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Fifty for the Future Celebrates 60th Anniversary at UA Little Rock

Chancellor Christina S. Drale addresses Fifty for the Future members at UA Little Rock.
Chancellor Christina S. Drale addresses Fifty for the Future members at UA Little Rock.

In a special meeting kicking off their 60th anniversary year, Fifty for the Future met at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Jan. 12 to hear about the unique history between the two organizations.

UA Little Rock is the first organization that benefitted from a generous donation from Fifty for the Future, who donated $150,000 in 1965 to the Graduate Institute of Technology, which later joined UA Little Rock. Chancellor Christina S. Drale commented that the gift would be worth around $1.5 million in today’s dollars.

UA Little Rock has also received two additional gifts from Future for the Fifty over the years. The group donated $250,000 in 2002 to the Don W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development for the group that is now known as the Arkansas Economic Development Institute. They also made a $250,000 donation in 2005 to the College of Engineering and Information Technology, now the Donaghey College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

“Fifty for the Future and UA Little Rock have collaborated for six decades in cultivating a relevant and readily available pipeline of workforce talent for Arkansas,” Fifty for the Future President Sharon Tallach Vogelpohl said. “The continued partnership will be as impactful in Fifty’s next 60 years as in its first 60 years.”

Chancellor Drale gave a keynote talk to the Fifty for the Future members on how UA Little Rock and the business community are working together to develop a well-prepared workforce and invigorate the economy of central Arkansas.

“I want to thank Fifty for the Future for making those investments and for recognizing why those kinds of investments are important,” Chancellor Drale said. “The ways universities and UA Little Rock in particular support economic development is to produce graduates with advanced skills and professional training and commercialization of applied research.”

UA Little Rock’s approach to preparing students for the workforce includes providing them with a career-path education with an emphasis on experiential learning, investing in programs in high-demand fields, and developing programs in emerging fields like cybersecurity, information science, data analytics, and virtual reality.

“UA Little Rock is a comprehensive public university, which means that we provide a wide variety of degree programs built on a strong liberal arts foundation,” Chancellor Drale said. “We also know that students stand a better chance of persisting and being successful if we can help them connect the dots between what they are doing in the classroom and what they will be doing after they graduate.”

In central Arkansas, UA Little Rock is a major provider of graduates in business, law, engineering, construction management, and STEM fields in general, particularly emerging fields like cybersecurity, information science, and data analytics. We also have many graduates in nursing, social work, education, and technical writing.

Universities also have a valuable role in building economic growth through research and entrepreneurial investment. UA Little Rock recently launched the Arkansas Tech Launch Exchange Program in partnership with the Venture Center and the Little Rock Regional Chamber. This is a program where we bring in rising entrepreneurs from other countries to develop new businesses in central Arkansas who work with faculty and students to participate in the process of innovation.

Chancellor Christina S. Drale greets members of Fifty for the Future who met at UA Little Rock on Jan. 12. Photo by Ben Krain.
Chancellor Christina S. Drale greets members of Fifty for the Future who met at UA Little Rock on Jan. 12. Photo by Ben Krain.

UA Little Rock is in the middle of a comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Centennial Campaign, designed to increase the number of endowed need-based scholarships, grow the student support endowment, raise support for high-quality faculty through endowed chairs, raise endowed maintenance funds for existing buildings, and help renovate existing facilities. UA Little Rock has a goal to raise a total of $250 million by the university’s 100-year anniversary in 2027.

“We are $182 million on our way to meeting that quarter of a billion goal,” said Christian O’Neal, vice chancellor for university advancement. “The heart of much of that support can be found in this room. To each and every one of you, I say thank you for that support.”

Fifty for the Future members were interested in hearing how they can continue to support UA Little Rock with helping provide an affordable and accessible college education for Arkansans. UA Little Rock is constantly partnering with businesses and organizations like Fifty for the Future to help prepare students for advantageous careers in central Arkansas. These partnerships include:

  • Educational partners who provide internships for students, client projects for classes, classroom visits, advisory board, and mentorships
  • Research partners through collaboration and investment
  • Expanding the professional workforce through a corporate employee tuition discount program
  • Investment partners through scholarships, endowed faculty, sponsored classrooms, lab, and other physical spaces, and general student support

“Fifty for the Future really appreciates UA Little Rock hosting us,” said Joe Stanley, who has been a member of the group for eight years and is an architect who worked on the Student Services Center at UA Little Rock. “We are a group who is working for the betterment of Little Rock and the central Arkansas community. This is what we are about.”