Mr. Billy Bauknight
In 1975, the then Office of Minority Affairs, housed within the UAMS College of Medicine made a decision that changed the trajectory of diversity initiatives at UAMS when it recruited and hired Billy Bauknight as its first Director. Over the course of his 37 years of employment, Mr. Bauknight served as a trailblazing, powerful, and passionate voice for diversity, equity, and inclusion at UAMS, the State of Arkansas, and the nation. As its inaugural director, Mr. Bauknight modeled character, strength, and integrity. Driven by his desire for underrepresented minorities to dare to dream and to realize their goals of becoming health care professionals, Mr. Bauknight established lasting relationships with local, state, and national Historically Black Colleges and Universities to strategically recruit students to UAMS.
Mr. Bauknight realized that recruiting students wasn’t enough – – there needed to be an intentional and ongoing effort to engage and to retain them. He served as the advisor to the Dr. Edith Irby Jones Chapter of the Student National Medical Association at UAMS until his retirement. In his role as director, Mr. Bauknight became a teacher, life coach, mentor, and liaison between students, physicians, and the College of Medicine. He made personal sacrifices, often giving students his personal funds to help them when they experienced financial challenges. He could always be counted on to provide an encouraging word, to lift a bowed down head, and to connect students with vital resources.
Ever mindful that the academic pipeline begins early, Mr. Bauknight served as a Governing Board Member of the UAMS Head Start for many years. Ever aware of the barriers to standardized testing that many underrepresented minority students face when confronting the medical college admission test (MCAT), Mr. Bauknight, along with Dr. James Paisley developed the UAMS MCAT Prep Program. That program served as the foundation upon which our current Pre-Medical Summer Scholars Program is built.
Through his journey at UAMS, Mr. Bauknight witnessed the Office of Minority Affairs become the Center for Diversity Affairs and the appointment of the University’s first Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He retired prior to the Center for Diversity Affairs evolving into the Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DDEI).
“Mr. Bauknight was a “people person” and always able to communicate with people from widely different backgrounds; making him exceptional in his ability to identify, nurture and recruit students from all walks of life. His willingness to help and support others did not stop with students but extended to anyone having personal or professional difficulties in navigating the educational system or life in general. He was always involved in the community and played a key role in identifying and supporting students from Arkansas’ Historically Black Colleges.
He was always an advocate for underserved and marginalized people. In many ways, he was ahead of his time in recognizing the long-term negative effects of an inadequate educational system on health and the social inequities that exist across America. I think more than anything else I will remember his humanity, his willingness to serve and his passion for helping others.” – Dr. Billy R. Thomas, inaugural Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Mr. Bauknight was committed to scholarship. His love for students, for UAMS and for the Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion led him to establish an endowment fund to benefit diversity initiatives at UAMS one year before his death.
While we mourn the loss of Mr. Bauknight, we celebrate his legacy, as evidenced by the hundreds of lives he influenced and the many students who became physicians because he dared them to dream.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
UAMS College of Medicine
UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion