Chris and Debra Wewers are Reddies who remain very active alumni. The couple met during freshman orientation when they were placed in the Red and Gray Line group together.
The Wewers are members of the Reddie Club who love attending football games. The Wewers support students’ academic success each year with the Christopher M. Wewers Business Scholarship for a School of Business student and a student from the Teachers College with the Debra Nutt Wewers Education Scholarship.
Chris is also Chairman on the HSU Foundation Board and the School of Business Advisory Board.
We wanted to take a moment to learn more about the couple and their experiences at Henderson that shaped their lives and how they continue to stay connected to their alma mater.
1. When did you attend Henderson and in what activities did you participate?
I attended HSU from August ‘89 through December ‘92. I played on the HSU golf team for two years (‘89 – ‘90 and ‘90 – ‘91). I lived in Newberry (for three long years) and I was an RA for two years (‘90 – ‘91 and ‘91 – ‘92). I was a member of Alpha Chi. I spent a lot of time studying in Mooney and in the library (as evidenced by finishing my undergraduate degree in 3.5 years, graduating Summa Cum Laude).
I attended HSU from Aug. ‘89 through May ‘95. I received by Bachelors of Science in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood in May ‘93 and my Masters of Science in Education in May ‘95.
2. What was your major? What prompted you to pursue your particular degree?
I received my Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) with a major in Accounting. I’ve always loved numbers; the math clicks in my brain and optically I can see how all of the pieces play and fit together.
My initial major was Accounting. Before I ever took an accounting class, I switched to Fashion Merchandising, took some classes and then quickly switched to Education.
3. Why did you choose Henderson?
Chris and Debra
We chose Henderson because the school has a great reputation, it was close to home, and it was a good value.
4. What is your hometown? From what high school did you graduate and in what year?
I graduated from Hope High School in May 1989.
I graduated from Sparkman High School in May 1989.
5. What is your current occupation and your primary focus? Briefly describe what you do.
I have the privilege of serving as the Chief Financial Officer for Southern Bancorp Inc. and Southern Bancorp Bank. My primary areas of focus are Accounting, Finance & Operations. Given that every quarter I sign our financial statements under penalty of perjury (literally, it’s on the forms we submit to the government each quarter), my job is to make sure every dollar is accounted for, every dollar is in the right place, the trains run on the right tracks at the right times and that we’re managing the company within the risk parameters as outlined by our respective Boards of Directors.
Currently I’m a fitness instructor with LA Fitness (Zumba certified, cycling and kickboxing). As we raised our two children (Ashley – 24 and Stephen – 21), my most rewarding job has been being a homemaker. I also was the office manager for an optometrist, an office manager for a dentist, and a financial aid officer at a university.
6. Please “chart” your education and career progression since you graduated Henderson. And what are your future plans?
Dec 92 – May 95, Management Trainee at Merchants & Planters Bank, Arkadelphia, AR
May 95 – Aug 98, Assistant to the President, Horizon Bank, Arkadelphia, AR
Aug 98 – Nov 98, President & Chief Operating Officer, Merchants & Planters Bank, Sparkman, AR
Dec 98 – Aug 99, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Community Bank FSB
Sep 99 – Jun 01, President & Chief Operating Officer, Community Bank of North Arkansas
Jul 01 – Mar 11, Chief Financial Officer, Summit Bank
Apr 11 – Jun 13, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, First Federal Bank
Jul 13 – Mar 15, President & Chief Executive Officer, First Federal Bank
Mar 15 – Present, Chief Financial Officer, Southern Bancorp Bank
My future plans are to someday ‘retire’ to the classroom. I want to teach business law, accounting and finance at the collegiate level.
I didn’t go into teaching. I have one of the most important jobs in the world (raising our 2 kids).
7. How has your degree benefited you in your career progression?
What I learned and what I was taught in the HSU School of Business by Dr. Louis Dawkins, Don Dodson, and Dr. Margaret Hoskins is the rock solid foundation of my entire career. The more effort I put forth, the more effort they poured into me, challenged me, shaped me, molded me. Critical thinking, to always challenge the status quo, pay ferocious attention to the details, dress and carry yourself appropriately, be able to clearly and succinctly convey your thoughts and don’t be on time – be early.
