FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation of Bentonville, Ark. - the charitable program created by the family of Wal-Mart founder Sam M. Walton - today made the largest single gift ever given to an American business school: $50 million to the College of Business Administration of the University of Arkansas.

"This gift is about improving the lives of people through education, and we hope it will improve the lives of thousands of students in the state of Arkansas," said Helen R. Walton,* the "first lady" of Wal-Mart. She and her late husband Sam M. Walton established the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to provide support for specific charities, including the University of Arkansas.

"We believe that a nationally competitive business school at Arkansas' flagship university will be a cornerstone of economic development for our state and region, and will make important contributions to the national and global marketplace as well," Mrs. Walton added. "We have seen the College of Business Administration make rapid strides in quality and impact over the last five years, and trust that this gift will help propel it into the ranks of the nation's truly great business schools."

S. Robson Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart, said, "We believe this gift to the University of Arkansas' College of Business Administration is particularly appropriate because it will help foster the same quality of leadership in the national academic community that our Wal-Mart associates demonstrate day-in and day-out in the American retail community. The entire Wal-Mart family is pleased to help the University of Arkansas become nationally competitive in business education."

The largest previous individual gifts to American business schools, according to the Web site of the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (http://www.aacsb.edu/donors.html), were: $40 million to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1998; $35 million to the Gordon S. Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California in 1997; and $33.5 million to the Owen Graduate School of Management of Vanderbilt University, also in 1997.

The gift also ranks as one of the 40 largest gifts made to higher education since 1967, according to information compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"We are delighted with the generosity of the Walton family and their charitable support foundation," said John A. White, chancellor of the University of Arkansas. "The faith they have demonstrated today will change the face of our University and, over time, the face of Arkansas and our entire region. It will contribute significantly to moving the University into the nation's upper echelon of comprehensive research universities.

"The foundation's gift will give us the means to provide the highest quality of business and management education to generations of talented undergraduate and graduate students, conduct cutting edge research and scholarship in business and organizational issues by building a superb faculty much more quickly than our current means provide, offer innovative outreach and advance the economic development of Arkansas," he said.

White said he had gained permission from the Walton family to recommend to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees that the College of Business Administration be renamed the Sam M. Walton College of Business Administration. That recommendation, which will permanently attach the college to the international prestige surrounding the late Sam Walton, is expected to go to the board in November. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called the generosity of the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation "a high-impact gift on the entire state of Arkansas." He noted that a strong University of Arkansas and higher education infrastructure are the keys to economic progress in the state.

"The partnership implicit in the gift from this private foundation to our flagship public research university will create, virtually overnight, the kind of nationally competitive business school the state needs. This sends a signal to the nation that the future of business and higher education in Arkansas is very bright indeed. We are deeply grateful to the Walton family for investing in the state of Arkansas in this manner."

G. David Gearhart, vice chancellor for University advancement, said that the gift is the largest in the history of Arkansas higher education. "Gifts of this magnitude are extremely rare, and they happen only when extraordinary levels of confidence and trust have been attained - not to mention years of hard work on the part of both the benefactor and the recipient."

Gearhart noted that the largest gift to the University prior to the $50 million was $23.5 million in 1988 from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to establish a center for Middle East studies.

With the $50 million gift, Walton family generosity to the University of Arkansas approaches nearly $64 million for a wide range of programs. It includes two endowed faculty chairs, the Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair in the College of Business Administration and the Wal-Mart Chair in Marketing; the Walton Family African-American Future Educator conference; the Great Expectations of Arkansas Program; the Helen Robson Walton Reading Room in Mullins Library; and much more.

Doyle Z. Williams, dean of the College of Business Administration, said the $50 million would be used almost entirely for endowment. After deploying $1.8 million to improve College facilities, he said, the $48.2 million for endowment will be allocated approximately along these lines:

  • Faculty support (chairs and professorships): $15 million.
  • Centers and programs (the Center for Retailing Excellence; Information Technology Research Center, and Center for Economic Education): $9.6 million.
  • Student support (scholarships and educational enrichment): $8 million.
  • Faculty development (industry internships, leadership grants, and the Center for Faculty Development): $4.6 million.
  • Academic program development (curriculum development, partnering with industry, international studies, honors program): $4 million.
  • Technology and distance education: $4 million.
  • Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development: $849,000.

Williams, who recently signed on as dean for a second five-year term, noted that the gift positions the college within reach of becoming nationally competitive, a capstone to the progress of the last five years.

"This endowment is evidence not merely of financial support from the Walton Family, but also a vote of confidence that the family has in the recent accomplishments and vast potential of the college," Williams said.

Established in 1926, the College today is an accredited program with six departments: accounting, computer information systems and quantitative analysis, economics, finance, management, and marketing and transportation. The college offers five masters programs, including the MBA and Ph.D. programs in business administration and economics. It enrolls 2,561 undergraduate and 237 graduate students. Late this fall, the college also will open the new Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development, the result of a $7.4 million grant from the Reynolds Foundation.

With the $50 million gift from the Walton Charitable Support Foundation, total endowment to the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas Foundation now approximates $190 million. With an endowment, the investment of the principal earns income, part of which is returned to the principal as a safeguard against inflation, with the remainder being used to provide annual financial support for the purposes intended by the benefactor. Roughly speaking, endowments generate four to five percent of the principal as spendable income every year. Thus, a $100,000 endowment will provide about $4,000 to $5,000 in spendable income annually.

"A college that is significantly endowed and named for an outstanding American business leader - as ours will soon be - is in a great position to emerge as a leader among American business schools," Williams said. "This magnificent gift from the Walton family gives us the means to realize our vision of excellence on all fronts for the college."



*In 1995, Mrs. Helen R. Walton was awarded an honorary doctor of laws (LL.D.) degree from the University of Arkansas in recognition of her distinction and exceptional accomplishments as a volunteer and benefactor in community service and in service to education, religion, and the arts.


Office of University Relations,
University of Arkansas
479-575-5555, urelinfo@uark.edu


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