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Meriwether Scholarship Will Support UA Little Rock MPA Students

Jack Meriwether
Jack Meriwether

A new endowed scholarship has been created to help public administration students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in memory of John (Jack) T. Meriwether, a former Little Rock city manager and higher education advocate for Arkansas.

Judy Thompson, Meriwether’s widow, has made a gift of $110,000 to create the John Thompson (Jack) Meriwether Endowed Scholarship in memory of her late husband who passed away in 2013. The endowment will be used to assist Master of Public Administration students at UA Little Rock.

After interning at the city manager’s office in Little Rock, Meriwether developed a love of public administration. He received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas at Lawrence and served as a successful city manager to both Texarkana and Little Rock.

“I think Jack would be very pleased and would feel like this scholarship is paying it forward,” Thompson said, adding that Meriwether first mentioned starting a scholarship at UA Little Rock some 25 years ago. “Jack was very appreciative of the jobs he had. He loved being city manager. The City of Little Rock helped him get his master’s degree, and now he’s helping other people get their master’s degree with this scholarship.”

His interest in higher education arose after Gov. Dale Bumpers appointed him chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Education in 1974. The committee recommended and the state legislature approved a state-supported kindergarten program, free high school textbooks, expanding degree programs for the University of Arkansas as well as state colleges, and the possibility of a community college system.

“This experience stayed with him,” Thompson said. “In 1982, Jack was hired by the University of Arkansas System as vice president for university relations to lobby for a tax program specifically for a special school fund. He persuaded the Joint Budget Committee to give $50 million a year to the state colleges and universities.”

In later years, Meriwether worked to secure $120 million from the federal government to support higher education in Arkansas, first obtaining a Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation grant to study ways in which government aid might improve research and development in Arkansas universities.

“Jack wanted faculty to be able to travel to Washington, D.C. to talk with Sen. Bumpers’ staff and for Bumpers’ staff to go to universities to talk to the faculty about what they could do to help,” Thompson said. “Jack felt it was important to talk with faculty and find out what they really needed to make universities successful.”

The scholarship will provide education-related expenses for part or full-time graduate students in the Master of Public Administration program in the School of Public Affairs. The scholarship recipient will be chosen based on financial need and/or merit.

“We are grateful to Mrs. Thompson for creating a student scholarship that allows UA Little Rock to honor Mr. Meriwether’s long-term commitment to education in the state of Arkansas,” said Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education.

UA Little Rock supporters can learn more about helping support students through scholarships by visiting the Centennial Campaign website.