James L. “Skip” Rutherford III, adviser to a senator and president, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and alum of the University of Arkansas, will deliver the Distinguished Alumni Lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main. It is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.
Rutherford is a 1972 graduate of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, formerly called the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism.
The student Distinguished Lecture Series committee is sponsoring this lecture with the Arkansas Alumni Association as part of Homecoming Week events.
Rutherford grew up in Batesville, Ark. At the U of A he served as editor of The Arkansas Traveler, president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and was named to Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities.
After graduating he worked in Fayetteville as public relations director at McIlroy Bank & Trust. During this time he got to know two young School of Law professors, Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham.
Rutherford got actively involved in state politics in 1978 when he volunteered in then-Gov. David Pryor’s first senatorial campaign. He worked from 1979 to 1983 as director of Pryor’s Arkansas office in Little Rock. In 1983, he left to work for Mack McLarty, CEO of the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co., but found an outlet for his political interests by founding the Political Animals Club, a nonpartisan organization of political activists and community leaders who met regularly to talk politics.
Rutherford was elected to the Little Rock School Board in 1987, serving as president in 1990 and helping forge an agreement with the state to counter lingering segregation in Pulaski County’s schools.
When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992 Rutherford worked as a senior adviser and a special assistant to campaign manager David Wilhelm.
After the election Rutherford remained in Little Rock, becoming executive vice president of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, one of the state’s largest public relations and advertising agencies, and creating its public policy division.
During this period he also taught journalism and political science classes for several years in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
Rutherford is an active supporter of downtown Little Rock. Starting in 1997 he supervised the planning and construction of the Clinton Presidential Center and Park, greatly contributing to the rebirth of what became the River Market District. When the library opened in 2004, Rutherford was named Arkansan of the Year by the Arkansas Broadcasters Association and the Arkansas Times, Headliner of the Year by the Arkansas Press Association, and received the Tourism Person of the Year Award at the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
Rutherford became dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in 2006. The school is the first in the nation to offer a master’s degree in public service. Under Rutherford’s leadership, the Clinton School developed concurrent degree programs with the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas; the Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; and the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The school has also developed one of the nation’s most outstanding college speakers’ series, featuring ambassadors, academics, business leaders, philanthropists, politicians, journalists and the occasional former president.