Blackwells Benefit Delta Students With New Advance Arkansas Scholarship

Marlon and Ati Blackwell
Mary Purvis

Marlon and Ati Blackwell

University of Arkansas Distinguished Professor Marlon Blackwell and his wife, Ati, both co-principals of Marlon Blackwell Architects, have pledged $120,000 to create an Advance Arkansas scholarship benefiting Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design students from the Arkansas Delta, with the hope of increasing the diversity of the architecture and design professions. 

The couple’s commitment also includes an annual gift, so scholarship awards can be made available starting with the 2021-22 academic year.  

Their pledge was counted in Campaign Arkansas, the university’s recently concluded capital campaign that raised nearly $1.45 billion to advance academic opportunity. 

“I haven’t traditionally seen many students from the Delta studying architecture, so Ati and I asked ourselves how we could be more proactive in developing opportunities for diverse students to come to the U of A,” Marlon Blackwell said. “This scholarship is about providing opportunity and possibility. Education helps break the cycle of economic inequities and expands economic opportunity, and we’re hopeful that this scholarship provides an incentive for more students from the Delta to study the disciplines of architecture.” 

The Blackwells noted that social justice issues in the United States helped fuel their determination to give back and make a difference. 

“I realized I can listen, but I can also act,” Blackwell said. 

Ati Blackwell added, “We felt like we needed to help students from the Delta, and we felt an urgency to do something sooner rather than later.” 

“The Fay Jones School seeks to extend the legacy of its namesake by being a leader in architecture and design excellence and education,” said Peter MacKeith, dean of the school. “In the contemporary moment, as leaders in architecture and design for the nation, state and the community, Marlon and Ati have recognized that design leadership must also extend to leadership in public service and leadership on issues of societal importance. This wisdom and commitment animates their generous gift to the school – a gift, truly, to our students now and in the future. The Blackwell scholarships exemplify our commitment to act in the cause of diversity and inclusion through design education, and our commitment, through design, to the greater good of all the citizens of the state. On behalf of the school, I am deeply grateful to Marlon and Ati Blackwell.” 

The Blackwells attribute their passion for education to their upbringings and family influences. Marlon Blackwell said his grandmother, a noted educator from Alabama, Dr. Maree Blackwell, gave him his first taste of the importance of education, and Ati Blackwell said her parents, who were both teachers in Malaysia, also felt strongly about education. Both came from modest backgrounds and believe education helped them achieve the success they have found in their careers. 

“From the beginning, Marlon’s dad told him he would go to college,” Ati Blackwell said. “Education changed my life also and was always emphasized by my parents. Marlon and I are where we are today because of our education, and we want to make sure others have that opportunity as well.” 

The Marlon and Ati Blackwell Advance Arkansas Endowed Scholarship will support new, returning and transfer students from Arkansas who exhibit financial need, records of academic success and a strong desire to complete their degree at the University of Arkansas in the Fay Jones School. Preference will be given to students who are graduates of a high school located in the Arkansas Delta, including the counties of Chicot, Clay, Craighead, Crittendon, Cross, Desha, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lee, Lincoln, Lonoke, Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett, Pulaski, Prairie, Randolph, White and Woodruff. Students majoring in architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design and enrolled full time in either one of the professional programs or four-year architectural or landscape architectural studies program are eligible.  

In addition to his designation as Distinguished Professor, Marlon Blackwell is also the holder of the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture. He has taught in the Fay Jones School since 1992 and was named the 2020 Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year and received the 2020 SEC Faculty Achievement Award for the University of Arkansas.  

A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Blackwell also received the 2020 AIA Gold Medal – the institute’s highest honor – recognizing architects with enduring impacts on theory and practice. He was named a 2014 United States Artists Ford Fellow and selected for the 2012 Architecture Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

He is founder and co-principal at Marlon Blackwell Architects, an architecture and design firm based in Fayetteville, and he earned a Bachelor of Architecture from Auburn University and a Master of Architecture II from Syracuse University in Florence, Italy. The firm received the 2016 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture. 

Ati Blackwell holds a Bachelor of Architecture and Planning degree from the University of Miami in Florida and is both a Registered Architect and a Registered Interior Designer. A co-principal at Marlon Blackwell Architects, she also serves as the firm’s director of interiors and sustainability. She is a LEED Accredited Professional and serves as the firm’s LEED project team administrator. 

The Blackwells sponsor the annual Ernie Jacks Distinguished Lecture in the Fay Jones School and also supported the renovation and expansion of Vol Walker Hall, home to the Fay Jones School. 

About Campaign Arkansas: Campaign Arkansas is the recently concluded capital campaign for the University of Arkansas that raised a record $1.449 billion to support the university’s academic mission and other key priorities, including 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. 


Jennifer Holland, director of development communications
University Relations


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