The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust took another major step to winding down its legacy of giving from the late governor’s estate with a $2.25 million to gift to UA Little Rock’s Center for Arkansas History and Culture.
It will support a fund that preserves, houses and catalogs historical items from the Rockefeller Collection and support other activities.
Last year, the trust gave $100 million to the University of Arkansas to endow the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, based on Petit Jean Mountain at the former home of Rockefeller. At that time, a spokesman said the trust would wind down over the next 18 to 24 months, with $15 to $20 million remaining to be spent. The trust has distributed more than $346 million since it was established. It was not the only legacy left by Winthrop Rockefeller. He also created the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, which continues and it focuses on poverty, economic development and racial equality. He also left a substantial private fortune in businesses and investments managed by heirs.
UA officials; Marion Burton, executive trustee of the trust, and Will Rockefeller, grandson of Winthrop Rockefeller and vice president of Winrock Farms, were among those participating in the news conference today at UA Little Rock’s downtown facility.
The Center for History is housed in the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History and Art building, a cooperative effort of UA Little Rock and the Central Arkansas Library System.
The UA Little Rock news release:
The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust has gifted $2.25 million to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture to preserve and educate the public about the history of Arkansas, including the notable contributions of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller.
The gift, announced Sept. 10 at UA Little Rock Downtown, will create the Winthrop Rockefeller Archival Fund, a quasi-endowment. It is the sixth largest cash gift in UA Little Rock’s history. Funds will be used to preserve, house, and catalog historical items from the Rockefeller Collection and to support topics and activities related to the center’s mission.
“Almost a half a century ago, Arkansas lost a great leader, and I lost a friend with the passing of Winthrop Rockefeller,” said Marion Burton, executive trustee of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. “The trust that bears his name was established at the time of his death and has carried on his vision for the state.
“The Charitable Trust and the UA Little Rock center have been good partners in bringing the Arkansas story to the community. The Trustees have always carefully considered the impact of its donations, and this gift was no exception. The Charitable Trust recognizes the strengths and reputation of the Center for Arkansas History and Culture and is pleased to make this further commitment to their work.”
The collection is comprised of papers, memorabilia, and historic records related to Gov. Rockefeller, Arkansas’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and celebrated philanthropist. The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust donated the collection to the center in 1980. The Rockefeller Collection, which was instrumental in establishing UA Little Rock’s archives program, represents the center’s largest collection with more than 2,000 boxes.
The gift will allow the center to create educational activities, research initiatives, and events associated with the Rockefeller Collection and other collections housed in the center.
“I want to thank Will Rockefeller and his family for their support for the Center for Arkansas History and Culture and the state,” said Deborah Baldwin, director of the Center for Arkansas History and Culture and associate provost for collections and archives. “We hope that the family will continue to see the center as the place to secure the Arkansas Rockefeller legacy. We are pleased that the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust has confidence in our vision and execution of the work.”
Baldwin said plans for the center include increasing its archives to include collections of underrepresented groups that will complement its collection of records related to state leaders. The center will also increase efforts to digitize collections housed in the archive, making this historic information more accessible to the public.
“Our archival collections can become a more complete reflection of the state’s people and organizations,” Baldwin said. “Scholars can better explore the ‘why’ questions of history with more complete information. This gift will make a difference. Positive change is a hallmark of Winthrop Rockefeller’s work. Behind all of these initiatives is our goal to inspire people to engage with Arkansas history and the future it maps for us.”
Additionally, the center will offer more educational opportunities for students by granting awards to conduct research and providing experiential learning opportunities.
“The Department of History views this remarkable gift as a watershed moment in its efforts to prepare students for professional careers through experiential education,” said Jess Porter, chair of the UA Little Rock Department of History. “The Center for Arkansas History and Culture has long been an indispensable partner of our graduate program in Public History. Under the leadership of Dr. Baldwin, the center has trained a generation of graduate students who have gone on to become leaders in the humanities in central Arkansas and beyond.”