Atkinson Remembered Through Newly Established Law and Sexuality Fund

Michael Hollomon and Eric Wailes
Russell Cothren

Michael Hollomon and Eric Wailes

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A $500,000 planned gift from Michael Hollomon and Eric Wailes of Fayetteville will create the Richard B. Atkinson Law and Sexuality Fund in the School of Law. The fund is part of a larger mission to enable faculty and students at the University of Arkansas to affect the quality of public discourse associated with the complex issues related to law and sexuality.

Hollomon and Wailes are contributing $20,000 annually for current use funding, so projects may be implemented sooner.

Their contributions will count toward Campaign Arkansas, the university’s capital campaign to advance academic opportunity at the U of A.

“We feel like it’s very important to give back to the university,” Wailes said. “Michael and I hope this support will help shape and enhance the School of Law’s academic and clinical programs to advance understanding of the law, especially as it pertains to the issues and challenges of law and sexuality.”

Hollomon noted that they were inspired and impressed with similar programs at UCLA, Columbia University, Tulane and Harvard, among others.

“We observe that few areas of law and policy have changed as quickly or as dramatically as those regulating the legal rights of members of the LGBTQ community,” Hollomon said. “This is a very dynamic area in legal thinking, and society is exploring how people are judged equally under the law. We’re very committed to this initiative.”

The fund has special meaning to the couple, who chose to name it in memory of Richard B. Atkinson, former dean of the law school and former life partner of Hollomon. Atkinson passed away in 2005, and the courtyard at the School of Law is dedicated in his memory.

“Richard loved teaching and being a mentor to students, and he was apparently very good at it,” Hollomon said. “He said he would continue teaching as long as he could open the doors, and he believed in living his truth and sharing his authenticity. We also believe in our truths by endowing the Richard B. Atkinson Law and Sexuality Fund.”

The fund will honor the lives and legacies of all three men and will create visible opportunities for better understanding of, and advocacy in, sexuality and the law. It has the potential to support a variety of activities, such as teaching, research, programs, speakers, scholarships and service designed to educate and affect policy around the complex issues related to the law and sexuality.

Several projects have been proposed to advance educational opportunities and research including a national scholarly paper competition, a travel award to bring notable speakers to campus and send students and faculty to visit external experts and organizations, and public service opportunities.

The Richard B. Atkinson LGBTQ Scholarly Paper Award would use the fund to offer a writing competition open to top scholars across the nation who study LGBTQ issues as they pertain to the law, with the hope of creating greater visibility and continuing education in the area of law and sexuality.

The Richard B. Atkinson Law and Sexuality Travel Award would be used to host nationally recognized guest speakers and visiting scholars who bring value to the school, campus and community and encourage intellectual curiosity, as well as provide funding for students and faculty who have an interest in attending national conferences for professional development.

The Richard B. Atkinson Summer Public Service Fellowship would be available to students who participate in the School of Law’s summer public service fellowship program to research, apply and secure summer employment with nonprofit, non-governmental or government entities that cannot otherwise afford interns. The fellowship would specifically allow a student to work in the area of law and sexuality.

“We are grateful to Michael and Eric for creating this gift, the first of its kind, for the law school,” said Margaret Sova McCabe, dean of the School of Law. “They are supporting meaningful projects, and while we know the fund can’t tackle all of them immediately, we look forward to expanding these opportunities in coming years.”

Michael Hollomon was the founding medical director of the psychiatric research unit at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and is retired now. Eric Wailes was a professor at the University of Arkansas for 38 years and the past chair holder of the L.C. Carter Endowed Chair for Rice and Soybeans in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. He retired from the university as a distinguished professor. The couple are members of the Chancellor’s Society and the Towers of Old Main and are counted as Thoroughreds for their 25 years of consecutive giving to the university.

About Campaign Arkansas: Campaign Arkansas is the ongoing capital campaign for the University of Arkansas to raise private gift support for the university’s academic mission and other key priorities. The campaign’s goal is to raise $1.25 billion to support academic and need-based scholarships, technology enhancements, new and renovated facilities, undergraduate, graduate and faculty research, study abroad opportunities and other innovative programs. The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in a wide spectrum of disciplines as it works to fulfill its public land-grant mission to serve Arkansas and beyond as a partner, resource and catalyst.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3% of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Darinda Sharp, director of external affairs and alumni outreach
School of Journalism and Strategic Media

Jennifer Holland, senior director of marketing communications
University Relations


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