SAU alumnus endows scholarship to benefit 1st generation college students


MAGNOLIA, Ark. (KTAL/KSHV) — An alumnus of Southern Arkansas University is giving back to his hometown by establishing a scholarship that will provide students with a quality education.

John Dews, former Simmons Bank of El Dorado chairman and CEO, and his wife, Beverly, a 1985 graduate of SAU-El Dorado, have generously funded the John and Beverly Dews Scholarship Endowment at $25,000 to help Union County students who need financial assistance.

The scholarship also gives preference to first-generation students.

Dews, a Union County native and 1977 SAU alumnus, attributes his successful career in banking to the BBA he earned as a Mulerider.

Dews said, “I was the first to go to college in my family. SAU was transformational. It opened doors we would love to see open for others.”

A graduate of Mount Holly High School, Dews won a Readers Digest Valedictory Scholarship to help pay his way through college.

Dews added, “I worked to provide the rest. The total amount of my financial aid was $200.”

Dews offered praise and gratitude for his education at SAU, recalling the many business professors who impacted him academically as well as professionally.

Dews said, “I had amazing classroom instructors. I went to SAU intending to transfer to the University of Arkansas but quickly realized I was receiving the best education I could right here. I became part of that amazing accounting class of 1977.”

The SAU alumnus began his career in the oil and gas industry before migrating into banking. Dews said,“and the rest is history.”

Now retired in Hot Springs, Dews started at Simmons First Bank of El Dorado as the institution’s first chief financial officer before advancing to chairman and CEO.

Dews said, “I was one of the youngest bank presidents in the state. I have no doubt that my accounting degree was a significant factor in my progressing to the presidency.”

From 1985-2010 Dews served the El Dorado bank. He also served as president and CEO at Citizens Bank of Batesville.

Dews and his wife feel a strong desire to make a difference in future generations.

Dews said, “We want to help our home and the towns that made the difference for us. SAU made this possible.”

Their endowment is part of a long history of support for SAU.

Dews added, “We’ve never lost touch. We will always find ways of helping our alma mater.”

As a young student, SAU provided Dews a quality, affordable choice for his education.

Dews said, “I ask those considering their first college home to look at the value and quality produced by this institution. SAU truly delivers on its promise to feel like home.”

This gift was a part of the University’s Love and Loyalty Campaign, an effort which is in its fifth and final year seeking to raise $22.275 million.

Increasing the number of scholarship endowments available through the SAU Foundation is a major focus of the campaign.

For more information on the Love and Loyalty Campaign, please visit or contact the Division of Advancement at (870) 235-4078.

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