OPINION | WOODY BASSETT: The University of Arkansas is in good hands with some recent changes

And a few thoughts on baseball and a good book

Today, the University of Arkansas will celebrate the investiture of Charles F. Robinson as the seventh chancellor of the Fayetteville campus. After serving as interim chancellor for 14 months, Robinson ascended to the chancellorship last November.

While still early in his tenure, Robinson has already proven himself a popular and dynamic chief executive. He's an experienced and effective administrator who demonstrates daily his exceptional leadership skills. His character and integrity are impeccable.

Robinson's investiture is a joyous occasion for those on "The Hill" and for countless others throughout Arkansas and beyond. With Robinson at the helm, the University of Arkansas's flagship campus is in extraordinarily capable hands. He's the right leader, at the right place, at the right time.

Scott Varady, whom I've known for years, was recently named vice chancellor for University Advancement by Chancellor Robinson. He officially started his new job this week. Robinson hit the ball out of the park with his decision to place Varady in this very important universitywide fundraising job.

Varady is a U of A alumnus who previously served more than 19 years with the university's Office of the General Counsel, including his role as associate general counsel, prior to becoming the executive director and general counsel of the Razorback Foundation in 2015. He's a great guy and an outstanding lawyer. And a very good drummer, too. Varady is a genuine "renaissance man," accomplished at everything he has undertaken in his life. No one works harder or smarter than him.

In his new role as leader of the University Advancement division, you can bet Vice Chancellor Varady will be immensely successful in working with others to generate the necessary resources to help the U of A's flagship campus achieve excellence on a national and international level.

It's baseball season and once again Head Coach Dave Van Horn has his Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team currently at or near the top in the Southeastern Conference as one of the highest nationally ranked squads in the country.

This is Van Horn's 21st season guiding Arkansas baseball. He has built an elite program, doing it the right way from day one. He values fundamentals, on and off the baseball field, and runs the baseball program with class and manages his team in a refreshing, no-nonsense manner. He has had terrific success, consistently winning big year after year, with his teams often landing in the College World Series in Omaha. Van Horn is widely acknowledged as one of the very best coaches in college baseball.

Baum-Walker Stadium is considered by most to be the best college ballpark in America. In 2022, Arkansas led the country in both total attendance (363,153) and average attendance (10,376). There's no better environment and crowd support than what Baum-Walker offers on game day, providing the Razorbacks with a clear home field advantage. The energy in the stadium is often palpable, as it was last weekend when the Hogs swept three games from Tennessee. Passionate and vocal Arkansas fans make Baum-Walker a "happening" every time the Razorback baseball team takes the field in Fayetteville. It's a fun and lively place to be for a baseball game.

"Shadow Divers" by Robert Kurson is a book recommended to me by my friend, Bob Anderson. I'm grateful to him for doing so because it turned out to be one of the best and most captivating books I've read in a long time.

Masterfully written, it's the remarkable and true story of two recreational scuba divers, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, who in 1991 discovered a sunken World War II German U-boat at the bottom of the frigid Atlantic Ocean 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey. The fifty-six man crew was still aboard. No government, expert, historian, or navy had a clue as to which submarine it was, who the sailors were, or why it was in New Jersey.

Over the next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve one of the last mysteries of World War II. Some of them wouldn't live to see its end. Chatterton and Kohler, at first bitter rivals, were drawn into a deep friendship and had a shared obsession with finding answers, each realizing along the journey that he was hunting for more than the identities of a lost U-boat and its nameless crew.

Here are a few quotes about the book from major publications that reviewed it: "Absorbing ... a fantastic yarn that happens to be true." "A gripping adventure story." "A pulse-quickening real-life thriller." "Kurson's adrenalized prose sweeps you along in a tale of average-guy adventure."

This book has it all: so human, so real, so compelling. Read this one. It will be time well spent.

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