work and a giant in Arkansas agriculture who touched thousands of lives. 

Betty Oliver
AN ICON -- Betty Oliver is being remembered as the embodiment of Extension work in Arkansas. She passed away April 8, 2016. (U of A System Division of Agriculture 2015 file photo)

She died Friday night. Oliver was 79 years old.

Oliver began her career with the Cooperative Extension Service in 1958 after graduating from Ouachita Baptist University, where last year, she was elected to the school’s board of trustees. She started as an assistant Home Demonstration agent in Miller County and over the decades worked her way to Pulaski County extension staff chair. After “retiring” from that position in 1991, she worked at the extension service headquarters in Little Rock as volunteer coordinator in Family and Consumer Sciences.

“There are no words to fully describe the depth and breadth of Betty’s influence and contributions to Arkansas,” said Anne Sortor, associate director-Family and Consumer Science and 4-H/Youth Development for the Cooperative Extension Service. “What she gave to her colleagues and constituents, she gave from her heart. We will miss Betty deeply.”

“Betty was a giant in Extension and in Arkansas agriculture. This is an enormous loss to us and to Arkansas,” said Tony Windham, associate vice president-agriculture-extension for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and head of the Cooperative Extension Service. “In her nearly 60 years of service to Arkansas, she not only touched, but she also changed for the better the lives of thousands of Arkansans. In so many ways, Betty was the embodiment of our extension mission in Arkansas.”

“We are greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Betty Oliver,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas, and head of the U of A System’s Division of Agriculture. For decades, she was truly an icon and a role model for our extension mission. Her contributions to the state and the Extension Homemakers Clubs are legendary. She will be greatly missed and fondly remembered. The state has lost a true leader.”

Being inducted into the Arkansas Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003 was just one of a long list of recognitions Oliver received during her career. These included the National Association of Extension Home Economists Distinguished Service Award, the National Florence Hall award, 1969; Epsilon Sigma Phi Distinguished Service Award,­ Gamma Sigma Delta Merit Award; and the John W. White Outstanding Extension Educator Award. Oliver also won the Arkansas Extension Home Economists Award for Television Communications three times

She served as president of the state Association of Extension Home Economists in 1970; president of the Arkansas Women’s Committee on Public Affairs in 1978; chairman of the National Professional Improvement committee of National Extension Home Economists, 1984-85. Oliver was also a member of the First Baptist Church of Little Rock, the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee and the Arkansas State Fair Board of Directors.

Longest in U of A System
In 2014, she was honored by the Arkansas Gerontological Society for her volunteer services to those 65 and older. That same year, she learned that across the entire University of Arkansas System, she was the person with the longest active service. It’s a milestone she achieved when the university’s contract with longtime Athletic Director Frank Broyles expired. It’s a milestone of which she was particularly proud.

“I guess I now hold this honor,” she said.

She is survived by her husband Bob. Funeral arrangements are pending.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Director of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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