UALR Seeks to Include Neighborhoods in Its Success

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009 12:00 am  

"At minimum it will make UALR a more attractive place to athletes who want to be intercollegiate athletes in those sports. And the facilities will strengthen the hands of the coaches in recruiting athletes," Anderson added.

The other bond issue, sold at 3.85 percent in September, will fund a series of projects, including construction of a new nanotechnology science center and a student services center, converting an administration building to a health and wellness building, upgrading elevators for safety, renovating the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall and completing the Donaghey Engineering & Information Technology building, which will open in the spring.

Anderson expects many of the changes, particularly the new facilities, to affect the university's image as a commuter college. "I think our image has very much been changing over the years as you have more honors programs, as you have more students living on campus, as you have more graduate programs, as you have notable research activities going on on the campus," Anderson said. "The image has changed because the university has changed."

'A Perceived Need'

As he recounted for a reporter UALR's history, a theme in Anderson's story began to emerge. Many pivotal decisions in the life of the institution were steered by the needs of central Arkansas residents.

UALR began in 1927 when John A. Larson, principal of Little Rock High School, now called Little Rock Central High School, petitioned the Little Rock Board of Education to fill a need for higher education in the area.

Little Rock Junior College began that year, using a set of second-floor classrooms in the north wing of Little Rock Central's facility at West 14th and Park streets.

The school soon outgrew that space and moved in 1931 to the Uriah M. Rose Grammar School, which is now Philander Smith College.

After 18 years of growth in that facility, Little Rock Junior College received a donation from Raymond Rebsamen, owner of Rebsamen Insurance (now Regions Insurance), of an 80-acre tract of land just off of Hayes Street, better known now as University Avenue, that would in 1949 become the first home LRJC didn't have to share.

Though Rebsamen's donation resolved the issue of space, big changes were still in store for the two-year school.

"Following the Second World War, all across the country in urban and metropolitan centers, states were finding that they needed public universities that they did not have," Anderson said.

"And that was a time when there was quite an explosion of demand. You had the G.I.'s coming home with the G.I. Bill. You had, just in general, people recognizing that a college education was more important than it had been," Anderson said. "You had a need on the part of states to serve place-bound citizens, particularly minorities and women that were not in a position to move away and go to college. So if you put all that together, correctly there was a perceived need in central Arkansas for a public university."



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