I’m proud that I got my BSE and my MSE; however, life and family took me in a different direction, and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.
8. What aspect of your degree/career most interests you and what do you enjoy most about your profession?
What I love about banking is it’s universal. Everyone needs it, and everyone can participate in it. I don’t know of another business where with the stroke of a pen, you can change someone’s life forever (or for multiple generations). Helping people conduct their financial business, reach their financial goals and be good stewards of their resources is very rewarding. Banks who operate as though we’re a commodity business will be just that, a commodity that can go away overnight. Banking is about relationships, and relationships matter, relationships with your co-workers, your customers and your communities. Lose that connection, and you’re on a downhill slide. A wise old sage told me years ago that “Accounting is Science, Finance is Art, master the Science and then you can go paint a Picasso!”. Banking allows me the opportunity to do that.
I actually taught at the Child Service Center as a Graduate Assistant position during my Masters program. Upon graduating, I accepted a position as a Kindergarten teacher at the Christian School located in Cornerstone Baptist Church. Complications during my second pregnancy prevented me from returning the second half of the school year.The love of staying home and nurturing my children overcame the desire to go back into the school system. The Early Childhood Education degree helped me in so many ways with raising my children. They are both so different, and having the background in education helped both to blossom in the areas they loved as well as prepare them to tackle areas they were not so fond of. It makes me so proud to see the young adults they have become.
I think the most rewarding thing in my classes is to see how hard people push themselves. I’ve had a student tell me that the conditioning and endurance in the cycling class helped him complete a marathon.
I think the main thing I stress is to have fun! If you’re not having fun then chances are you won’t stick to your workout regimen.
9. Would you recommend your degree track at Henderson, and why? Any advice for current students?
Unequivocally. To build anything that will last, it all starts with a great foundation. If you will put forth the effort, that’s exactly what the HSU School of Business will give you, a great foundation from which to springboard into your career. It is a competition (your competitors are all of those other students sitting around you in class). If you give average efforts, you’ll get average results. If you give great efforts, you’ll get great results.
I would wholeheartedly recommend my degree track at HSU to current and future students. A solid foundation is important to having a successful career, and I received that from HSU. My advice for current students is to pour your heart and soul into it. it is rewarding and fulfilling.
10. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since you graduated from Henderson?
My degree and the other things I learned at HSU are an extensive part of the reason I’ve been blessed to have a successful career in banking. What I can also tell you is that when I went to the University of Arkansas from May 94 to May 95 to get my MBA, I was better prepared than all of the other graduate students (which I believe is why I was able to complete the program with a 4.0 GPA and receive the “Outstanding Graduate Student” Award from the Walton School of Business).
As we raised our two children, my most rewarding job has been being a homemaker.
11. If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you say? Could you share something that most people don’t know about you?
Detailed, results oriented, matter-of-fact, committed. If I can’t give 100% to something, I won’t do it. I’m also a rabid NASCAR fan (who doesn’t like the idea of a driving a 650 hp machine at 200 mph!). Also, when I was in high school, I could play any musical instrument you found in the band except for the piccolo.
Compassionate, kind-hearted, driven, a rule follower. For her fitness classes that she teaches, Debra pours hours a day searching for the one right choreography for a song for her next class.
12. What other degree did you consider pursuing?
Electrical or mechanical engineering.
13. Please list any awards or honors.
2006 – Arkansas Business, 40 Under 40
2010 – Arkansas Business, CFO of the Year
2014 – Henderson State University, Business Hall of Fame
2018 – Arkansas Business, CFO of the Year Finalist
I didn’t receive a plaque or a certificate for it, but being a great mother and a great wife is very satisfying.
14. Interesting Facts and Additional Comments:
Other factors also helped shape me, and I did all of these while getting my degree at HSU. If you’ve ever worked as an RA (two years), if you’ve ever worked at McDonald’s (one semester) or if you’ve ever worked as a diesel mechanic (eight months and all while getting my degree at HSU), you have all the motivation you need to finish your degree.
Also, Debra has been my rock that has been by my side for twenty-seven years, supporting me, encouraging me, challenging me and holding me accountable throughout my career. She even stuck around after her father called me a ‘block head’ (actually what he said was “that boy’s got a good square head on his shoulders”, but it’s not nearly as funny to say it that way).