University of Arkansas Sets Record With $300 Million Gift
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.The University of Arkansas received the largest gift in the history of American public higher education last month — a $300 million commitment from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation of Bentonville, Ark.The gift, from the family of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, will be used to establish and endow an undergraduate honors college and endow the graduate school.“This unprecedented generosity from the Walton family will transform the University of Arkansas for our students and faculty, and in the process position us to serve as a powerful engine of economic development and cultural change for the entire state,” says Dr. John A. White, University of Arkansas chancellor.University of Arkansas officials say the money will boost the state’s economy by improving higher education in the state. But they made clear that the impressive donation won’t lessen the need for state funding or deter planned tuition hikes.“These things are vital and they will always be vital,” says Dr. Dave Gearhart, vice chancellor for university advancement. Gearhart, who will serve on a board of governors overseeing endowments created by the money, said the gift will help the university attain a level of excellence that wasn’t before possible.“These funds should not be seen as supplanting public funds. These are funds that will provide the margin of excellence to make a leap,” he says.On April 5, University of Arkansas System trustees approved a 7 percent tuition increase for the Fayetteville campus. Trustees said the increase was necessary after Gov. Mike Huckabee announced $142 million in state budget cuts in November.Among the university’s goals for the money is to make the school a Top 50 research institution. Gearhart said the school should be able to do this by 2010.The university also hopes to create a prosperous high-tech research area such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Gearhart says.The gift is the largest ever made to a U.S. public university. It is twice the size of what was announced in March as the largest gift to a single public university — an estate gift estimated to be worth $150 million to the University of Texas at Austin. And it is larger than the gift of $250 million in stock to the University of Colorado System from William T. and Claudia Coleman in 2001.
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