Universities have been the major beneficiaries of multimillion-dollar gifts in the past 24 months, with the University of Arkansas system taking in a record yearly amount in 2018 for its current capital campaign. UA Monticello received a record gift of $6 million and Arkansas State University, Hendrix College and other universities received substantial new grants, thanks in great part to mega-funders the Walton Family Family Foundation, the Walton Family Charitable Foundation and the Windgate Foundation.

The UA announced recently that it has raised close to $1 billion — $947 million — in its ongoing Campaign Arkansas. Of that, nearly $300 million came in 2018 alone, a record year for the campaign. Contributing to the record was the Walton Family Charitable Trust’s gift of $24 million for the UA’s Office of Research and Innovation and its Office of Economic Development. The gift will pay for scholarly and business initiatives, faculty, and contribute to industry partnerships and UA’s Technology Ventures, which works to commercialize university research.


Here’s a look at some of the most significant gifts of 2017, gleaned from grantmaking foundations’ 2017 990 tax forms, the most recent on record, and giving by both foundations and individuals made public in 2018. Given the recent market decline, charity in 2019 might see a decline.

The Walton Family Foundation


The Walton Family Foundation, which has $3.65 billion, made more than 2,000 grants totaling $506 million, $60 million of which went to entities in its “home region” of Arkansas. The largest Walton Family Foundation gift to an Arkansas nonprofit in 2017 was its $13.4 million grant to the Bentonville Child Care and Development Center; its second largest gift was $10.3 million to the Bentonville Bella Vista Trail Blazers Association, reflecting the interest in the youngest generation of Waltons in bike trails.

In 2017, the foundation distributed $193 million in education grants promoting charter schools across the nation; its largest gift in that category to an Arkansas charter institution was $2.5 million to the KIPP Delta Public Schools. Other multimillion-dollar gifts from the foundation were $8.9 million to Camp War Eagle in Rogers; $3.8 million for a new theater for Theatre Squared of Fayetteville, part of a $12.5 million pledge; $3.7 million to the city of Fayetteville; $3.3 million to the Thaden School, a private secondary school in Bentonville; $3 million to the city of Rogers; $2 million to the Northwest Arkansas Council Foundation; and $2 million to the UA Campus Foundation.


Loans made up a portion of the grantmaking total. Actual gifts totaled $491 million.

The Walton Charitable Support Foundation

The Walton Charitable Support Foundation, whose offices have moved from Siloam Springs to Little Rock, reported assets of $581 million and giving of $130 million on its 2017 990 tax form. Most of that amount — $120 million — went to the University of Arkansas Foundation to establish the School of Art. The gift was a philanthropic record nationally for a university art program. The foundation also gave $3 million grants to the Arkansas Community Foundation and John Brown University in Siloam Springs and $2 million grants to the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville and Harding University in Searcy.

Windgate Charitable Foundation


The Windgate Charitable Foundation, which is spending down its millions, is, like the Walton Family Charitable Foundation, changing the landscape of art education in Arkansas. Its 2017 gifts included $11 million to UA Little Rock, part of its $20 million grant to build the Windgate Center for Art + Design; $10 million to the Arkansas Arts Center for its operating and curatorial expenses and new construction; $10 million to UA Fayetteville; and $5 million to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, completing a $10 million pledge. Its 2018 planned giving included $30 million to the UA for the Windgate Art and Design District south of campus (it pledged a total of $40 million to the project) and $10 million to Hendrix College for its endowment. The foundation announced this year it will give $6.7 million to Arkansas State University to build a new arts facility on that campus. The foundation reported $271 million in net assets in 2017 and 345 grants totaling $84 million.

Individual gifts of $500,000 or more

The estate of former professor Myles Friedman has left $10.8 million to Arkansas State University for scholarships for students seeking bachelor’s degrees in the liberal arts.

Arkansas State University alumnus and retired banker F. O’Neil “Neil” Griffin of Kerrville, Texas, donated $10 million to the Jonesboro university to create professorships in the business college, which will be renamed for him.

A gift of $7.5 million from John Ed Anthony Timberlands Inc. and Isabel Anthony to the University of Arkansas will help build the $15 million Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation. The center will promote wood design construction, such as the $79 million residence hall of cross-laminated timber that the UA is building, said to be the first in the country. The center will be built in the Windgate Art and Design District in south Fayetteville.

An anonymous donor has agreed to make grants totaling $7 million over four years to the Supply Chain Management Research Center in the UA Sam Walton College of Business to support professorship, fellowships, visiting faculty and other expenses.

Anonymous donors have included the UA as a beneficiary in their revocable trust in the amount of $6.2 million for projects at Garvan Woodland Gardens outside Hot Springs.

The University of Arkansas at Monticello announced the largest private gift in its history: an estimated $6 million-plus from the estate of Merle and Deloris Peterson of Dumas.

An anonymous donor pledged $2 million to the UA Foundation Inc. to endow a chair in the university’s Architecture and Urban Design program.


The estate of Linda Garner Riggs, who served on the board of directors of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Foundation, bequeathed $1.8 million to the orchestra, the largest individual gift in the orchestra’s history. Riggs’s estate also made a gift of $1 million to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to advance research in triple negative breast cancer.

The estate of Carl R. Stout donated $1.5 million to UAMS to create the R. Louise Stout Simmons Endowed Scholarship.

Chris Rakhshan donated $1 million to UAMS to create a chair named for his daughter, Pamela Rakhshan, in otolaryngology in gratitude for the life-saving treatment provided her by head and neck surgeon Dr. James Y. Suen.

Beverly Keener, a volunteer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, established a $1 million endowment to support a child maltreatment prevention and education center at Children’s David Clark Center for Safe and Healthy Children.

Bert and Annette Mullins of Russellville made a pledge of $1 million to the Arkansas Tech University Foundation for scholarships. Bert Mullins was a member of the Wonder Boys baseball and football teams at the university.

Jean Cameron “Cami” Jones, the daughter of Fay and Gus Jones, has made a planned gift of $1 million to the University of Arkansas to benefit the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design and University Libraries.

Kim and Chris Fowler donated $750,000 to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation to expand its clinic in Jonesboro.

Sam Mathias, owner of Mathias Properties and Today’s Bank, donated $700,000 to the construction of Arkansas Children’s Hospital Northwest.

An anonymous donor has pledged $500,000 to the UA Foundation Inc. to create the Health Leadership Faculty Fellowship in the Department of Sociology and Criminology.

University of Arkansas alumni Kelly and Steve Barnes of Dallas pledged $500,000 to the UA Sam M. Walton College of Business to create the Kelly & Steve Barnes Health & Wellbeing Innovation Fund.