Razorback Legend Moncrief To Be Keynote Speaker At Academic Signing Day

Sidney Moncrief — former Arkansas Razorback All-American, five-time NBA All Star and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year — will be the keynote speaker for Academic Signing Day, for recipients of the El Dorado Promise and other scholarships.

The 12th-annual event will take place Wednesday, April 18, at 1:30 PM, in the El Dorado High School (EHS) Wildcat Arena. The signing day will celebrate approximately 330 graduating seniors receiving El Dorado Promise scholarships. Also present will be Murphy Oil Corporation CEO Roger Jenkins, El Dorado Mayor Frank Hash, El Dorado School District (ESD) Superintendent Jim Tucker, EHS Principal Alva Reibe, and El Dorado Promise Director Sylvia Thompson. 

Moncrief was a vital part of the Southwest-Conference-winning Razorbacks men’s basketball team in 1977, who also earned a Final Four appearance in 1978. He held the all-time leading scoring record with the University of Arkansas for years. As fifth-overall NBA draft pick, Moncrief joined the Milwaukee Bucks in 1979, retiring his jersey in 1990. Moncrief is a five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive team, and an NBA All-Pro. He is a former NCAA Division I head coach (UALR) and NBA assistant coach (Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks). Moncrief also led an international team as head consultant in Beijing, China. He has served on the board of directors for a Fortune 500 company and as president of various retail auto dealerships. He is the author of six books. One of pro basketball’s hardest-working and best-liked players, the state newspaper called him “the most beloved athlete in the history of Arkansas”.

Moncrief was born to a single mother to a family of seven, in a housing project in Little Rock. His mother was a cleaning woman who made sure he completed chores and held membership in a Boy Scout troop. “I had to do things right. As tired as she was, she always took time for discipline,” he told Sports Illustrated. While a senior at Hall High School, he earned a 3.8 GPA to qualify for a scholarship, and earned a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas. Early in his profession, he was told of a degenerative knee problem which a doctor said would limit his basketball career to two years. He played eleven years.       

He leads One Team — a Texas-based, people development company, begun in 2003, that helps youth and adults by offering unique and innovative high-performance solutions. “For students, Mr. Moncrief’s mission is to encourage academic performance, by teaching leadership, teamwork, and other skills,” stated EHS Principal Alva Reibe. “He is a legend in Arkansas. We will be thrilled to learn more about his educational life lessons.”

 In El Dorado, 2018 marked the 11th anniversary of the El Dorado Promise, a $50 million scholarship program funded entirely by Murphy Oil Corporation for EHS graduates. Since it began, the Promise has provided funding to more than 2,200 EHS graduates, attending 138 colleges and universities in 31 different states. Promise Scholars have completed studies from most Arkansas public and private universities, as well as 39 out-of-state institutions. Currently, they are attending 73 different colleges.

“The El Dorado Promise continues to fulfill dreams,” said Murphy Oil President and CEO Roger Jenkins. “As more of our students graduate and begin their careers, they’re using their education to impact the world.”

The Promise pays up to 100% of college tuition and mandatory fees (based upon highest in-state tuition), for all graduates who have been ESD students since at least the ninth grade. ESD Superintendent Jim Tucker stated, “We provide a rigorous and interactive academic culture, rich with technological and other opportunities, for which district schools have been recognized nationally. We invest in our students, as does the El Dorado Promise, for which we are so thankful.”

Over 85% of last year’s Promise Scholars are attending college, stated Sylvia Thompson, ESD El Dorado Promise director. This percentage is significantly higher than both the current Arkansas college-going rate, at 63%; and the national rate, at 69% (sources: Arkansas Department of Higher Education, National Center for Education Statistics). Thompson added, “Teachers here begin discussing college on the first day of kindergarten, when students receive their Promise backpacks. These discussions continue all the way through high school.” 

 In a recent study of the El Dorado Promise (An Evaluation of the El Dorado Promise and College-Going Culture, December 2017), the University of Arkansas OEP (Office of Educational Policy) found that the El Dorado School District has created a proactive, positive, and provable environment to promote college-going and college readiness. Researchers found that, compared to matched comparison groups, students in El Dorado are urged to take more proactive steps in both preparing for and pursuing their college careers. Additionally, students from El Dorado rate their district higher in these factors than students from similar Arkansas schools. “Teachers and staff in El Dorado schools actively work to promote a culture where children are expected to go to college,” stated Alice Mahony, vice-president and co-founder of the El Dorado Education Foundation (EDEF).

For academics, dramatic increases continue to be seen in district Advanced Placement (AP) course offerings and enrollment. Bonnie Haynie, ESD Director of Professional Development/Federal Programs, stated that, over the past 11 years of the Promise, AP enrollment has increased dramatically. The El Dorado district includes 70 AP and Pre-AP teachers. AP courses have increased from 3 to 19, including AP computer science. “This spring, 431 students will take more than 946 AP exams, a new school district record,” Haynie added.  

El Dorado Promise Scholars can attend any accredited two or four-year college or university in the United States. The EHS Class of 2018 will sign letters of intent for 38 separate institutions. Graduates joining the military begin scholarships after completing one enlistment period.

EHS students will be attending the following in-state colleges and universities: Arkansas State University, Central Baptist College, Harding University, Henderson State University, Hendrix College, Lyon College, Ouachita Baptist University, South Arkansas Community College, Southern Arkansas University, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas at Monticello, and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Out-of-state colleges and universities will be: Abilene Christian University, Baylor University, Clark Atlanta University, Coastal Carolina University, Fisk University, Grambling State University, Jackson State University, Louisiana Tech University, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Mississippi State University, Oklahoma State University, Pellissippi State Community College (TN), Portland Community College (OR), Savannah College of Art and Design, Southern Illinois University, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University - Texarkana, University of Central Florida, University of Houston, University of Louisiana at Monroe, University of Memphis, University of Tulsa, University of Texas at El Paso, and Vanderbilt University.

Academic Signing Day’s title sponsor is First Financial Bank. The event is a partnership of the El Dorado Education Foundation, El Dorado School District, Murphy Oil Corporation, and the El Dorado Promise. Other sponsors are: the El Dorado News-Times and Kim Smith Photography.  Academic Signing Day committee members are: Co-chairs Alice Mahony and Bonnie Haynie, Beth Weldon, Jim Tucker, Alva Reibe, Scott Reed, Katie Sandifer, Lila Phillips, Sylvia Thompson, Allison Parker, and Mark Givens.

For further information about Academic Signing Day, please contact EDEF: edef@arkansas.net, or (870) 862-0962.