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A record $614,000 was raised at the May 9 gala benefiting Easterseals Arkansas, during which Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr. was introduced as this year's Arkansan of the Year.

Hussman was joined at the event by his wife, Ben, son, Palmer, and twin daughters, Eliza Gaines and Olivia Ramsey, as well as his children's spouses, other family members and many Democrat-Gazette employees.

Sheffield Nelson chaired the event that attracted about 600 Easterseals supporters. The evening featured a three-course dinner, a live auction that brought in more than $35,000 and tributes to Hussman.

Easterseals Executive Director Elaine Eubank welcomed guests. Keith Jackson, former professional football player and founder of the P.A.R.K. -- Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids -- after-school program, called Hussman his "mentor." Deleen Davidson, a classically trained soprano and founder of the Muses Creative Artistry Project, sang "America the Beautiful" and "Memory" from the musical Cats.

Hussman was introduced by Bill Dillard III who said what sets the newsman apart "is his willingness to do things others have not thought of or are just too scared to try."

"I've heard this called business acumen," Dillard said. "I just call it guts."

During his remarks, Hussman talked about how he met Ben at a New Year's Eve party in Memphis and they married 11 months later. He also talked about adopting all three of his children from the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth.

"Happy and successful families have a lot more to do with love than they do with biology," he said. "And second, each one of us in this room has been adopted. We've all been adopted by God and that's why we are God's children."

He reflected about his college days at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his fraternity brothers at Delta Kappa Epsilon. And he talked about his friend and professional colleague Paul Smith who retired as president of WEHCO Newspapers, the Democrat-Gazette's parent company, in 2013. He attributed most of the success of the newspaper to Smith.

Hussman ended his remarks by praising the work of nonprofits including P.A.R.K., Pathway to Freedom -- a prison ministry program -- and Easterseals.

"I have so much admiration for the people at Easterseals and what they do for people with disabilities, seeing the dedication and the care they give to people who need it the most makes me feel good about who we are as a people here in America," he said.

Gallery: Arkansan of the Year

High Profile on 05/19/2019

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