LITTLE ROCK (May 20, 2021) — University of Arkansas System President Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, who serves as chair of the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network (ARE-ON) Governing Board, today announced that Elon Turner, of Fayetteville, will take over as executive director of ARE-ON beginning June 21.
Turner, who has served in various Information Technology roles at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville since 2008, is the current director of infrastructure and telecommunication services at the flagship campus.
ARE-ON is a nonprofit consortium of all public degree-granting institutions in Arkansas and other selected higher education organizations and provides a high-speed fiber optic backbone network throughout the state to its members, affiliates, national research and education networks, regional optical networks and commercial service providers. The organization is a state entity governed by the presidents and chancellors of participating institutions in cooperation with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. The ARE-ON Governing Board of Directors, composed of 15 representatives of its four- and two-year member institutions and the UA Division of Agriculture, has decision-making authority for the organization.
“After a thorough search over the last year, I’m confident that Mr. Turner is equipped with the experience, knowledge and expertise to continue the important work ARE-ON does to help the state reach its goals from an economic and educational perspective,” Bobbitt said. “The ARE-ON Board of Directors has been instrumental in helping with this search and we’re eager for him to get started to help take the important work ARE-ON does for higher education and the state to the next level.”
Turner will replace David Merrifield, who spent 42 years in information technology with the University of Arkansas, including his last 12 years as chief technology officer for ARE-ON, and who came out of retirement to lead the nonprofit as interim executive director for the last 10 months.
“I can’t express enough how thankful we are to have had Mr. Merrifield’s steady leadership in the organization during the interim of finding a permanent executive director,” Bobbitt said. “He willingly came out of retirement to keep ARE-ON on track and lay the groundwork for this transition into its next era.”
Turner earned a bachelor’s degree in communication, a graduate certificate of enterprise systems and a Master of Information Systems degree from the University of Arkansas. He was active in campus governance at UA, having served on the Staff Senate for seven years that also included roles as vice chair and chair.
“I’m honored to be selected to lead ARE-ON, which holds such an essential place in the state’s economic and educational fabric,” Turner said. “I’m excited to start the work of bringing ARE-ON into its next chapter and to continue serving the state during this critical time in technological infrastructure development and maintenance.”