Walton family gives $300 million gift to Arkansas university

Sunday, April 14, 2002

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The University of Arkansas has received $300 million from the family behind the Wal-Mart empire -- the largest gift ever to a public university in the United States.

The money, from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, will establish an undergraduate honors college and also go toward the university's graduate school.

"What the Walton family has done today will improve life in Arkansas for generations to come, and we are grateful beyond words," Chancellor John A. White said Thursday.

Sam Walton, who died in 1992, started Bentonville-based Wal-Mart four decades ago. It is now the largest company in the world. Walton's sons Rob and Jim are Arkansas alumni. Rob Walton is now Wal-Mart chairman.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the donation is the fifth-largest to any American university, public or private. The largest was $600 million, given last year to the California Institute of Technology by Intel Corp. founder Gordon Moore.

Jay Allen, a spokesman for the Walton foundation, said Walton family members did not attend the announcement because they wanted the focus to be on the university. But they said in a statement that their goal was to enhance the school's national reputation and help it create jobs.

"Our family feels strongly that the university can be an economic engine for the state," Jim Walton said.

The university's business school was already named for Sam Walton, following a $50 million gift from the family in 1998.

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