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October 21, 2012

Golden Arrow—ULM's highest honor—awarded to Shipp

By the time she was 13, Kay Heck Shipp knew the meaning of a long-day's work.

During the summer, Shipp earned extra money packing peaches in a sweltering shed at the Northeast Louisiana Experiment Station.

During the school year, she made the round-trip journey from Calhoun to Monroe and back, as a student at St. Matthews Catholic School (which became St. Frederick in her sophomore year).

Because she depended on others for transportation, the school day often lasted 12 hours by the time she was returned home, but Shipp was enthusiastic about the educational opportunity afforded her by St. Frederick.

Shipp's attitude about receiving an education at the University of Louisiana at Monroe was equally undaunted.

"I came to ULM on scholarship and was director of the language lab when Dr. Carlos Fandal led the department," she said. "I was putting myself through college, so I didn't have time to dally around."

Shipp is the recipient of this year's ULM Golden Arrow award. The award is the highest honor given by the university in recognition of outstanding service and support of the institution.

Shipp, a double major in geography and history, earned her bachelor's degree in 1970.

When the university offered her a graduate assistantship, she jumped at the opportunity to earn her master's degree in history, which she completed in 1973.

"I was really thankful to get an education," Shipp said. "I felt privileged to be at ULM."

It is this same thankful attitude that permeates much of Shipp's community and civic involvement, from her work on the ULM Alumni Association Board (now in her second term of service), to the North Louisiana Agribusiness Council and the LifeShare Blood Centers Board of Regents, where she works on the properties and audit committees and the Foundation Board.

In addition, Kay has volunteered with the ARCO Resource Development Committee, Farm Bureau Board of Directors, Little Theatre Board of Directors, ULM Agricultural Advisory Committee, and she was co-chair of the St. Frederick Building Fund Campaign. She also serves on the ULM Foundation Board of Trustees.

Shipp's involvement has brought her more than a few accolades through the years, including the "Outstanding Woman in Agriculture," the "Block and Bridle Club" award for outstanding service, the Arco "outstanding volunteer" award (twice), and the first ever "Spirit of St. Frederick" award.

"I was very shocked by that one," Shipp admitted.

Shipp was also pleasantly shocked when asked to serve as the first woman president of the Louisiana Purchase Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which consists of 20 parishes.

The organization was important to Shipp's husband, Jim, who was serving his second term as President of the Council when he was killed in an explosion at the International Minerals and Chemical plant in Sterlington in 1991.

Shipp continued to be involved with Boy Scouts following her husband's death and, a year later, she was asked to serve on the board. It was perhaps only a matter of time before she would be asked to lead the organization.

"I told them that if I was going to serve as president, I wanted to make it to every court of honor, any celebration they had," Shipp said.

"I think the young scouts should know we have an interest in all that they do and are proud of their accomplishments."

So intently did Shipp tackle her duties as president, the Boy Scouts recently honored her with a Silver Beaver award, the highest accolade possible for a non-scout.

The award is given for distinguished service to adult leaders who have made an impact on the lives of council youth.

Shipp was characteristically humble about the honor: "I feel like I'm the most blessed person and have received honors I didn't deserve."

In addition to her volunteer efforts, Shipp has stepped into a variety of job roles since graduating from ULM.

At North Delta Regional Planning and Development District, she helped secure federal grant funding for 11 parishes in northeast Louisiana, and she later was hired as the Director of the North Delta Law Enforcement District.

She built and operated a pet, feed, and tack store in Swartz ("The Horse Place"), which she sold in 1992.

But Shipp's work as a horse breeder and cattle rancher from 1982 until 2000 has perhaps brought her greatest satisfaction, as it was the means by which she developed a strong and lasting connection with her Alma Mater.

She donated several good mares to ULM and also bred many of their horses with her two studs.

She became devoted to ULM's horse program, and when her husband was killed, she provided the funds to the university to erect the "Jim Shipp Pavilion" to be used as a riding facility for handicapped children.

More recently, Shipp put her equestrian skills to use as a commissioned officer riding with the mounted patrol of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office.

Shipp was even hired by an independent security company as a mounted patrol officer at the Bonneroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn. for the past two years.

Shipp is the owner and operator of Shipp Farms since 1985, but 10 years ago she stepped back from "hands on" ranching, leased her property to a local entrepreneur, and turned her work ethic toward volunteer efforts—the kind of volunteerism that reminds a person how much work volunteering can really be.

As to why she is so adamant about supporting her alma mater, Shipp said it was because of the people who make up the institution.

Shipp never fails to thank a ULM 31 ambassador when she sees one (the group serves as official host for alumni-related activities at the university), and she is insistent about the importance of funding higher education for future generations.

"I'll always give to St. Frederick and I'll always give to ULM," she said. "Those two schools are the reason I am here."

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