The University of Arkansas-Monticello announced today its largest gift, about $6 million from the trust of the late Merle and Deloris Peterson of Dumas.

Chancellor Karen Hughes announced the gift and said it would be in excess of $6 million after property appraisals are completed.


“This is a wonderful gesture from two people who always held this university in high regard,” Hughes said. “We will make sure their gift goes toward something at UAM that will continue the Petersons’ legacy of supporting education in southeast Arkansas for generations to come. The university will carefully weigh our options with regard to how we use these funds.”

Merle Peterson died in 2004 and Deloris Peterson died in 2018 at age 100. They had farming properties, a Ford dealership and established a bank that was acquired by Simmons. When she died in February, the obituary notice said she had continued to work at her office through age 97 managing Peterson Enterprises. The obituary said her support of the Delta community would continue as her wealth would be passed on to philanthropic organizations.

The couple supported scholarships in the past at UAM, among many other philanthropic works.  She and her husband helped to develop the Dumas Assisted Living Facility and were major supporters of the Delta Area Community Foundation, Delta Memorial Hospital, the Desha County Museum and the First United Methodist Church. They had no children.