Timothy Oliver, Ph.D., director of bands, and Rebecca Oliver, director of the Honors College, are leaving Arkansas State University for the University of Mississippi, effective July 1. They have worked at A-State for 16 years.
Dr. Oliver will be the new director of bands at Ole Miss, while Oliver, his wife of nearly 26 years, said she doesn’t know what the change holds for her yet.
The couple said they have received lots of support over the past few days after the announcement.
“The outpouring of love and affection and encouragement and support has just been absolutely overwhelming,” Oliver said. “The number of emails that we both received and the comments and things on social media, they’re just people saying thank you.”
Dr. Oliver earned his doctorate in conducting and music education from Florida State University. Oliver has a master’s in counseling from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.
Both have had long careers in higher education. When Dr. Oliver started his doctorate in music education at Florida State University, Oliver worked there full time. They then worked at the University of Kansas.
The two worked at the University of Kansas, before moving to Temple University in Philadelphia. It was here that Oliver got her start in honors college programs.
After four years at Temple, Dr. Oliver was named director of bands at A-State in 2007 and Oliver was named director of student services and honors in 2008. She became the director of the Honors College in 2010.
Dr. Oliver makes $93,533 at A-State. Oliver makes $82,125.
Dr. Oliver said the music field is a collaborative environment, so he is looking forward to getting to have that same environment with Ole Miss students.
Their son, Benjamin Oliver, is a junior at Ole Miss. Oliver said she is looking forward to spending more time with him. Their daughter, Gwendolyn Oliver, is a junior at the Arkansas School for Math, Science and Arts in Hot Springs and will remain there.
Dr. Oliver said the thing he has enjoyed most during his time at A-State has been watching his students grow.
“Some of them start out as music majors and they choose other things, or vice versa, as they start out as other things and become musicians, but just watching students follow their passions, follow their dreams, helping in a small way to be able for them to facilitate achieving their goals, that’s something that’s been really gratifying,” the band director said.
Oliver said she’s enjoyed the conversations she and her staff have had with students.
“The moments that I think I’ll really, really cherish are things like the Honors Study Abroad experiences and Honors Brainy Break,” she said. “Having the opportunity to travel with students and see how that shapes them, how that changes them, how their worldview shifts, whether you’re in Chicago, or you’re in Berlin. You always take something away from that with you. It’s really a privilege to watch those wheels turn.”
Honors Brainy Break is an out-of-state study opportunity during spring break.
Students involved in the honors and band programs have said they will miss the Olivers.
Scout Weatherford, a senior majoring in biology and chemistry from Marmaduke, Arkansas, said her favorite memory with Oliver was when she presented her “infamous ‘Lord of the Rings’ PowerPoint and had her chuckling so hard.”
The PowerPoint saw Weatherford ranking various “Lord of the Rings” characters based on “how good they are at ‘making muffins.’”
Claire Greene, a senior biology major from Conway, said her favorite memory with Oliver is the first time she met her.
“Our conversation was very informative and lighthearted but it was the first time I felt like someone spoke to me like an adult. Mrs. Oliver emphasized that I am in charge of my future, wherever that may be, and seemed excited to share what her program had to offer.”
Milan Davidson, a sophomore music education major from Beebe, Arkansas, said her favorite memory with Dr. Oliver was the pre-concert pep talks.
Rachel Ivy, a sophomore music education major from Russellville, said her favorite memory with Dr. Oliver was when he cheered his students up at a football game while it was pouring rain.
The students said whoever replaces the Olivers will have big shoes to fill.
“Prepare yourself to be the new Honors Parent,” Weatherford said. “Rebecca was not just the director of the Honors College. She fully loved us honors kids and was fully present in our crazy college world. She was our honors mom, a safe person in our home away from home.”
Oliver said the new honors director would need to “be open to having tough conversations and be open to hearing about the good, the bad and the ugly of their day.”
“Always drop what you’re doing for students. Always make time for them,” she added.
Dr. Oliver said the new band director would need to foster the community aspect of the music program.
“This position is one where you have a lot of resources in the sense of there’s a lot of great students. There’s a lot of great colleagues,” he said. “There’s a history and tradition within this program. It’s not just one that started a few years ago, and so leaning into those things, they are all very powerful strengths for this program.”
While there is a search for successors, neither faculty member knows any information about replacements.
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