Clarksville, Ark. ---The University of the Ozarks had more than 60 million reasons to celebrate on Friday, Oct. 3.
The university celebrated the successful completion of its five-year, $60 million Pride & Promise Campaign with a ceremony in Raymond Munger Chapel to thank its donors. The ceremony, which took on a pep rally-like atmosphere, was attended by more than 500 students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university. The Pride & Promise Campaign, which officially ends on Oct. 27, has raised $60.2 million to strengthen student services, academic programs and facilities at the four-year Presbyterian-affiliated university. Nearly 2,800 people have contributed to the campaign since it began in 1998. "There are days that you share history, there are days that you are a part of history, and then there are days that you make history," said Ozarks President Dr. Rick Niece. "Today is a history-making day at the University of the Ozarks. At Ozarks we owe so much to so many. We will never forget our faithful and generous donors regardless of the size of the donation." The start of the Pride & Promise Campaign was announced on Oct. 27, 1998, in Munger Chapel with a lead challenge gift of $39.5 million from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. At the time it was the largest single gift to a private university in Arkansas and one of the 50 largest gifts ever made to private education. Mrs. Helen Walton, a long-time friend of Ozarks and the lifetime chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, helped Ozarks kick off the campaign in 1998 by saying, "Keep your eyes on Ozarks. It’s going to be a place of great happenings!" Helen Walton, the wife of the late Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, was not able to attend the celebration ceremony. Jim Walton, one of Helen Walton’s four children, provided a comment on behalf of the family: "The University of the Ozarks has always been a special place to our family. We are extremely pleased that the Pride & Promise initiative has helped the university rise to new heights." "No one in the storied history of this campus is more treasured than Mrs. Helen Walton," Dr. Niece said during the ceremony. "Mr. Sam’s Rule No. 6, among the 10 rules he listed in his book, Made in America, was ‘Celebrate Your Successes.’ Today, in Mr. Sam’s honor and in Mrs. Helen’s honor, we are doing just that. Bless you and your family for your continued belief in us and our students." The initial Pride & Promise goal of $55 million was surpassed in October of 2000, and the goal was increased to $60 million, far and away the most ambitious in the university’s 169-year history. Sixty percent of the campaign funds went to increase the endowment, which has more than doubled since 1998. Capital construction made up 24 percent of the campaign, other restricted gifts such as one-time scholarships and academic equipment made up 10 percent, and six percent went to the Annual Scholarship Fund. Over the course of the campaign, Ozarks has led or was among the top universities in the country with regard to philanthropic support per student. Ozarks was also featured in a cover story of the Aug. 1, 2003, edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the nation’s few private colleges that "has prospered in tough economic times." "Ozarks’ Pride & Promise efforts have literally transformed the educational environment here," said Steve Edmisten, vice president for advancement. "This transformation is a wonderful tribute to all those who, over many years, have worked so hard to achieve this school’s mission of educational service." Since 1998, Ozarks has achieved one of the region’s fastest-growing enrollments, growing 38 percent over that span and reaching a record 731 this Fall Semester. Ozarks has also been rated a "top tier" university as well as one of the South’s top "Best Value" colleges by U.S. News & World Report each of the past five years. Other seven-digit gifts in the course of the campaign included $7 million from Pat and Willard Walker to construct Walker Hall, a state-of-the-art teacher education and communications building; $2 million from Vera M. Pfeffer to establish a low-interest student loan trust; and $1 million from Dr. Alvin Broyles to improve grounds and other purposes. Other capital improvements included three new apartment-style residence halls, Mabee, Bagwell-Jones and Cary-Wortz, as well as major renovations to the university’s three existing residence halls.