Fowlers Donate $2.93M to Chancellor's Residence Expansion

Fowlers Donate $2.93M to Chancellor's Residence Expansion
An architectural rendering from Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of the proposed Fowler House Garden and Conservatory addition. (University of Arkansas)

The chancellor's home on the University of Arkansas campus is getting an upgrade thanks to a hefty gift from its namesakes.

Wallace W. and Jama M. Fowler of Jonesboro pledged $2.93 million to an effort to expand the residence, adding room to host large dinners, receptions and other special events. Construction on the Fowler House Garden & Conservatory is pending approval from the university's board of trustees.

Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock are the designers of the project. The garden and conservatory will be separate from the house and have a 1,700-SF main dining room with a seating capacity of 120 people, along with a 300-SF catering kitchen.

In addition to the hospitality offerings, the money will allow for the creation of a garden area for large events with enough seating for 250 guests. Flower beds, trees and improvements of the general aesthetics in the space in front of Razorback Road are among the items to be addressed.

The conservatory would be located to the west of the existing residence, on the same parcel of land, with the garden between the conservatory and the house.

Property adjacent to the residence is being purchased to meet additional parking needs. The 0.65 acres near the chancellor's residence, which is currently used as rental property, will cost the university $955,000. Funding will be provided by the Property Purchase Reserves & Private Gift Funds.

A construction bid is yet to be awarded and no groundbreaking date has been set. Organizers want the project to begin in fall 2015 and be completed by August 2016. 

The Wallace W. & Jama M. Fowler House was completed in 2008. It's currently occupied by UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart and his wife, Jane. 

"The Fowler House Garden & Conservatory, which was included as phase two in the original plans, will be a beautiful addition to the house and our campus as a whole," Gearhart said in a news release. "The Fowler name has become synonymous with philanthropy in Arkansas, and they have been wonderful friends of the university. The Fowler House Garden & Conservatory will give us the opportunity to showcase their generosity even more."

In the six years since its completion, the Fowler House has been host to more than 800 events and more than 17,000 guests, including former President Bill Clinton and several presidential cabinet members, U.S. senators and governors.

"Our hope is that this addition will bring Fowler House to a new level and give the university even more variety in the types of events that can be offered to alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends," Jama Flower said in the release.

Wallace Fowler is the former CEO and chairman of Liberty Bancshares of Jonesboro, which sold to Home BancShares Inc. of Conway for $280 million last year.

He and his wife have been active donors to the University of Arkansas, providing funding for the construction of the chancellor's residence in 2005, a $1 million gift to name the Don & Ellen Edmondson Legacy Studio in Vol Walker Hall, and a $2.5 million donation for the Fowler Family Baseball & Track Training Center.