Cardinal Cadence Spring/Summer 2013

Building business

Elizabeth and Gene ArnoldFor most people, retirement means taking it easy and doing all the things you never had the chance to do during your career. For Gene Arnold ’61, ’80, his passion has always been business, and retirement didn’t diminish that passion. To acknowledge all that Lamar has done for him and wife Elizabeth -64, they have established the Gene and Elizabeth Arnold Innovation Fund in Business and the Gene and Elizabeth Arnold Innovation Fund in Audiology.

Arnold earned a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting in 1961 and an M.B.A. in 1980, both from Lamar. As a certified public accountant, he spent 30-plus years serving various business interests in nearly every senior managerial capacity from controller to stock broker to vice president. His service to Lamar came after his first retirement.

“When I retired, I guess I got bored, so I came out to the Lamar Small Business Development Center to see if there was anything I could do for them. Well, I ended up becoming the director of the center,” Arnold said. It was a position he would hold for the next 11 years.

The motivation for establishing the endowed innovation funds rather than endowed scholarships came from Arnold’s years of experience in knowing what it takes to fundraise and the challenge of allocating limited resources. The innovation funds may be used to support teaching, research, service and professional development activities of faculty, as well as funding for new programs or for enhancement of existing programs. The fund may also be used for student scholarships or to assist with other student activities.

“There are things you just can’t do when you only have restricted funds,” Arnold said. “If you have unrestricted funds at your disposal, you can do some really good things at the discretion of the dean.”

The Arnolds have obvious ties to the College of Business, but Elizabeth, who has a hearing impairment, has a special fondness for the Department of Audiology. As a client of the Lamar Audiology Clinic, she is very appreciative for the years of care and service in diagnosing and addressing her audiology needs.

Upon his retirement from Lamar in 2005, he still couldn’t shake the lure of the business world and started his own company—Gene Arnold Enterprises. Initially, his extensive accounting experience fit a focus on the financial affairs of the businesses for which he consulted, but a unique opportunity arose in 2008 that moved him into the realm of international business.

“I knew an attorney who had received a concession from the government of Peru to mine lime,” he said. “He needed a partner and an investment in time, money and expertise, so we formed a partnership to mine and quarry lime in Peru.”

Through an on-site manager, Arnold has spent the last few years constructing the lime processing facility, preparing the quarry and acquiring the kilns and necessary equipment to produce lime oxide and lime hydroxide. Also known as calcium oxide and calcium hydroxide, lime is widely used in building and engineering materials, including limestone products, concrete and mortar. He makes regular trips to Peru each year to manage the business.

Arnold recently started two other businesses in the Beaumont area. He created Armour General Contractors LLC, which builds homes and constructs commercial buildings, roads and other commercial facilities. The other is Cole Creek Materials, a recycling business that takes the residue from demolished buildings, roads and bridges and reprocesses it into fill materials for road beds and other uses.

The Arnold’s love for each other began when they started dating in college and has fostered a love for Lamar University as well. An interesting footnote from his tenure as director of the Small Business Development Center, Arnold has the distinction of being the first person to know Jimmy Simmons had been selected as the 14th president of Lamar.

“The SBDC was housed in one of the buildings in the John Gray Center complex, and the board of trustees was conducting the presidential search interviews in the building next door,” he said with a smile. “I walked out to go to lunch and saw Jimmy walking out of the building with his head down and a glazed look on his face. I just naturally assumed he hadn’t been selected and asked him how it went. He looked at me and said, ‘Looks like I’m the new president of Lamar.’ He definitely had that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face as he added, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’”

Arnold obtained his private pilot’s license nearly 20 years ago and has been an avid flyer since. He recently decided it was time to hang up his wings and finally sold his beloved Bonanza v35b, basically replacing the airplane with a new Chevrolet Camaro convertible “with the biggest engine they make.”

Devoted Lamar sports fans, the Arnolds have only admiration and pride for the renovated Provost-Umphrey Stadium and Dauphin Athletic Complex. They are long time Cardinal Club members and season ticket holders for football, baseball and basketball and still recall watching the Cardinals play football at the old South Park Stadium.

The couple has two children. A daughter, Lyn, is an attorney in Washington State specializing in environmental law, and a son, Lloyd, is completing his M.B.A. at Lamar. He is involved in all aspects of banking and lives in Tomball with wife, Kathy.

by Larry Acker