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

Darragh gave generously to the state's public libraries, and the Fred Darragh Center for Intellectual Freedom at the Central Arkansas Library System's Main Library and a lecture series were named in his honor.

Darragh died in 2003 at the age of 86, but the Fred Darragh Foundation maintains his tradition of giving.

22. Stella Boyle Smith
Stella Boyle Smith was among the founders of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and gave to arts organizations throughout her life. She also supported Arkansas Children's Hospital, St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, just to name a few of the entities that benefited from her largesse.

Her wealth stemmed from land holdings in Woodruff and Arkansas counties. Smith died in 1994 at the age of 100.

 23. Jennings Osborne
Let's call him the people's philanthropist. For every person who has tsk-tsked about the garishness of Jennings Osborne's Cantrell Road home light displays – particularly, back in the day, his Christmas lights – surely another thousand have enjoyed them, as well as the fireworks that he and his family provide during Riverfest and other community celebrations or the barbecue for too many occasions to name. He has helped clothe a governor (Mike Huckabee) and has fed President George W. Bush, but he also has feted President Bill Clinton and friends.

Osborne, who founded Arkansas Research Medical Testing in 1968 and sold it in 2004, has also helped light up Disney World, Graceland and Hot Springs.

"We do three things – Christmas lights, fireworks and barbecues," Osborne told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2002. "We find those three vehicles create a lot of memories. It's our gift to people who enjoy it." And they have.

24. Lily Peter
Lily Peter of Marvell, who died in 1991 at the age of 100, loved the arts. Miss Lily, as she was known to many, farmed 7,000 acres in Phillips County, wrote poetry and devoted herself to her causes, which included conservation. In 1971, Gov. Dale Bumpers named Peter the Poet Laureate of Arkansas, a title she held until her death.

She helped found the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and paid for a number of great musicians to perform in the state. She helped fund the Phillips County Community College Auditorium, which was named for her, and financed the college educations of many students.

25. The Arkansas Community Foundation/Pat Lile
The Arkansas Community Foundation isn't one philanthropist or even a family of philanthropists. It's a nonprofit that allows individual Arkansans, including those of average means – in addition to families, corporations and other nonprofits – to ensure their charitable donations make a lasting difference.

The foundation, which focuses on local issues, provides advice and resources to help givers make the most of their gifts.

Pat Lile, of Little Rock, assumed the leadership of the foundation in 1996, retiring last year. The foundation's assets grew from $15 million to $120 million during Lile's tenure. Lile also is a co-founder of Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families.

The ACF, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2007, got its seed money from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and in 2005, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation promised $18 million to help ACF open regional offices around Arkansas.


(Click here to see all the stories in our anniversary edition. Or click here to flip through each page of the edition in this special free electronic version.) 



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