Clarksville, Ark. -- The University of the Ozarks on Friday dedicated the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program in honor of the Northwest Arkansas philanthropist who has donated almost $10 million to the University since 2001.
The ceremony took place in front of more than 300 students, faculty, staff, trustees and friends of the university in Walker Hall, the new teacher education and communications building that was opened in 2002 with a $7 million gift from Pat and her late husband Willard Walker. In December, the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation of Fayetteville donated another $2.96 million to endow the maintenance and operations of Walker Hall. University of the Ozarks President Dr. Rick Niece said every conversation he and his wife Sher?e had with the Walkers “began and ended with the importance of educating young people and the critical need for dedicated, well-prepared and committed teachers.” “As a former high school English teacher myself, I understood the need,” Niece said. “We want the University of the Ozarks to be the model program for teacher preparation. We believe that naming our program in honor of Pat Walker will help that vision become a reality. What an honor it will be for Ozarks’ students to be accepted into, learn within, and graduate from the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program.” A Springdale resident, Mrs. Walker and her late husband Willard are well known throughout Arkansas as generous philanthropists who have provided numerous major contributions to educational, healthcare, and human service organizations throughout the state “Our family is pleased to be a partner with University of the Ozarks and Mrs. Helen Walton in providing quality education opportunities for future teachers,” said Mrs. Debbie Walker, executive director of the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation. “It is truly an honor for both Pat and our family to have the Teacher Education Program bear her name.” Dr. George Stone, chair of the Teacher Education Division, said the Walker’s philanthropy, as well as a $20 million gift by Mrs. Helen R. Walton of Bentonville, Ark., announced in February, will help Ozarks develop a “teacher education program of excellence that will emphasize keeping well-trained teachers in Arkansas.” Stone said one of the goals of the Walker Teacher Education Program is to increase the number of education majors from 65 to 100. “The Walkers have provided the University of the Ozarks with the proper facility and the proper tools to develop teachers for the public schools of Arkansas who will continually graduate on the ‘cutting edge’ of the teaching profession,” Stone said.