John W. Allison knew he was getting the education to become successful in the business world, but what might have been the spark from mere success to becoming a business leader came with a visit from Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson.
Years later, Allison has lent his name to the UCA Entrepreneurial Speaker Series. The founder of Home BancShares said he wanted to have local business students inspired the way he was inspired. Now, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will be the featured speaker at McCastlain Hall on the UCA campus at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Huckabee’s visit will coincide with raising funds to endow a chair of business at the school.
Log Cabin Democrat: Where did the idea for this series come from?
John Allison: It’s basically tied to this: Not everything comes from a book. You’re not going to learn everything from Chapter 3, paragraph four. That’s a different world out there than just what you can learn in a classroom. And bringing in real world success stories can really help those students who may need some inspiration.
LCD: And this came from your experience in college.
JA: Kemmons Wilson came to speak to us when I was a student at Arkansas State University. He pulled up in a limo, and in those days, the only people who rode in limos were Hollywood stars. You just didn’t see that. And he spoke to us about how he went to bed broke and woke up a millionaire. It was all about the idea and how to make that idea a reality. I was able to speak to him later in my life and thank him for what he meant to me. He was a mentor.
LCD: So if you could be that inspiration to today’s students?
JA: Yes, exactly. And not just me. To be able to bring in CEOs and successful executives and to hear their stories. Maybe it will hit a button in one of these students to get them going once they leave school.
LCD: How important is something like this to you?
JA: I don’t put my name on many things. But this is very important to me, so I don’t mind at all. It’s a chance to let these kids see the other side.
LCD: And you have Mike Huckabee coming this week.
JA: Getting Gov. Huckabee is a real treat. There is just something about him, and he has a tremendous story to tell. He has made it up the ladder from small town kid to governor, and everything he is doing now is so impressive. He doesn’t need to run for president. It would be a cut in pay. It is truly an honor having him attend and speak at this event.
LCD: It ought to be a special time.
JA: It’s great for UCA. It’s great for the students. If there are just one or two in there like I was who can be inspired by him, it will be worth it.