Donna Axum Whitworth Provides Gift for New University of Arkansas Fitness Center

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas students, faculty and staff will have 10,000 additional square feet of exercise space thanks in part to a $250,000 gift by UA alumna and Campaign Steering Committee volunteer Donna Axum Whitworth of Fort Worth, Texas.

The Donna Axum Whitworth Fitness Center will be housed in a 10,000 square-foot area on the second floor of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building - better known as the HPER Building. The Donna Axum Whitworth Fitness Center will play an important role in the development of exercise and fitness habits that will last a lifetime. Once the center is completed, students and the campus community will have access to modern equipment that will improve their physical and mental health. The facility will also be used as a teaching component for related health education fields.

"We are grateful for Donna’s gift for helping to provide a new and more accommodating fitness center," said UA Chancellor John A. White. "The University of Arkansas has grown significantly over the past four years and will continue its growth over the next decade. We must continue to provide services and facilities that people would expect of a nationally competitive, student-centered research university. Donna Axum Whitworth gift will help create a new, much-needed facility that will be far more than adequate - it will be exceptional, just as Donna’s support of her alma mater has been for the past thirty-something years!"

The size of the center will be more than three times larger than the existing center. The center will contain 32 cardiovascular machines such as treadmills, bicycles and stair climbers, 19 Cybex VR-2 selectorized machines, 15 Ground Zero selectorized machines, and 15 free weight stations. There will also be a 12-station "Cardio Theater" located in the cardiovascular section of the center, which will allow students to watch television, tapes or listen to the radio while exercising. An important feature of the center will be a 525 square-foot testing room where students can be assessed (free-of-charge) by trained staff and prescribed a healthy exercise routine. Personal trainers will also be available to assist students with their workouts.

"This gift could not have come at a better time," Sharon Hunt, departmental chairperson of health science and kinesiology in the College of Education and Health Professions said. "The student body is now 15,795, and more than 22,000 people used the existing Fitness Center during the first 40 days of the fall semester. Due to the frequent overcrowded conditions, the aerobic equipment had to be moved to the lobby of the racquetball courts to make extra room for the users and to improve safety. The new fitness center will play a major role in recruitment and retention of students on this campus and I’d like to thank Donna Axum Whitworth for her generosity."

The University of Arkansas offers students a full range of services including facilities to maintain their physical fitness and help them develop exercise and fitness habits that will last a lifetime. The existing Fitness Center is housed in a 3,010-square-foot room on first floor of the HPER Building. The campus population and use have exceeded the capacity of the current space.

Whitworth’s gift is given as a part of the University’s Campaign for the Twenty-First Century. Having been kicked off on Oct. 26 - it is a six-year effort to raise $500 million in gifts from private sources. Campaign funds are being used to help the University achieve its vision of emerging as a nationally competitive, student-centered research university serving Arkansas and the world. Campaign funds are being raised for six critical areas of need: endowed faculty positions, scholarship funds, academic programs, University Libraries, new and improved University facilities support and annual giving.

Donna Axum Whitworth earned her Bachelor (1966) and Master of Arts (1969) degrees in speech and drama, radio, television and film from the University of Arkansas. In addition to her role on the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century Steering Committee - the top volunteer leadership group for the Campaign - and she is chair of the Arkansas Alumni Association Committee. She was on the executive committee for the Campaign to Restore Old Main and a committee member for the Campaign for Books. She is a Charter and Gold member of the Chancellor’s Society and the National Development Council, a volunteer organization that supports and advises the University in developing, enhancing and strengthening its academic and research programs. She served on the Arkansas Alumni Association Board of Directors for seven years and is a life member. She was the recipient of the Citation of Distinguished Alumni Award in 1988 and was named as one of the Top 100 Tri Deltas in the First 100 Years by the national organization.

Mrs. Whitworth became Miss America in 1964 as Miss Arkansas while a senior at the U of A. She returned to campus to complete her Bachelor’s degree, then served as a graduate teaching assistant while completing her Master’s degree. Her extensive professional career includes positions as college speech instructor; executive producer and television hostess for three television talk shows including "Good Morning, Arkansas," many TV specials, commercials and infomercials; motivational speaker; author and media consultant. Donna is also a professional speaker and seminar leader and the author of two books, "The Outer You. The Inner You," and "How to Be and Look Your Best Every Day."

Mrs. Whitworth said, "I am so pleased to be a part of the creation of this fabulous new fitness center for the University. It is my hope that it will have a positive physical, mental and spiritual impact on the students, faculty and staff across all areas of study. Striving for excellence in all we do must start with a healthy body. I encourage all alumni and friends of the University to find a need and fill it, with their contributions to our Campaign for the Twenty-First Century."

Mrs. Whitworth has also established an endowed scholarship fund through her planned giving trust for any UA student who is a graduate of an Arkansas high school showing financial need.

G. David Gearhart, vice chancellor for University Advancement said, "Donna Axum Whitworth’s participation in the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century has been exemplary. She serves on the Steering Committee and is the chair of the Arkansas Alumni Association committee, she also serves as a member of the Women in Philanthropy Committee. This gift represents an ideal way in which Donna is demonstrating leadership and commitment to the Campaign and to the University of Arkansas. We are deeply grateful to her for her continued leadership and support."


G. David Gearhart, vice chancellor for University Advancement, (479) 575-6800

Sandra K. Edwards, associate vice chancellor for University Development, (479) 575-7206

Sharon Hunt, departmental chairperson of department of health science, kinesiology, recreation and dance in the College of Education and Health Professions (479) 575-2857

Laura H. Jacobs, manager of development communications, (479) 575-7422



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