Ellis Arnold on Hendrix College's Special Bonds with Alumni

Ellis Arnold on Hendrix College's Special Bonds with Alumni
Ellis Arnold

W. Ellis Arnold III is the senior executive vice president, general counsel and dean of advancement for Hendrix College in Conway. In addition to those roles, Arnold also serves as CEO of The Village at Hendrix LLC, a new urbanist community adjacent to the college. 

He was a partner in the Little Rock law firm of Arnold Lax and Vaughan (now Lax Vaughan Fortson Rowe & Threet) from 1982 to 1990 and has been in education administration and leadership roles for the past 26 years.

Arnold received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Hendrix College in 1979 and his Juris Doctor from the Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1982 where he was a member of the law review.

Hendrix College, a private liberal arts college, was founded in 1876 and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Are endowments to Hendrix College sustained mainly by a few wealthy contributors, or do many smaller donations amount to a significant percentage?

Hendrix has been fortunate to receive broad philanthropic support for its endowment. Most of the college’s larger endowments were realized through bequests, charitable remainder trusts and charitable gift annuities. However, the vast majority of the college’s endowed funds were established through smaller gifts from alumni and friends of the college made during their lifetimes.

The minimum amount required to establish an endowed fund at Hendrix is $25,000. Today we have 436 endowed funds that have an original gift value of less than $50,000 and 68 endowed funds between $50,000 and $100,000. In addition, the college has 142 endowed funds with an original gift value in excess of $100,000. Overall, the college’s endowment was valued at $186.8 million at the conclusion of our fiscal year on May 31.

What compels alumni and others to contribute to a college?

Individuals who make contributions to the college are motivated to do so for a variety of reasons. Many alumni make gifts for capital projects or to the endowment in recognition of their life-changing experiences as a student. The special relationship between students and faculty and the lifelong friendships established by alumni help establish a unique and special bond with their alma mater. Each year thousands of alumni from across the United States and around the world make gifts to Hendrix. They believe in the college’s mission as a liberal arts institution, and they possess a desire to ensure that future generations of students will have the opportunity for a life-changing educational experience.

In addition, the college has been fortunate to receive the support of United Methodist laypersons throughout the state of Arkansas whose only connection to Hendrix is through the United Methodist Church.

Has there been any pressure on Hendrix to divest holdings in fossil fuel companies, as there has been on other schools?

Hendrix employs multiple investment managers and maintains a fully diversified global portfolio across multiple sectors, and there has been no pressure to divest from fossil fuel companies.

How did you get involved in this career and what advice would you give young people interested in such a career?

I was engaged in the private practice of law in Little Rock when I was contacted by then-Hendrix President Joe B. Hatcher in the summer of 1990 about a possible career in higher education. I have been fortunate to blend my passion for Hendrix and my background as an attorney to help achieve the goals and strategic priorities of the college.

My advice for those considering a career in advancement has typically highlighted the importance of an individual being goal-oriented, possessing excellent communication skills, always maintaining a sense of urgency and, most important, being passionate about the mission and purpose of the institution.