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story.lead_photo.caption FILE PHOTO: Students at the University of Arkansas Little Rock makes their way to and from classes on foot and by bike along a shaded pathway on campus September 2014 in Little Rock. - Photo by Stephen B. Thornton

This past fiscal year was a record one for fundraising at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which received more than $20 million in gifts, up from about $18 million last year.

The university also boosted its endowment by about $7 million, to about $80 million.

In the past year the university has expanded its outreach to potential donors, said Christian O'Neal, vice chancellor for university advancement. A gift from the George W. Donaghey Foundation allowed the university to send an employee to 21 cities outside of Arkansas to solicit gifts and organize alumni events in five cities outside of Arkansas. Those alumni events were in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Austin, Texas, and Hollywood, Calif.

About 46% of university employees made donations during their annual faculty and staff giving campaign, the university said in a news release announcing the record fundraising.

More than $3 million of the $20 million went to Trojan Athletics for athlete support services, renovations to the Donaghey Athletic Center and naming rights for parts of the Jack Stephens Center.

The biggest gift, $4 million from dining services contractor Sodexo, will add seating to the Donaghey Student Center, improve some restaurant storefronts there and help accommodate the opening of a Starbucks facing the university fountain.

"It's going to be beautiful," O'Neal said, emphasizing the improvement to the student experience. "They're going to love it."

Just how the university's endowment stacks up in Arkansas or against other colleges and universities nationwide is unclear because the university, like most Arkansas colleges and universities, does not participate in the most common endowment survey, the National Association of College and University Business Officers-TIAA Study of Endowments.

When asked why, O'Neal said the university should participate and would start.

The university's endowment is rolled up in the University of Arkansas Foundation but is incorporated on its own as the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Foundation Fund. O'Neal said the foundation does not operate under a typical nonprofit tax code and does not fill out a Form 990 for the Internal Revenue Service disclosing its donors.

A look at the 2018 National Association of College and University Business Officers-TIAA Study of Endowments shows that UALR, with its fiscal 2019 total, would put it on par with the fiscal 2018 totals for the University of Arkansas Fort Smith Foundation Inc., with an $83.1 million endowment, and the Arkansas State University System Foundation Inc., with an endowment of $78.1 million. The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville reported an endowment of $1.2 billion in fiscal 2018.

In the news release, UALR administrators said they believed the gifts would have a lasting impact on the university experience and the cost of attendance for many students.

The university used several gifts this year to support new scholarship programs.

Two other gifts to UALR in fiscal 2019 topped $1 million.

A $2.2 million anonymous gift went toward research at the Center for Arkansas History and Culture, and a $1.7 million gift from the George W. Donaghey Foundation went toward supporting the Donaghey Scholars Program, programs at the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology, and the opening of the UALR downtown campus earlier this year.

The fourth-largest gift, $917,305 from Leerfield Communications, supported student-athlete needs, O'Neal said.

The fifth-largest gift, $887,603.60 from Children International, supports educational and youth leadership programs for Little Rock children who are traditionally underserved. Little Rock is the only Children International location in the United States.

The seventh- and eighth-largest gifts are to be used in combination -- $1.5 million from the Arkansas attorney general's office and the Arkansas governor's office for a veterans legal assistance clinic at the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law.

More details on the program, which has yet to start, will be revealed at a later event.

"Arkansas is home to over 250,000 veterans who have honorably served our country to protect our freedoms," Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement released to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "Sadly, too many veterans do not have the financial means to address service-related legal issues. The $750,000 I allocated to the Veterans Legal Clinic will not only provide legal assistance to our nation's heroes, but it will give future attorneys the education, opportunity and desire to serve those who have served us."

Metro on 07/21/2019

Print Headline: UALR fundraising exceeds $20M, sets a record for school

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