Walkers donate $2.96 Million for Teacher Education Program

Release Date: 12/6/2006

Clarksville, Ark. --- The University of the Ozarks has announced a $2.96 million gift from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation of Fayetteville that will give teacher education in Arkansas another big boost. The gift will endow the maintenance and operations of the University's Walker Hall, the 34,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, teacher education and communications center that opened on the Ozarks campus in 2002

The new Walker Hall Excellence in Teaching Endowment Fund will provide a portion of the annual financial resources necessary to keep the high-tech facility in top condition with state-of-the-art technology and programming. A $7 million dollar gift from the Walker family in 2001 funded the construction costs for Walker Hall.

"State-of-the-art programs and facilities must be attended to on a regular basis to remain state-of-the-art," said Ozarks President Dr. Rick Niece. "The amazing gift from the Walker Foundation to endow Walker Hall, its technology, and operations is a blessing beyond description. Because of the Walker's generosity, decade after decade after decade of teacher preparation and communication majors will benefit from an education second to none."

The Walker Foundation's gift will be counted toward matching a $20 million dollar lead gift to the University by Mrs. Helen R. Walton of Bentonville, Ark. That gift and the launch of the University's five-year, $40 million, Promise of Excellence Campaign were announced in February. The primary emphasis of Mrs. Walton's gift was to build an already strong teacher education program at Ozarks into a “teacher education program of excellence," and included an emphasis on keeping well-trained teachers in Arkansas.

In recognition of the Walker family's ongoing, strong support of teacher education, the University will formally dedicate its teacher education program as the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program at the spring meeting of its Board of Trustees on Friday, April 20, 2007.

A Springdale resident, Mrs. Walker and her late husband Willard are well known throughout Arkansas as generous philanthropists who have provided numerous major contributions to educational, healthcare, and human service organizations throughout the state. Mrs. Debbie Walker, executive director of the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, notified University officials of the gift.

"Our family is pleased to be a partner with University of the Ozarks and Mrs. Walton in providing quality education opportunities for future teachers," said Debbie Walker. "It is truly an honor for both Pat and our family to have the Teacher Education Program bear her name."

Niece said every conversation he and his wife Sheree had with the Walkers "began and ended with the importance of educating young people and the critical need for dedicated, well-prepared and committed teachers."

"As a former high school English teacher myself, I understood the need," Niece said. "We want the University of the Ozarks to be the model program for teacher preparation. We believe that naming our program in honor of Pat Walker will help that vision become a reality. What an honor it will be for Ozarks' students to be accepted into, learn within, and graduate from the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program."