June Nordman Mashburn of Jacksonville saw a lot of “firsts” in her 103 years of living. One of the most significant “firsts” was being a member of the first graduating class of the institution that became the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
The former school teacher, who taught 48 years in Little Rock, Paron, and Jacksonville, died Thursday, Aug. 23. She was one of eight students who made up the inaugural graduation class of Little Rock Junior College, which had been established two years earlier in 1927.
“I’ve had many firsts, but one ‘first’ at LRJC that led to so much more was when I was in the first graduation class. That led to many others,” she said at her 100th birthday celebration. “It was a joyful two years.”
Born June Nordman on June 30, 1909, in Jasper, Ark., the family moved to Little Rock in 1911. The youngest of three children, “Miss June” knew that chances were nil that the family could send her to college to become a teacher, which was her goal.
“R.C. Hall, who was the head of the Little Rock Schools, had a great dream of a college for Little Rock,” Mashburn said. “When I graduated (from high school) in 1927, it came true, and we had classes in one of the Little Rock schools. I could stay in Little Rock and get an education.”
Hall’s support for a higher education option for central Arkansas students came at the urging of John A. Larson, who became founder and president of the college. Larson was dedicated to creating an educational institution to provide future growth of the region. Thanks to a generous endowment by former Gov. George W. Donaghey and his wife, the new institution took flight.
At 24, “Mrs. June” as she is known in Jacksonville, married Glenn Mashburn just before he was shipped out to serve a three-year tour during World War II. She continued to teach in Little Rock. In 1949, she and Glenn moved to Jacksonville where she taught at Jacksonville Elementary School until she retired in 1971. Mr. Mashburn died at 89 after 64 years of marriage. She continued to teach Sunday school for 85 years, until she turned 100.
UALR’s oldest graduate kept up with the growth of her alma mater, as it became a four-year institution as Little Rock University and then joined the University of Arkansas System as UALR.
“It’s grown and grown so much, I am just so proud,” she said in 2009. “It’s been wonderful that so many have been able to go there. And I’m just so proud I could live to see it.”