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Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Winding Down, Will Close in 2017

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After committing more than $1.8 billion to nonprofits since 1994, including hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations in Arkansas, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation of Las Vegas is set to shut down at the end of 2017.

Steve Anderson, president of the foundation, said last week that the organization always had an end date in mind.

“The foundation was never designed to last into perpetuity like a lot of the foundations are,” Anderson said.

The foundation is now working on distributing the approximately $160 million it has remaining under management, Anderson said.

It also is evaluating all the nonprofits that it supported over the years, and the highest performing ones might receive “additional funding to enhance their programs and try to strengthen them before we’re gone from the scene,” Anderson said. “The goal is to make sure the organizations that we’ve funded are strong, and if that requires some additional funding, that will be considered.”

He said the foundation’s staff is making site visits to evaluate the status of the programs and the condition of the buildings that the foundation funded.

“There’s been some disappointment that we’re not going to be around to consider new projects,” Anderson said. “But I think people understand our idea is to be able to provide maximum support for the organizations that we’re funding now, and it will be up to someone else in the future to pick up the slack and continue to support these organizations.”

Millions of dollars of the Reynolds Foundations’ gifts have gone to organizations in Arkansas. Buildings from the University of Arkansas’ football stadium in Fayetteville to the Donald W. Reynolds YMCA of Warren and Bradley County bear the Donald W. Reynolds name.

The Reynolds Foundation has given the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock more than $87 million since 1996, making it the largest single cumulative donor in the history of the medical school, said Lance Burchett, vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

The foundation has financially supported a number of projects at UAMS, from the Schmeiding Home Caregiver Training Program for the elderly to money for buildings. “Had it not been for the generosity of the Reynolds Foundation, many of the programs … would not be here,” said Dr. Jeanne Wei, chairman of the Reynolds Department of Geriatrics and director of the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.

The foundation provided a $28.8 million grant for the Institute on Aging building.

Wei said the initial four floors of the Institute on Aging building were opened in 2001 and the second four floors were added later and opened in 2012.

“We wish [the foundation] wouldn’t come to an end,” Wei said. “But on the other hand, we just couldn’t be more grateful for the transformative gifts that they have given to UAMS.”

Donald W. Reynolds

Born in 1906 and raised in Oklahoma City, Donald Reynolds was a driven businessman who created a media empire that included newspapers, radio and television stations, cable television systems and outdoor adverting companies.

After Reynolds’ death in 1993, his Donrey Media Group was sold to Little Rock’s Stephens family, and the company was eventually renamed Stephens Media. It is jointly owned by Warren Stephens and his cousins, siblings Witt Stephens Jr. and Elizabeth Stephens Campbell.

The proceeds were used to form the Reynolds Foundation. The foundation started with about $850 million, Anderson said.

The foundation focused its grants on organizations in three states where Reynolds had his greatest interests: Oklahoma, Nevada and Arkansas, which has received $454.3 million in foundation awards.

The foundation supports human services, cultural and humanitarian, health, arts and education organizations.

The foundation also founded and funded a national program, the Aging & Quality of Life Program, which focuses on training doctors, nurses and caregivers in geriatrics to care for the elderly. It was started in 1996.

Arkansas Programs

In 2008, the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter in Bentonville was awarded a $13.5 million grant to build a shelter, said Greg Russell, a spokesman for the shelter.

But before the money was awarded, the shelter had to raise $5 million to show that it had community support, he said. It ended up raising $7 million for the project.

The $13.5 million grant “was a huge, huge advantage to the shelter,” Russell said. He said the shelter didn’t have much money in its approximately $3.5 million operating budget to set aside for a new shelter.

“Having an organization like Reynolds grant us the capital funds that we needed to build a big new place like this was a real godsend,” Russell said.

The 65,000-SF shelter opened in 2011, replacing a building that was 15,000 SF.

Its number of beds increased from 32 to 48, and the building can expand to hold 72 beds.

The foundation made another high-profile grant award in 1999. It gave $21 million for the expansion of the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Jeff Long, vice chancellor and director of athletics, called the award a “signature moment in the history of Razorback athletics” in an email to Arkansas Business last week.

“Without the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and its chairman Fred W. Smith, the Razorback program and the University of Arkansas would not be what it is today,” Long wrote. “We are truly appreciative of their longtime support and are grateful for the transformational influence it has made on our institution and the entire state of Arkansas.”

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