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Dr. William Downs Jr. retires after 16 years of service to AETN Commission

Posted 22 May 2014

Dr. William D. Downs Jr. of Arkadelphia has retired after 16 years of service as an at-large representative of the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) Commission. Downs will be honored with a reception Wednesday, June 11, from 4-6 p.m. in the Hampton Board Room of the Evans Student Center at Ouachita Baptist University, 410 Ouachita Street, Arkadelphia.

Downs, retired chairman of the Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) mass communications department, recently announced that he did not intend to seek reappointment after the close of his 2006-2014 term. Gov. Mike Beebe has appointed Rev. Phil Hathcock to fill Downs’ post in the commission.

“Being a member of the AETN family has been one of the richest and most satisfying experiences of my professional life,” Downs said. “I have enjoyed working with my fellow commissioners and with the highly trained and imaginative AETN staff.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have served in this position and sincerely look forward to observing the future successes of both the commission and AETN as a whole. I cannot believe how swiftly these 16 years have passed. I continue to feel pride in the mission of AETN and know the best is yet to be.”

Downs was first appointed to the commission on March 26, 1998. During his 16 years of service to the commission, Downs was elected to three consecutive terms as chairman of the AETN Commission, from 2002 through 2008, in addition to serving in a variety of other roles.

“Dr. Downs is a personal mentor to me and an inspiration to our entire staff,” AETN Executive Director Allen Weatherly said. “His tenure as an AETN Commission representative and chairman greatly benefitted our network and the state of Arkansas."

“We are grateful for his leadership and wish him the best in retirement.”

While working at OBU from 1966 to 2010, Downs helped the university transition from communications courses focused on print media to a diversified program that now includes journalism, advertising, public relations, telecommunications and new media, with a heavy emphasis on writing skills. He is a noted national expert on the subject of scholastic journalism and served for 26 years as executive director of the Arkansas High School Press Association.

Downs honors include: being named the 1996 Distinguished Educator of the Year by the Arkansas Advertising Federation; being named Outstanding Faculty Member by the Ouachita Student Senate twice; receiving the Journalism Educator Award from the Arkansas Press Association; and receiving several awards from Columbia Scholastic Press Association in New York City, including the Gold Key award, Gold and Silver Crown awards as the former adviser of the Ouachitonian yearbook and the James Frederick Paschal Award.

Downs is a 1949 graduate of Batesville High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and holds a master’s and doctorate of philosophy from the University of Missouri at Columbia. He is also the author of books: “The Fighting Tigers: the Untold Stories Behind the Names on the Ouachita Baptist University WWII Memorial” and “Stories of Survival: Arkansas Farmers During the Great Depression,” funded by the Arkansas Humanities Council (University of Arkansas Press/Phoenix International, 2004 and 2011).

The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) is Arkansas’s statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. For more information, visit, or follow the AETN blog at AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro), and KETZ (El Dorado).