In what’s described as its largest gift, the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust, established by the estate of the former governor, has given more than $100 million to create an endowment to support the University of Arkansas’s Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

The Institute, based at the former Rockefeller ranch on Petit Jean Mountain, convenes a range of educational and civic programs and conferences.


The size of the gift leads me to wonder if this signals the beginning of an effort to close out the work of the charitable trust (separate from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation) established after Rockefeller’s death in 1973. I’ve left a message with the trust. In the most recent IRS tax return on file, in 2015, the trust showed assets of $112 million in stocks and other investments. That return indicated the trust had given $5.6 million to the Institute in 2014 and approved $4.5 million for future payment.

UPDATE: Wilson Jones, a Trust board member, told me that indeed the gift marks a significant step toward the winding down of the trust. He estimated that could conclude within 18 to 24 months. He said Rockefeller’s will had not anticipated a perpetual trust. He said about $15 to $20 million remains to be distributed. Marion Burton, leader of the Trust, told a reception that gathered on the mountain today for the announcement that the Trust alone had distributed $246 million to charitable works, including providing financing for the Foundation. That figure does not include today’s $100 million.


From a release:

“Winthrop Rockefeller left his mark on Arkansas history by respecting people from different backgrounds and viewpoints and challenging us to work together to solve difficult problems. The Institute honors his legacy by convening groups for collaborative problem-solving and respectful dialogue,” says Dr. Marta Loyd, Executive Director/CEO of the Institute. “This historic endowment makes it possible for us to engage a wider audience with Governor Rockefeller’s legacy from the mountain where he convened groups during his day.”

Winthrop Rockefeller reminded us that, “Every citizen has a duty to be informed, to be thoughtfully concerned, and to participate in the search for solutions.” Governor Rockefeller exemplified these words in the way he led as a businessman, economic developer and governor and as a leader in challenging issues of civil rights and social injustice.

“As one of the original members of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute board of directors and having spent a large part of my career working in the UA System, I have a tremendous appreciation for the spirit, legacy and impact of Winthrop Rockefeller and the institute that bears his name,” said Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the UA System. “We reap the benefits not only from the size of this generous gift, but by the important work of the Institute in education, public service and research as it supports the broad mission of the UA System.”

“The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust is pleased to invest in the work of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute and we look forward to the opportunities for innovative education and civic-related purposes the endowment will provide, and to its contributions for the mission of the UA System,” says Marion Burton, the executive trustee of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. “The trust recognizes the strength and reputation of the UA System, and the proven ability of the UA Foundation to be an excellent steward of the assets of the trust, so we are especially pleased by the affiliation of the Institute in the UA System.”

The money will be managed by the University of Arkansas Foundation.  The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, also created from the Rockefeller estate, focuses on poverty, economic development and racial equality. Because of its interest in public policy, it has always had a higher profile than the charitable trust. Leslie Newell Peacock wrote about the Rockefeller charitable legacy for the Times in 2004.

The two major charities have contributed hundreds of millions to various causes over the years, in addition to numerous other Rockefeller gifts in his lifetime in support of causes including the Arkansas Arts Center and the Arkansas Community Foundation. The Institute was created in 2005 with funding from the trust.