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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Innovator’s Gift to Lift UALR Discoveries to Marketplace

Arkansas innovator and entrepreneur James Hendren and his wife Carol have presented UALR’s College of Science and Math a $50,000 pledge to provide funding needed to take scientific research from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Often laboratory researchers run out of grant money used to develop their innovation just when they need it to bridge the gap from the development phase to commercialization. The $50,000 fund can provide critical funding for patent fees and other ancillary expenses to get a laboratory discovery transformed into a new small business.

“This is a gift that is different than what we traditionally receive here at UALR,” said Dr. Michael Gealt, dean of the College of Science and Math. “This will help with research because it can be difficult to receive funding to move a project forward toward commercialization.

Hendren, former president, chief executive officer, and then chair of Arkansas Systems, Inc. (ARKSYS) led the company from a small 4-employee entrepreneurial business to a $12 million internationally known organization in the early era of commercial computing. The company wrote automated teller machine and bank electronic transaction software for small and medium banks across the country and later overseas.

The firm was one of the first Arkansas-based high tech companies to develop global status in the computer-based economic sector.

He was among the business leaders who saw that creation of a school of engineering and information technology was needed for central Arkansas to grow that industry. UALR’s Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT) was born.

Hendren has served on the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority board and helped organize the Association of Knowledge-based Companies, for which he has served as vice president.

He played a role in the creation of Accelerate Arkansas, a group with the goal of raising the average wage in Arkansas to the national average by 2020.

“We firmly believe that the way you will do that is you build companies that are wealth-generating and pay high wages, so that means an educated work force, and I’m involved in education areas,” Hendren said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Hendren was the organizing chairman of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Coalition – a group of educators, scientists, engineers, and technicians that are geared toward supporting science, technology, engineering and math education for students and teachers.

The STEM educational background produces the workforce for innovation and commercialization of new opportunities, and the advancement of existing industry through technology, which makes Arkansas more competitive and produces better jobs that are high paying.

“He is just driven to make the state competitive,” said Jerry Adams, president and chief executive officer of the Arkansas research Alliance and a member of the UALR Board of Visitors. “I have grown to appreciate his insight to economic development and the fact that he cares enormously about this state. If you know that James Hendren has taken responsibility for something, you know it’s going to happen and happen right.”