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Arkansas PBS Foundation Adds 4 to Board

3 min read

The Arkansas PBS Foundation Board, which recently mended a rift with the state’s public TV network, Arkansas PBS, has four new board members, including Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub Director Chris Jones.

The Foundation, which reached a compromise with Arkansas PBS Executive Director Courtney Pledger after discord following the dismissal of longtime Foundation COO Mona Dixon in 2019, announced the board election results Thursday morning.

“I am pleased to welcome our four newest board members to the Arkansas PBS Foundation Board,” board Chair S. Lynne Rich said in a press release. “These individuals embody the spirit of public media and bring a wealth of experience and expertise in their fields to the table.”

Along with Jones, a former assistant dean of graduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the new board members are:

  • Catherine Bays, chief development officer for Arkansas’ Museum of Discovery, where she manages fundraising. She previously worked in development and membership with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation, Arkansas Repertory Theater and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas.
  • M. Gayle Corley, an attorney with the Corley Law Firm in Little Rock, where she assists clients with estate planning, elder law, trust administration, probate, premarital agreements and real estate transactions. Corley is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas School of Law.
  • Peggy Matson, director of the Arkansas State Board of Collection Agencies, is a graduate of Harding University and holds a juris doctorate from the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.

Jones, the Hub director and former MIT official, previously served as executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston. He holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and math from Morehouse College, and a Ph.D. in planning, a master’s in nuclear engineering and a master’s in technology and policy, all from MIT.

Continuing board members are Rich, an associate professor at the University of Central Arkansas; Vice Chair Phil Kaplan, a Little Rock attorney; Secretary/Treasurer Jonathan Rhodes, a Cherokee Village community developer; Linda Beene of Conway, former director of Arkansas Department of Higher Education Annette Herrington, a Little Rock CPA; Calvin Johnson, a former UA Pine Bluff education dean and interim chancellor; Scott Pace, a partner in Little Rock’s Impact Management Group; Pledger, the Arkansas PBS director; Larry Ross, president of Ross Consulting in Sherwood; and Ronnie Williams, UCA’s vice president for student services.

The Arkansas PBS Foundation was founded to support Arkansas PBS’s mission, but the board found itself at an impasse with the Arkansas PBS, then known as the Arkansas Educational Television Network, last year where certain staff members vocally but anonymously criticized Pledger’s management style and her dismissal of Dixon, a three-decade employee. Dixon had challenged the way Pledger used foundation money to pay for consulting services from a North Carolina-based filmmaker and content expert, Rachel Raney.

Arkansas PBS is Arkansas’ only statewide public media network, and it has taken on an increasingly important role in the COVID pandemic, offering distance-learning programming for hundreds of thousands of Arkansas students.

Arkansas PBS is broadcast on KETS in Little Rock, KEMV in Mountain View, KETG in Arkadelphia, KAFT in Fayetteville, KTEJ in Jonesboro, and KETZ in El Dorado.

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