Joyce Ann Wroten passed away Saturday, February 16, 2019 at the age of 78. Joyce was born April 26, 1940 in Perry County Arkansas to Robert and Vida Ussery. She attended school in the small town of Perryville. In high school she was captain and a star player on the girls basketball team. Eager to progress with life, Joyce married her childhood sweetheart, Jimmy Wroten, at the tender age of 16. Soon thereafter, the couple and their infant daughter moved to Little Rock where they made their home. Joyce and Jimmy established roots in Little Rock and expanded their family to include a son. Joyce began her professional career at UAMS in charge of student housing. Recognizing the need for additional education to advance her career, and with the unwavering support of her devoted husband, Joyce applied to and was accepted at UA Little Rock as a non-traditional student.
Upon completion of her studies, Joyce began working for the Legislative Council of the Arkansas General Assembly, then joined the staff of Governor Bill Clinton, and later took the position as deputy director in the Department of Local Services. Having gathered a variety of experiences, she made the move that would define her career for the next thirty years, rejoining the University of Arkansas System where she worked as chief lobbyist for three different UA System Presidents.
Joyce has been described by her colleagues as a visionary, exemplifying the words of Thoreau in that it is not what you look at but what you see. Her legislative approach was nimble and skillful. Once described by former Governor Mike Beebe as “tougher than a nickel steak and meaner than a snake” Joyce was a crack strategist, a trait recognized by legislators who would often tap into her tactical strengths to help meet their own goals.
From humble beginnings, Joyce identified with those who had limited access to opportunity. For several years she coordinated with legislative leaders to design strategic policy conferences organized and hosted by the UA System. She staunchly believed that university research and programs would be beneficial to legislators in public policy development for the greater good of Arkansas citizens. Joyce had enduring positive impact on the UA System for three decades as well as the higher education community in general. Her influence stemmed both from her professional expertise and from the force of her personality. Presidents, chancellors, vice-presidents and directors of the UA System as well as those from other universities and states relied on her advice and counsel.
Her experience as a non-traditional college student led to the promotion of higher education through expansion of university access to rural and underserved communities. Perhaps her most significant accomplishment was facilitating cooperation between the University of Arkansas System and the Arkansas State University System to invest the funds from the multi-billion dollar tobacco settlement in proactive and preventative health related programs and research including the establishment of the UAMS College of Public Health. This cooperative research alliance between the two systems continues to flourish to this day.
Joyce loved adventure, collecting antiques, and traveling with family and friends. Her wanderlust and treasure hunting took her far and wide from local auctions to the souks of Dubai. After many years as a spiritual traveler, Joyce embraced the Episcopal faith and was confirmed by the Episcopal Bishop of Arkansas at Trinity Cathedral on May 1, 2016. Her greatest passion, however, was her work and due to this, the citizens of Arkansas have much to be grateful for so when you are visiting Garvan Woodland Gardens, attending a conference at the world–class Winthrop Rockefeller Institute at Petit Jean Mountain or celebrating the graduation of a non-traditional university student know that you are enjoying these experiences due to the good work of Joyce Wroten.
Joyce was predeceased by her parents Robert and Vida Ussery, husband Jimmy Wroten, and sister Joan Rose. Joyce is survived by her daughter Cheri Warmack (Asa), son Scott Wroten (Kim), grandsons Derek Boyce, and Jake Boyce (Ashley), great-grandson Mason Boyce, brother-in-law and sister-in-law John D. (Buddy) and Maudine Wroten Wright and beloved nieces, nephews and friends.
The family would like to express our sincere gratitude for the wonderful care given by the staff of Parkway Village and Baptist Health Hospice. A special thanks to Stacy Howard, Parkway Village and Nathan Shirley, Baptist Health Hospice. Much appreciation is given to former Governor Mike Beebe, Governor Asa Hutchinson, Dr. Donald Bobbitt, Cherry Duckett, Sherry Walker, Win Thompson, and Steven Simpson of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette for remembrances.
The family will hold a private graveside service. Memorials may be made to the UA Little Rock Office of Alumni and Development c/o Joyce Wroten Scholarship for Non-Traditional Students, 2801 S. University Ave., Little Rock AR, 72204 or by calling 501-683-7208. The family welcomes online condolence messages at arkansascremation.com.