Making Dreams Come True

The launch of UCA’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign has offered the campus community, alumni and friends a chance to reflect on the importance of making an investment in UCA.

Several years ago fundraisers in the UCA Foundation set out to define some opportunities where alumni and friends could make an investment in the university, so they began asking, all across campus: “What do you need?”

“The response was overwhelming,” said Vice President of Advancement and Development Kelley Erstine. “Professors, chairs, deans, coaches, students … everyone shared their needs, and the requests could not be ignored.”

The needs include buildings, endowed visiting chairs, need-based scholarships, endowments for equipment, and support for outreach programs. We need endowed professorships, upgraded athletic facilities and funding to bring more cultural events to campus. We need graduate assistantships and funding for research and professional development. We need more and better technology, office and learning space and equipment. And the list goes on.
While the need is great, UCA has had many successes to celebrate. Through aggressive marketing, we are no longer the best kept secret in the mid-South, and that shows in the dramatic increase in enrollment over the last five years. We are also making great strides with athletics as we transition to the Division I Southland Conference.

We’ve had a Rhodes Scholar, a Goldwater Scholar, stellar athletic teams, students who have become successful alumni in business, science, the arts, education and a myriad of other professions. Now, imagine how many more successes we could celebrate if we gave back just a portion of what we have received.

What if we could fight the state’s nursing shortage simply by constructing a building that would provide enough classrooms to hold all of the students who want to come to UCA to become nurses and nurse educators?

What if that professor had a little seed money to start on the research that just might help find a cure for a serious disease?

What if we could bring a national political figure to campus and inspire the student who might someday become president?

What if a scholarship had been available to pay even a portion of the tuition bill, and your child had one less loan to repay?

Mary Ellen White Crow and her husband, Jake, made a commitment to the university nearly two decades ago when they decided to leave their estate to UCA in a bequest.

Mary Ellen was the first of 11 children in her family to earn a four-year college degree. She received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from UCA (then Arkansas State Teachers College) in 1939.

Paying for tuition was often difficult, but Mary Ellen was recognized by her teachers for being studious, so they helped her in times of need.

She always remembered the generosity of her beloved alma mater and later in life, she and Jake made plans to return the favor by leaving their estate to UCA after their only son, Jacob Crow Jr., passed away in 1988.

Mary Ellen and Jake were equal partners in a 1,000-acre soybean and cotton farm business in Elaine, a small Delta town in Phillips County.

Jake, who passed away in 1994, demonstrated some of the finest characteristics of the Crow family: he was hard-working, community-minded and very generous. These characteristics caused him to join his wife in leaving their estate to UCA to establish a scholarship for descendants of their families as well as students from the counties in which the couple grew up.

When Mary Ellen passed away last summer, it was revealed that the Crows’ generosity had resulted in a $3 million gift, the largest in UCA history, all directed to student scholarships. Forethought on the part of a modest farming couple from rural southeast Arkansas will touch the lives of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These students may never know the Crows, but they will know that they cared.

Robin Nix ’65 knew the UCA Marching Band needed new uniforms. Without available funds, the band had been using the same uniforms for twice as long as the originally intended seven to 10 years.

Nix, a former clarinet and saxophone player who was the marching band’s drum major for four years, met with President Lu Hardin to talk about the need for uniforms. “As he is so good at doing,” Nix said, “President Hardin convinced me to help out. So I committed to buy 275 new uniforms.”

“This is one of the largest and most visible gifts that the College of Fine Arts and Communication has received,” said Dr. Rollin Potter, dean of the college. “Mr. Nix’s generosity will benefit hundreds of band members and thousands of UCA football fans. We are very appreciative of his support and this important donation.”

When the fundraising staff began planning the university’s first major campaign, they faced the challenge of narrowing the campaign’s focus to a few key areas.

“We wanted the campaign to be comprehensive, meaning anyone could give to any area they desired and have it count toward the campaign goal, but we needed to have some focus as well,” Erstine said.

What they came up with were three areas of emphasis that covered a broad array of giving opportunities. The priorities of the campaign were identified as: endowments, facility enhancements and annual support.

“We think it is important to focus on these three areas because it is private donations to our endowments, facilities and annual fund that will help the most people and make UCA an even stronger leader in the next century,” Erstine said.

Many opportunities exist under the umbrella of these three areas.

The foundation seeks to establish and strengthen endowments in the areas of scholarships, faculty support including lectureships, professorships and chairs, and program resources.

The foundation also seeks to help the university fund the construction of new academic facilities for programs including education, health sciences and business; upgrade athletic facilities, and enhance campus aesthetics.

Increased annual support will help the Foundation build its Margin of Excellence fund, which has the flexibility to provide resources when a critical need arises. It will also be used to strengthen endowments that have already been established for student scholarships as well as faculty and departmental needs.

“We want our alumni and friends to make a financial commitment wherever their heart is, but we established these three areas as a guide. This provides a narrowed list of critical needs and can help us find the right fit for our prospective donors,” Erstine said.

In September, thousands from the campus and surrounding community turned out for the public announcement of “New Vision, New Century: The Centennial Campaign for UCA.” The announcement was made during a pep-rally style event on the lawn in front of McAlister Hall. The kickoff included the announcement of a $35 million campaign goal.

Tuba players from the marching band