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FAYETTEVILLE -- Four of the top eight gifts made to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in the previous fiscal year support arts education, according to documents released by the university.

Records outlining UA's top gifts show 13 gifts of $500,000 or more made during the 12-month period that ended June 30. The 13 gifts add up to about $186.4 million. No gifts for athletics are included in that total, although some donations to the Razorback Foundation, which supports athletics, were valued at or above $500,000, a university spokesman said.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, under the state's public disclosure law, requested gift agreements for UA's top 10 donations for fiscal 2018. With four gifts made in the amount of $500,000, UA released records for 13 separate gifts.

The gift agreements at times provide detailed goals for the use of donor dollars, including for gifts tied to the Walton family. Three of the top 13 gifts came from two family foundations led by relatives of Walmart founder Sam Walton.

Two unprecedented gifts supporting the UA School of Art made up the majority of the top gift total: a $120 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation and $40 million from the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

Records for other donations released by UA include a gift agreement redacted by the university to withhold the name of a donor providing $500,000 in support of graduate student scholarships. Most of the other top gifts had previously been announced.


UA, in announcing the $120 million Walton gift in August 2017, described it as the largest ever benefiting a U.S. university's art school. The gift agreement specifies that $110 million goes to an endowment managed by the University of Arkansas Foundation and the remaining $10 million go toward renovation of the campus Fine Arts Center building, designed by noted architect Edward Durell Stone.

The agreement states $2,029,715 may be spent "for first year budget expenses." The endowed funds are to be invested by the University of Arkansas Foundation, with annual endowment spending that, unless there is consent from the foundation, may not exceed 5 percent, according to the gift agreement.

The gift agreement also states that endowment spending is "not Intended to Replace Public Funds," and that the foundation "shall, in its discretion, have naming rights for the School of Art, its programs and endowed positions" so long as the endowment is "held and used."

If UA fails in meeting broadly defined criteria, such as "not using its best efforts to implement" a strategic plan included in the agreement, the foundation, after five years, has the right to redistribute endowment funds "to one or more other universities or colleges operating" in Arkansas. The foundation's right to redistribute endowment funds expires on the agreement's 30th anniversary.

For the 2018-19 academic year, UA has added seven arts faculty members, boosting the total to 41, and awarded $149,350 in student scholarships, according to Kayla Crenshaw, director of communications for the UA School of Art.

The Windgate Charitable Foundation's $40 million gift was the largest single grant ever from the organization.

The money will be used for classroom and studio art buildings in the Windgate Art and Design District, located a few blocks from the main campus, UA leaders have said. The gift was announced in December, but a November award letter states that foundation trustees "expressed the hope that other donors would be recruited by the U of A to raise another $10 million or more for the project over the next four years."

Crenshaw said construction is expected to start in fall 2019.

The Windgate foundation, based in Siloam Springs, also provided a $1,333,675 grant for what's known as University of Arkansas A+ Schools, which helps K-12 schools integrate arts into the teaching of other subjects.

"We would not be able to operate without their funding at this point," said Melanie Landrum, executive director for University of Arkansas A+ Schools, considered a part of UA's College of Education and Health Professions.

Another $1 million gift, not previously announced, also supports arts education. UA graduate David Nelson, through a bequest, is supporting UA's Department of Theatre, according to a gift agreement.

The endowment in his name will be established through a bequest to the University of Arkansas Foundation, according to the gift agreement, which also specifies that "no guarantee" exists as to the exact amount ultimately given to the university. The gift agreement is dated March of this year.

The level of giving in support of the arts at one institution, particularly the Walton gift, "is quite rare," said Jeff Poulin, arts education program manager for the nonprofit Americans for the Arts, which works to advance the arts and arts education.

He praised language in the $120 million Walton gift specifying that it is not meant to replace public funds. Poulin said that in K-12 public education, there has been a reliance on private funds to pay for arts education.

Big gifts show how businesses and philanthropists "have identified arts and cultural education as a strategy for building the next generation of our workforce," Poulin said.

Another previously unannounced gift is a commitment of $500,000 in scholarships for graduate students in retail and hospitality design.

UA redacted the gift agreement so the donor is not named, and the gift is in the form of a testamentary commitment, according to the agreement. The gift agreement, signed in April, states that any students receiving the scholarship must demonstrate financial need and have at least a 3.5 cumulative grade-point average.

In redacting the donor's name, UA cited an exemption in the state's Freedom of Information Act.

"Limited information has been redacted in the event the donor has requested anonymity, based on the competitive advantage exemption to the FOIA," Rebecca Morrison, a UA public information officer, said in an email.


Top gifts to University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in fiscal 2018


John Tull, an attorney for the Arkansas Press Association who specializes in public disclosure and open records issues, questioned whether the exemption should apply, however.

"I would have to see evidence the person might be expected to give to an alternative charity before I would accept this as a possible exemption," Tull said in an email.

A previously unannounced $500,000 gift from The Sunderland Foundation, based in the Kansas City area, will support construction of a civil engineering research and education center, according to an award letter from December.

UA spokesman Nick DeMoss said fundraising is ongoing for the estimated $10.3 million project, which has yet to break ground.

Top gifts previously announced include $10,234,000 from the Walton Family Foundation to establish the Arkansas Academy of Educational Equity, a training and recruitment initiative for teachers working in high-poverty schools.

The gift agreement lays out goals, some of which have not yet been reached, including that "at least 25 teachers" would start training in summer 2018.

Heidi Wells, communications director for UA's College of Education and Health Professions, said 12 teachers began training this summer.

In a statement, Mark Power, UA's vice chancellor for advancement and the university's top fundraising officer, said that if goals in a donor agreement aren't reached in time, "the university communicates directly with the donor to determine the best plan going forward to accomplish these goals."

Other top gifts of more than $1 million previously announced include: $7.5 million from John Ed and Isabel Anthony to construct a wood design center; $2 million from Rick and Anne Massey for student scholarships; and $1.5 million from Barbara A. Tyson and Tyson Foods Foundation, Inc. to preserve news footage from KATV, a Little Rock television station.

Another previously unannounced gift from the Walton Family Foundation provides $823,079 over three years to support UA's Office for Education Policy. The gift agreement specifies several "expected" outcomes to result from "outputs" that the office will "strive to achieve."

By the end of each fiscal year, the office "will be invited to provide testimony and evidence to the Arkansas State Board of Education and/or the Arkansas Legislature at least 2 times," states an appendix to the gift agreement.

Another "expected" outcome is that research or researchers, by the end of each fiscal year, "will be cited or quoted in local and/or national newspapers at least 15 times."

The grant budget includes $680,279 in pay and benefits for faculty and staff, according to an appendix to the gift agreement. Other spending in the budget includes support for travel.

Rebecca Morrison, a UA public information officer, said in an email that the records released did not include any gifts made to the Razorback Foundation, which supports UA's intercollegiate athletics.

Seven such gifts would have qualified as at or above the $500,000, Morrison said.

"However, the university does not maintain copies of those gift agreements," Morrison said in an email. The Razorback Foundation has repeatedly declined requests for records made under the state's Freedom of Information Act, maintaining that it is not required to comply with the law.

UA announced earlier this month a total of $292.7 million raised in the 2018 fiscal year, the second most ever for the university and more than double the $134.2 million reported by the university for the previous fiscal year.

The university has a $1.25 billion goal for its ongoing Campaign Arkansas fundraising effort, which is set to conclude on June 30, 2020. The university announced earlier this month it had raised $947.4 million so far as part of the campaign.

A Section on 08/27/2018

Print Headline: 4 of year's biggest UA gifts go straight for the art; top 13 donations total $186.4M

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