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Bell Tower Magazine | Arts and Sciences | Health Education and Human Sciences | BT-CurrentOctober 20, 2022

Historic Gift by Windgate to Transform University and River Valley

In September, speaking about the $18.7 million gift from the Windgate Foundation, Chancellor Terisa Riley said, “In some ways, they can dream even bigger than we do, and to dream big dreams to improve our community together is special.”

The transformative gift is the largest single gift in university history. It is earmarked to expand the acclaimed nursing and art education programs. 

The gift addresses critical needs in the Arkansas River Valley, dramatically increasing nursing graduates and cultivating an immersive arts experience for students and the public through the expansion of Windgate Art and Design and Art Department’s offerings.

“The Windgate Foundation cares deeply about Fort Smith,” said Blake Rickman, Executive Director of the UAFS Foundation and Vice Chancellor for University Advancement. “This is their hometown, and they understand the unique relationship between UAFS and the community. We aren’t just a university in Fort Smith; we are Fort Smith’s university, and we couldn’t be more thankful for their support.” 

“This foundation has walked hand-in-hand with us for so many years,” Riley said. “I take a lot of pride in their trust in us as good stewards of their investments.” 

Before this gift, the Windgate Foundation awarded more than $25 million to UAFS in support of the Windgate Art and Design building and endowment, visual arts and design programming, and a comprehensive scholarship endowment for high-need students. 

“Through their generous gift, the members of the Windgate Foundation have entrusted to us the ability to carry out a large part of their legacy,” Riley said. “It’s an honor, and I am so impressed by how quickly they have used their philanthropy to ensure that their investments empower us to adapt to the community’s changing needs.” 

“When priorities can adjust in real-time, you know the people behind the scenes are genuine servants of their community,” echoed Rickman.

Over the past three years, he said, the university and the Windgate Foundation pivoted from discussing a single gift to improve fine art facilities at UAFS to creating the multi-tiered plan to holistically advance the health and wellness of the River Valley.