Ozarks receives $20 million gift from Helen Walton

Release Date: 2/14/2006

Clarksville, Ark. -- Mrs. Helen R. Walton of Bentonville, Ark., has made a $20 million gift to University of the Ozarks, university officials announced on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Faculty, staff, students, friends and alumni gathered in the university's Munger Chapel to hear the announcement from Ozarks President Dr. Rick Niece.

The gift launches a broader fund-raising campaign in which the university will seek an additional $20 million in philanthropic support. The five-year, $40 million Promise of Excellence Campaign will fulfill key elements of the institution's long-range strategic plan.

The widow of Wal-Mart founder Sam M. Walton, Mrs. Walton is a long-time supporter of Ozarks and has served as chair of the university's board of trustees. She has been the honorary lifetime chair of the board since 1984 and a member of the board since 1975.

"This gift is consistent with Mrs. Walton's long, active involvement with Ozarks and her love for our campus," said Dr. Niece. "It is intended to assist the university in its continuing pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning."

Mrs. Walton's lead gift provides dramatic enhancements to the university's academic programs and creates a Teacher Education Program of Excellence that emphasizes the linkages between teacher education and other academic disciplines at the university. Another component of the gift builds up the general endowment to support all university departments.

Specific elements of the gift include the creation of three new professorships and two new technical support positions, and the strengthening of one of the university's existing professorships. The new faculty positions include professorships in science education, business education and computer sciences. The gift also provides an endowment for the chairman's position in the teacher education division.

In addition, the gift provides for a coordinator of instructional technology to better link current and coming advances in computerized educational technology with the practice of teaching. Also, a director of institutional research will be added to closely monitor the teacher education program's performance, as well as that of the entire institution.

In addition to the faculty and staff elements of the gift, funding is provided for the early identification and recruitment of prospective teacher education students. A competitive loan/scholarship fund will also be created to assist students seeking their teaching licensure and to encourage the program's graduates to teach in Arkansas.

"This gift further enhances the university's already excellent academic program and will benefit the entire state of Arkansas as more and better educators enter our state's school systems," said Dr. Niece.

The university's teacher education division is based in the campus" new Walker Hall building. Walker Hall, opened in 2003, was made possible through a gift from Pat Walker and her late husband, Willard, of Springdale, Ark.

The $20 million gift is the second-largest in the university’s 172-year history. In October of 1998, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation gave Ozarks $39.5 million as the lead gift of a $55 million Pride and Promise Campaign. The university raised more than $60 million in the Pride and Promise Campaign, which ended in 2003.

University of the Ozarks, with a fall enrollment of 628 students, has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as both a "top tier" and "best value" Southern Region comprehensive university in each of the past seven years. The university, which was founded in 1834 and is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), is the oldest institution of higher education in Arkansas.