Son’s Memory, Love for Community Reasons for Substantial Gift to El Dorado Regional Campus

By Benjamin Waldrum

Nolan, former chair of Deltic Timber, managing member of Munoco Company L.C. and an El Dorado resident, made the gift in honor of his son, the late Justin M. Nolan, Ph.D., an accomplished anthropology professor.

“El Dorado was Justin’s native home, and he had an abiding love for this community and for south Arkansas, with plans to retire here,” said Nolan. “He believed that we all should leave the world a better place than we found it, and this gift is in fulfillment of that conviction.”

“This significant and thoughtful gift from Bob Nolan pushes us closer to making the regional campus in El Dorado a reality,” said Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, UAMS chancellor and UAMS Health CEO. “Each regional campus becomes indelibly linked to health and wellness of its community, and soon we will have that in El Dorado and Union County.”

The El Dorado campus represents a joint effort by UAMS and the Medical Center of South Arkansas to increase medical access throughout south Arkansas by training primary care physicians to serve Union County. UAMS expects to open the clinic in 2023, with residents arriving in 2024 or 2025.

The El Dorado campus will be UAMS’ ninth regional campus. The majority of family practice physicians in rural areas of the state are trained at one of UAMS’ eight regional campuses. Creating a regional campus in El Dorado will provide an influx of physicians and health care professionals in Union County and south Arkansas to create a sustainable educational and training pipeline and make it easier to maintain consistent levels of care.

Justin Nolan, who passed away in May 2020, rose through the ranks at the University of Arkansas to become chair of the Department of Anthropology. He was widely published, authoring two books and multiple scholarly articles. Recognized as an expert in his field, he was an invited lecturer at institutions across the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. He was well-known for his knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs and their application in Native American culture, as well as in early Ozark settlements.

The younger Nolan knew he wanted to be a teacher at an early age. After graduating with honors from El Dorado High School in 1989, he received his Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, in 1993. From there, he attended the University of Missouri, where he received his master’s in anthropology in 1996 and his doctorate in 2000.

After two years as a visiting associate professor at the University of Missouri following the completion of his degree, Justin Nolan returned home to Arkansas. He became a visiting associate professor in the UA Department of Anthropology, later becoming associate professor and vice chair in 2010, then chair in 2016. He stepped down as chair in 2018 but resumed on-campus teaching and research in 2020.

He was a gifted photographer, loved the Earth and Sky, and he observed it all with a profound sense of wonder. He studied and chronicled the evolution of human behavior and society with a keen eye.

The Dr. Justin M. Nolan Fund for Excellence creates a means to honor the life of Justin through a transformative gift for the El Dorado community.

Regional Campuses, originally called Area Health Education Centers (AHECs), began in 1973 through the efforts of then-Gov. Dale Bumpers, the Arkansas Legislature and UAMS to train medical residents and provide clinical care and health education services around the state. Currently, eight regional campuses are located in Batesville, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Helena-West Helena, Jonesboro, Magnolia, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.