When Sach Oliver of Viola received the most prestigious honor Arkansas State University bestows upon its graduates earlier this spring, it was a feather in the cap for Fulton County.
But it wasn't the first.
The R.E. Lee Wilson Award, presented annually to the most outstanding recent graduate or graduating senior at ASU, had already been awarded to another Fulton County student. It's understandable if few remember the earlier award -- it occurred 55 years ago.
In 1948 Sterlin C. Moore, now Doctor Sterlin C. Moore, received the honor. Moore, 84, is living in Buda, Texas, near San Antonio, where he is retired from a distinguished career in educational administration. And that followed a distinguished career as an Army officer.
When he learned Oliver had received the award, Moore commented, "There's probably not another small, rural county that has produced two winners of the Wilson Award. I think that says something about Fulton County."
Oliver counted among his many honors being elected president of the Student Government Association at ASU. Like Oliver, Moore showed exceptional leadership ability at an early age. Moore graduated with distinction from ASU in 1948 with degrees in English and social science. He was president of the Debate Club, the Pre-Law Club, the Veterans Club and El Circulo Espanol. He was also in Pi Gamma Mu, Pi Kappa Delta and a member of the Student Senate.
Even earlier, he was valedictorian of the Salem High School class of 1937 and won first place in the Comprehensive Academic Examination for high school seniors at ASU. He was editor of the yearbook and on the debate team. Between high school and college he taught first through eighth grades in one-room schools in Fulton County (when common schools did not require teachers to have college degrees), served as assistant county tax assessor, worked on a land survey team, was as an auditor at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and worked as an insurance claims adjuster in Jonesboro.
Since leaving ASU, Moore's path has taken him all over the country -- and the world. He earned the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army, having attended the Command and General Staff College. He was an ROTC teacher/supervisor at the high school and college levels in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Along the way he earned a master's degree in education from the University of Arkansas (1956) and PhD in educational administration from the University of Texas. He taught military history at the Korean branch of the University of Maryland, then returned to the States and became an elementary school principal in San Antonio.
He was a junior high principal, then assistant school superintendent for North East Independent School District in San Antonio. He later taught at the University of Texas at Austin before serving as an administrator with Austin Community College until his retirement in 1984.
Moore's wife, the former Virginia Emery, also grew up in Salem. Her sisters, Wanda Coggins and Cleo McDonald, still live in the area. The Moores continue to keep up with events in Fulton County through The News.