Arkansas Business' 25 Philanthropists (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

Winthrop Rockefeller, Arkansas governor from 1967-71

For a poor state, Arkansas has produced a remarkable legacy of philanthropy that extends far beyond its borders. What follows is a list of some of the state's most notable philanthropists.

Like several of these lists, it possesses a degree of arbitrariness. Space prevents its being inclusive, and many philanthropists – famous and not so – make anonymous gifts, so this is only a very rough ranking. In addition, those who give something that is often much more precious than money – their time – rarely receive the attention that goes along with multimillion-dollar gifts, meaning they're not represented as they should be. Most of those listed, however, have given of both time and money.

We ask pardon in advance to those generous souls whose names should have appeared and didn't. If virtue is indeed its own reward, then we trust they will forgive omissions and understand that no one was intentionally slighted.

1. The People of Arkansas
The widow's mite makes for mighty giving in a state like Arkansas.

Research indicates that the poor give more money as a percentage of their income than do the rich. The state ranks 48th in per capita income yet is consistently ranked in the upper tier of per capita giving to charity.

Studies show a positive correlation between religious sentiment and charitable giving, and Arkansans are religious, yet they don't confine their charity to their churches.

One outstanding example of someone who has given of herself for more than 50 years is Jo Ann Cayce of Thornton (Calhoun County), winner in 1992 of the National Caring Award, as, in 2004, was her 17-year-old grandson, Daniel. JoAnn has helped feed, clothe and otherwise care for the poor, elderly and disabled in her neck of the woods since she was a girl.

Another is Keith Jackson, retired star of the National Football League and now an Arkansas Razorbacks radio analyst. Jackson founded Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids, a program that works to keep Little Rock children from dropping out of school and to help them achieve academically.

As for other more or less average Arkansans who contribute time, money, even their blood, they are too numerous to name but not too numerous to thank.

2. Walton Family Foundation/Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation/Wal-Mart Foundation/Sam Walton/Helen Walton/Bud Walton/Alice Walton/John Walton/Jim Walton/S. Robson Walton/Christy Walton
The members of one of the world's richest families not only founded one of the United States' biggest charitable organizations, they also have donated huge amounts of money individually.

The Walton Family Foundation, which Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen, started in 1987, focuses much of its giving on efforts to reform public schools. Other foundation interests include environmental initiatives, economic development in the Delta and individual programs in northwest Arkansas. In 2007, the foundation, based in Bentonville, gave $241 million in grants and other donations, its Web site says. The foundation had assets of $1.6 billion at the end of 2007, according to the Foundation Center, a nonprofit based in New York that provides a directory of public and private foundations.

The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation helps Arkansas colleges, universities, community trusts and foundations in Arkansas and several other states. In 1998, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation gave $50 million to the College of Business Administration of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, which was renamed the Sam M. Walton College of Business. In 2002, the foundation gave $300 million to the University of Arkansas.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.