Release Date: 11/2/1998
Clarksville, Ark. -- The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation announced today a gift of $39.5 million to the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville. (For more information: Larry Isch, 501-979-1420, Steve Edmisten, 501-979-1380, Elise Mitchell 501-443-4673)
The gift is the single largest ever given to a private university in Arkansas. It also ranks as one of the 50 largest gifts made to private higher education since 1967, according to information compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Formal announcement of the gift was made to students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the school by Ozarks President Dr. Rick D. Niece. He told those attending the ceremony in the school's Raymond Munger Memorial Chapel that this was the challenge gift for a $55 million capital campaign to strengthen academic programs, student services, and facilities at the four-year, liberal arts school. He said the school would raise the $15.5 million balance of the campaign goal from other supporters.
Helen R. Walton, wife of late Wal*Mart founder Sam M. Walton and honorary lifetime chair of the Ozarks Board of Trustees, represented the Walton family for the announcement. Also taking part in the ceremony were Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former U.S. Congressman and Ozarks Trustee John Paul Hammerschmidt, and the chairman of Ozarks' board, Richard Streller of Dallas, Tex.
Allocation of "Pride and Promise Gift"
Allocation of the Gift
More than $33 million will be used to strengthen the school's endowment in specific areas. These include faculty compensation and benefits; a new mentors program for freshmen; eight new faculty positions; improved staffing and programming for the school's student life services; and 10 new presidential scholarships for top students. The remaining $6 million of the gift will be designated for renovation of residence halls, improvements to intramural fields, and enhancement of Ozarks' enrollment management systems.
"A major focus of the Walton family is to improve the quality of education," Niece said. "This gift is carefully designed to help this school improve on what we already do well: provide personal attention and a community atmosphere for students seeking a high quality Christian education. Personal attention has always been highly valued here," Niece added. "Now we will just have more and better resources with which to deliver that attention to our students."
Richard Streller, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said, "Some wonderful things have been happening at the University of the Ozarks in the last few years and this gift is another major step in the university's development as a first-class institution. This gift will help Ozarks do an even better job of doing those things it already does well, emphasizing students and higher education in a Christian, liberal arts environment."
Purpose of the Gift
In addition to her many years of work with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Mrs. Walton has had a long-standing relationship with Ozarks. She was elected to the board in 1975, has been a lifetime trustee since 1983, and has been the board's honorary lifetime chair since 1984. She received an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from the university in 1987. The university's Walton Fine Arts Center and its L.S. and Hazel Robson Library are named in recognition of the contributions she and her family have made to the university.
"This school has always played an important role in advancing the Church's emphasis on education and personal enlightenment," Mrs. Walton said. "It holds a special place in my heart because of its work to build the character of, and improve the quality of life for, many young people."
Mrs. Walton also added that this gift, as well as the gift to the University of Arkansas earlier this month, is the culmination of significant work and planning. At this time, the Walton Foundation has no plans to make other large grants.
Of the gift and the role private higher education plays in Arkansas, Gov. Huckabee said, "I've always believed that what makes a person wealthy isn't what they have but what they give. The Waltons obviously agree. For the second time this month, they've given the gift of an education to the students of Arkansas. Like all Arkansans, I'm proud of what they've accomplished and grateful for their generosity."
A Challenge Gift; The Capital Campaign
As a challenge gift in a broader $55 million campaign, Niece said the Charitable Support Foundation's leadership would serve to inspire others to support the school. "The Charitable Support Foundation has shown tremendous confidence in this institution," he said. "Now it is time for us and everyone else who loves this school and its mission of service to do our part."
Niece described "our part" as raising the $15.5 million balance of the $55 million campaign goal to provide additional endowment, facility and operating support for educational programs and services. Niece said the goal of the new campaign could best be described as an initiative, "to preserve the pride, to keep the promise" of Ozarks. He noted that supporters will, in effect, realize a match of two-and-one-half to one for their gifts to the campaign. Niece concluded that in spite of the improvements the school anticipates making as a result of the gift, the school's commitment to personal student attention and Christian values remains unchanged.
Niece said he was especially proud for the school's alumni and emphasized a theme he said he had talked about with many of them, "As with all successful institutions, Ozarks will change. But as we change, we will remain the same in our steadfast commitment to personal attention and Christian values. We may look different on the outside, but at our heart and in our actions we will always be the very same school that has educated outstanding young men and women for the better part of two centuries."
Founded in 1834, Ozarks was the first institution of higher education in the Arkansas-Oklahoma Territory. It was the first college to admit women, in 1875, and it opened the state's first pharmacy school in the late 1940s. In 1957, Ozarks became the first school to admit an African-American student in Arkansas and it opened the first program for college-aged students with specific learning disabilities in 1971.
Located at the foot of the Ozark Mountains in the state's west-central Arkansas River Valley, Ozarks currently offers four college degrees in 26 major fields of study. Ozarks' student body represents 20 states and 12 foreign countries as well as 20 different religious preferences. Ozarks' average class size is 16, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1.