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Reporter’s notebook: Saying goodbye to Jack

By: 18 November 2010 One Comment

Photo is from the NWACC Foundation Facebook page

It’s rare for a news writer to place themselves in a story, especially a death notice. Being that personal is not typical, but today presents non-typical circumstances.
I’m mourning the death of a man I, and much of the world, called friend. Jack Shewmaker died Wednesday night at his Benton County home. Funeral services will be noon on this Monday, Nov. 22, at Fellowship Bible Church in Rogers.

This information is shared again below, but I wanted to include it closer to the top: The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to one of the following organizations:

  • Jack C. Shewmaker Memorial, Jack Shewmaker Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) World Headquarters, 1959 East Kerr, Springfield, MO 65803
  • Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) Foundation, 1 College Drive, Bentonville, AR 72712-5091
  • Westark Area Council, Boy Scouts of America,1401 Old Greenwood Road, Fort Smith, AR 72901

Business executive, philanthropist, consultant and cattle rancher are all words that can be used to describe Jack, but friend is what I think describes him the best.

I first met Jack when I was an education reporter for another publication. He was a major supporter of NorthWest Arkansas Community College, to which his family donated millions of dollars to construct the Jack Shewmaker Global Business Development Center, which opened earlier this year; and the Shewmaker Center for Workforce Technologies, which is several years old.

A former Wal-Mart executive, Jack was actively involved with helping others obtain success through education and hard work. He lent his expertise, listening ear and kindness to students all over the world through various business programs, including Students In Free Enterprise.

What I appreciated about Jack was his generosity, gentility and grace. Whenever he saw me at an event, he made a point to come over to say hello. I’m a full-time wheelchair user and he did this to make me more comfortable, to adapt to me. He always took time to sit down and look me in the eye, which most people don’t do, especially “important people.” He cared about not only the world around him, but about every single person in that world.

And it showed.

But I’m not the only person who will miss Jack. Besides his amazing wife, Melba, children and grandchildren, the Northwest Arkansas community is mourning his death, but celebrating his life.

These words are from NWACC President Becky Paneitz and are on the NWACC website, www.nwacc.edu:

Jack Shewmaker, one of the greatest advocates for NWACC, passed away from a massive heart attack at his home Wednesday night.

Many of you knew Jack through his generous gifts and his selfless service to our college. Personally, I had the pleasure of meeting Jack and his family shortly after I arrived at NWACC. Jack loved his community and he loved this college and our students – his mission was to make sure residents of this community could participate and benefit from the opportunities here in Northwest Arkansas, and his successes were immeasurable.

Jack’s fingerprints are all over this college – even today, the latest installment of the Jack Shewmaker SIFE Business Leader Lecture Series is taking place on our campus. In 2004, he envisioned a lecture series that would consistently bring some of the nation’s top business executives to NWACC, and it has succeeded in exposing our students to not only his expertise as an executive consultant, but the wisdom of his contemporaries throughout the world.

I will also remember his fondness for our faculty and staff. He once sent a large flower arrangement to be displayed at a faculty/staff appreciation event, and encouraged everyone in attendance to take a flower from the arrangement with them as they left. He sincerely cared for people, and he will always be remembered for that.

Jack’s dynamic legacy will live on here at NWACC, not just through the Shewmaker Center for Workforce Technologies and the Shewmaker Global Business Development Center named for his family, but through the endless opportunities he has given to our students through his generosity. Jack taught us how to celebrate success and the accomplishments of each other, and it’s hard to imagine what life here at NWACC will be like without him. Please keep Melba and her family in your prayers.

This memo is from Mike Duke, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to all Walmart associates. It can be found at www.walmartstores.com

I am personally very sad to share with you that one of Walmart’s greatest warriors passed away last night after many years of service to the company. As many of you know, Jack Shewmaker had been with Walmart since its earliest days. He loved this company and gave it his heart as well as his considerable talents. He was a dear personal friend and, though the company will benefit from his contributions for years to come, it is hard to imagine Walmart without Jack.

Jack was an extraordinarily gifted merchant and one of my greatest ongoing development opportunities was to walk stores and clubs with Jack – with him striding ahead and me taking notes as quickly as I could. He was a mentor to many of us and one of his greatest pleasures over the past few years was developing young merchants. Even after his retirement he continued to attend buyer seminars and operations meetings. As a matter of fact, he was scheduled to speak at one of our buyer meetings later today.

Jack joined the company in 1970 and retired in 1988. He was hired by Sam Walton as a district manager and rose to become president and COO of the company in 1978. He was instrumental in developing our Every Day Low Pricing strategy, which defined our company and set new standards in the retail industry for providing customers with consistent, reliable value. He was also a strong advocate of Walmart’s pioneering development of technology. He led the company’s adoption of bar codes and the launch of its first satellite system in 1983, tying together Walmart’s stores, distribution centers and home office. A year later, he was named vice chairman and chief financial officer, where he served until his retirement in 1988. Jack was also a member of the Walmart Board from 1977 to 2008.

Funeral services will be held at noon Monday, Nov. 22 at the Fellowship Bible Church in Rogers. No visitation is planned. The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to one of the following organizations:

  • Jack C. Shewmaker Memorial, Jack Shewmaker Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) World Headquarters, 1959 East Kerr, Springfield, MO 65803
  • Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) Foundation, 1 College Drive, Bentonville, AR 72712-5091
  • Westark Area Council, Boy Scouts of America,1401 Old Greenwood Road, Fort Smith, AR 72901

Our company owes Jack a tremendous debt of gratitude and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

About: Jamie Smith:
Experienced reporter who is now an entrepreneur. Jamie's Notebook offers writing services including press releases, corporate blogging and feature writing.

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