President Bush to Speak at Academic Signing Day

March 30, 2010

The Honorable George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, will be the keynote speaker for Academic Signing Day, for recipients of the El Dorado Promise scholarship program.

To take place Thursday, April 22, in the El Dorado High School (EHS) gym, the fourth-annual event will celebrate more than 250 graduating seniors who will be receiving El Dorado Promise scholarships, as well as others. The agenda will also feature Dr. Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas State Commissioner of Education. Announced in January of 2007, the El Dorado Promise is a $50 million scholarship program funded entirely by Murphy Oil Corporation. The exact time of the event will be announced, but is anticipated to be early afternoon. 

One of the main focuses of the George W. Bush Institute is education, and as a result, President Bush has been aware of the El Dorado Promise.  According to R. Madison Murphy, President of the Murphy Foundation, “President Bush wanted to recognize the El Dorado Promise and to congratulate these students. We are honored and privileged to have him.”  

To date, the El Dorado Promise has given over $3,600,000 in funding to 563 EHS graduates. According to Murphy Oil Corporation President and CEO David M. Wood, it provides qualifying students with “up to 100% of tuition and mandatory college fees”. Additionally, when combined with the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship or others, it may be used for other college expenses, such as room-and-board, he stated. In the past three years, over 60 colleges and universities have been included in the Academic Signing Day program.  

Most recently, according to Wood, nearly 80% of last year’s Class of 2009 have gone on to attend college, which is significantly higher than both state (63%) and national (67%) averages. “Moreover, a quarter of 2009 El Dorado Promise recipients enrolled in college are first-generation higher-education students, making this program even more important.” Since the El Dorado Promise was announced, enrollment for the El Dorado Public School district has increased 4%, with students relocating from 31 states and 13 foreign countries, according to Don Wales, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.  

El Dorado Public Schools Superintendent Bob Watson stated, “Academic Signing Day was designed to celebrate the educational achievements of our graduates: for their parents, other students, and invited guests.” Therefore, preferred seating will be for families. Details on other possible seating arrangements will be announced at a later date. 

El Dorado Promise students can attend either any accredited two or four-year colleges or university in the United States. On this Academic Signing Day, the Class of 2010 will sign EHS letters of intent for 31 separate colleges or universities. Some of these include:  Baylor University, Hendrix College, John Hopkins University, Rhodes College, Sewanee, Texas A&M, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia. 

Other institutions, in-state, are: Arkansas Baptist University, Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, Henderson State University, John Brown University, South Arkansas Community College, Southern Arkansas University, Southern Arkansas University-Tech, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas at Monticello, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.  

Still others, out-of-state, will include: Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, Mississippi State University, Northwest Louisiana University, Prairie View A&M University, Remington College, Southwest University, Stephen F. Austin University, University of Houston, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Some graduates will join the military, with scholarships deferred until they finish their tours of duty. 

Alice Mahony, a member of the Arkansas Board of Education stated, “Academic Signing Day is intended to be similar to a sports signing day, but to help promote and recognize the academic excellence of students in the El Dorado Public Schools, especially those receiving the El Dorado Promise.”  Academic Signing Day Committee members are:  Co-Chairs Alice Mahony and Bonnie Haynie, Madison Murphy, David Wood, Brett Williamson, Magen Parker, Dr. James Fouse, Lila Phillips, Don Wales, and Larry Walters.  

Academic Signing Day’s title sponsor is First Financial Bank. The event is a partnership of the El Dorado Education Foundation (EDEF), the El Dorado Public Schools (EDPS), Murphy Oil Corporation, the Murphy Foundation, and the El Dorado Promise. Other sponsors are: the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce, the City of El Dorado, the El Dorado News-Times, the College Avenue Church of Christ, South Arkansas Community College, and W.I. Bell Photographer.  

The El Dorado Promise scholarship maximum is based upon the highest in-state tuition payable at an Arkansas public university.  The El Dorado Promise is available to all students who graduate from EHS, reside in the district, and have been El Dorado Public School students since at least the ninth grade. Amounts are determined by length of attendance, with graduates who have attended since kindergarten receiving 100%.  More details are available at:

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