(Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)
Mrs. Sanders started to work at Arkansas State University 26 years ago as a steno-typist for Dr. Ruth Hawkins.
"At that time is was the ASU Development Department, specializing in scholarships and special programs," Sanders said. "It later became the Intuitional Advancement Department. As work in the Crowley Ridge Parkway developed, it opened up tourism for the Delta Heritage Initiatives. With the onset of the internet and the interest in historic locations the department became known as Arkansas State University Heritage Sites."
"My desire had always been to be a wife and mother and help my husband Larry with our farming operation," Sanders said. "I started work at ASU to add support to my family financially and made some treasured friends in the effort. It didn't take me long to obtain an interest in the aspects of my job. I took classes on my lunch hour and at night and went on to obtain my bachelors degree."
As Sanders familiarity with her work and ASU grew, she went on to earn a bachelors degree at ASU and see her sons attend the university as well.
For the past 13 years Sanders has overseen duties at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer facility in Piggott, driving a round trip of 120 miles a day from her home on Highway 139, southeast of Monette.
"There was a lot of work involved when ASU undertook to restore the Hemingway-Pfeiffer home and develop it into a cultural and education center," Sanders said. "I have enjoyed my work and have a great appreciation for the history behind the life and work of Ernest Hemingway and the Pfeiffer family."
Sanders has been instrumental in developing the seasonal Writers Retreat events at the Hemingway site, where writers from near and far visit and take part in training sessions provided by professional writers and educators. She has also developed quilt shows and special events. Her latest project was the development of the African Safari exhibit, featuring attractions based on the 1934 African safari enjoyed by Ernest Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer, as recounted in Pfeiffer's diary. The grand opening of the "Into the Wild" exhibit was last Wednesday, and it drew great reviews.
The Hemingway site is just one of four of the heritage sites developed by ASU. The others include Lakeport Plantation, near Lake Village; Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, in Tyronza; and the newest acquisition, the boyhood home of Johnny Cash, in Dyess.
Diana and Larry Sanders are pleased to have their children and grandchildren close by. Their family consists of Shannon and Jeri Lynn Sanders and children, Bryton and Emmie; Nathan and Jill Sanders and sons, Jacob and Evan; and Heath and Kristie Sanders and son H.D.
"I am looking forward to coming back to my first love, my home and my family," Sanders said. "I want to be there to see my grandchildren grow up, and for them to drop by whenever they want. I feel so blessed to have had the best of both worlds, my family and a fascinating career."
Sanders serves on the Buffalo Island Museum Committee in Monette and has helped develop open houses, quilt shows and book signings there.
"I plan to stay involved in my work at the Monette museum, in my church, and with all the things my grandkids are involved in," Sanders said. "Most of all I am looking forward to a slower paced lifestyle and walking around in my flower garden with my morning cup of coffee."
A special retirement party was held for Sanders Friday in the Executive Dining Room of Carl R. Reng Center on the ASU campus in Jonesboro. Family and co-workers took turns paying tribute to her with testimonials of happy times spent together.