October 13, 2003. -- Posted at 11:35 AM CDT
CLARKSVILLE, AR -- The University of the Ozarks had suffered dwindling enrollment and deteriorating buildings.
There was talk five years ago of closing the facility at Clarksville. But Helen Walton, widow of Wal-Mart Stores founder Sam Walton, was on the university's board, and now is credited as being instrumental in a major gift -- 39.5 million dollars.
The sum is the largest gift ever to a private university or college in Arkansas.
Now, five years after announcement of the gift in October 1998, university officials say the school has been transformed. Enrollment on the small campus has increased by 38 percent since 1998, from 530 students to 731.
Once-dreadful faculty salaries are now competitive with similar institutions. The dormitories and classroom buildings have been expanded and renovated.