$10M planned gift by UA alumnus to boost College of Engineering

Kassandra Salazar (left) speaks Tuesday, April 5, 2016, to a group of 11th-grade students from Heritage High School in Rogers as they walk past Old Main while on a tour of the university campus in Fayetteville.

The University of Arkansas-Fayetteville College of Engineering said it will be able to attract more top-tier faculty and researchers, provide modern equipment in teaching labs and financially support students through a $10 million planned gift from alumnus Rick Moore.

"I cannot overstate the incredible impact Rick's gifts will have on the college as we set our sights on becoming the destination of choice for students from the heartland to study engineering," Kim Needy, dean of the College of Engineering, said in a news release from the university last week. "We are so grateful for Rick's dedication to education and for his amazing generosity in helping our students and faculty achieve their dreams."

Moore, who died at the end of August, made plans to give back to the College of Engineering he felt helped prepare him for success in life after retiring as president of Ford, Bacon & Davis, a position he held for nearly three decades, according to the university. His $10 million planned gift will endow funds for scholarships -- which will give preference to students from Arkansas and those working while in college -- a professorship, faculty recruitment, and provide additional funds to benefit the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering.

The emphasis on assisting students working through college is no surprise from Moore, who did likewise in roles ranging from operating a tutoring business, teaching scuba diving -- scuba diving proved to be a lifelong passion, as he continued to teach diving at all levels and completed more than 3,500 dives around the world -- and working as a co-op engineer.

"The most important lessons my parents taught me were integrity, a strong work ethic, self-reliance, the value of a dollar and the value of education," Moore said in August. "I learned the world owed me nothing. Opportunities were available, but it was up to me to find them and then work hard to take advantage of them."

Chancellor Charles Robinson noted he was grateful for Moore's generosity, but just as appreciative of the example Moore set for the university's students.

"So many young Arkansans can relate to the story of someone from humble beginnings who possessed the talent and desire to achieve great things, and they can learn so much from how that person did the necessary work to make his dreams come true and then used the fruits of his labor to uplift the next generation," Robinson said in the news release. "This generous gift will support our land-grant mission of transforming lives through education and research, and it will ensure that young Arkansans will be inspired by Rick Moore's story for years to come."

Born in De Queen and raised in Foreman, Moore was a non-traditional student at UA-Fayetteville, admitted after registration deadlines, and he received permission from the department head, Professor Jim Couper, to take courses out of sequence, completing his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1980, according to the university. He worked as a process engineer for S&B Engineers and Constructors, then rose through the ranks of the company and its affiliates, becoming president of Process Services Inc., in 1992; that company acquired the assets of Ford, Bacon & Davis in 1996, and he integrated them, retiring in 2020.

Moore said his life is an illustration of how higher education can lift one to better socioeconomic status and benefit the world.

"Of the many worthy causes, I feel engineering education is the most leverage-able, (and) engineering graduates contribute diversely across society in many fields," he's quoted in the news release. "They are a key element to solving the current and future problems of our civilization. Our world needs more of them."

In recognition of Moore's gifts, the department is naming an undergraduate teaching lab in his honor.

"The Ricky L. Moore Teaching Lab will stand as a symbol of Rick's persistence as a student, his industry success and his lifelong love of teaching," Keisha Walters, head of the Chemical Engineering Department, said in the news release. "His story continues to inspire. Rick's self-reliance and belief in himself serve as models that our students can draw from. We are proud to have Rick as an alum and are incredibly grateful to him."