Betty Ann Lowe, M.D., was an exemplary pediatrician, diagnostician, educator, and advocate for children, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the state of Arkansas. She was known to be homespun, devoted, generous and tenacious beyond compare! Her parents, John W. and Winnie Lowe were public school administrators and educators. Betty was educated in the public schools of rural Texas and Arkansas, the University of Arkansas and the U of A Medical School venturing out of state only to Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School for residency training. She attributed her 25 years of private pediatric practice in Texarkana, AR/TX as preparing her to understand the struggle of families and local physicians and the need for better access to medical care for all residents of the state. To quote her, “To practice medicine for a period of time is a major factor toward being an effective clinical teacher”. She then set out to educate over two generations of pediatric physicians in the next three decades of her career.
Betty was active on boards and committees locally for such agencies as Camp Aldersgate, Easter Seals, and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (she was a founder of this group). She also enjoyed being part of the International Women’s Forum of Arkansas and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. She was named the recipient of the Father Joseph Blitz Award given by Arkansas Just Communities; the Paul Harris Fellow Award of Rotary International for community service; graduated first in her UAMS medical school class; elected to membership in the medical honor society of Alpha Omega Alpha; 1980 the Golden Apple Teaching Award from UAMS; 1982 the Arkansas Caduceus Club Distinguished Faculty Award; American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)--member, Fellow, Vice President and President (only Arkansan to serve and the second woman to be elected nationally for President); received the Milton Senn Award from AAP in 1996 for contributions to school health; 1982 the President's 75th Anniversary Award at ACH; and the UAMS Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Achievements in Science and Medicine in 2002. Dr. Lowe was named as the first recipient of the Harvey and Bernice Jones Chair in Pediatrics in 1997. President William J. Clinton appointed her as an advisor to his Task Force for Health Care Reform. Because Betty had such a passion for teaching physicians, nurses and other health care professionals her family, medical colleagues, former students and patients honored her with the establishment of the Betty Ann Lowe, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Education in 1999. As part of her legacy to ACH she directed her estate to provide for continuing support of the Division of Pediatric Rheumatology at ACH and a Chair was established for a Board Certified Pediatric Rheumatologist in 2013.
She was known as a role model for students and physicians; not just for female students, but also for all students. She was fair and demanded the best effort from herself and others. As one student recalled, “ She did not tolerate laziness” or students who only wanted to do enough to “get by”. “Not living up to individual potential” was a lesson learned at an early age within her family and carried over into all aspects of her professional career. She not only believed that excellence could be achieved in life, but that no one should even consider not “going for it”.
Dr. Lowe achieved many firsts in her career starting at an early age as valedictorian of Fourche Valley High School (Briggsville, Arkansas) and graduating first in her UAMS medical school class; but she never aspired to be ‘first’ only because something would attract attention to her. Quite the contrary, as Medical Director for Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Associate Dean of Pediatrics at University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, she was known to put the patients, families and students first. She insisted that the needs of patients and physicians come before “remodeling her office to look like a real physician’s office when that money could be used for patient care”. The ‘firsts’ she celebrated were those achieved by Arkansas Children’s Hospital in patient care, pediatric education, and clinical research. Over the next twenty-five years Dr. Lowe assisted with a number of firsts for ACH: a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with 12 bassinets; a state of the art ambulatory care service; open heart surgery; bone marrow transplant; heart transplant; NICU expanded to 55 beds; and a cooperative agreement with UAMS and ACH for the establishment of a joint state of the art Research Institute.
During her tenure as Medical Director the ACH expanded from a 45-bed, 2 patient wards to a modern teaching hospital with more than 260 beds, 70 specialty clinics and a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Although she worked with excellent boards, administrators, and physicians over those years, there were the “dis-believers” who thought some of her ideas “were off the wall” and just could not be done. Her answer to those was, “We want know until we try, will we?”
As President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the first and only Arkansan to date to hold that title, she was an advocate for health care reforms for children and medical education by challenging policies of the day, and advising politicians as well as physicians to “step up to the plate” and get moving with improving situations like poverty, public health issues (clean water, sanitation, adequate food for good nutrition, etc.), and health insurance. Many thought these were inappropriate issues for pediatricians, but Betty was relentless in showing how getting at the “root causes of illness and disease was essential to improving treatment and keeping children well”.
Aunt Bett, as she was known within the family, counted the nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews as her children and patients when the need arose. A very special treat for her was getting to visit with her first great-great niece and to get a late night phone call from her mom (the great niece) about what she should do about a “red rash’’! Aunt Bett would have liked for one of her nieces or nephews to become a Pediatrician. When one great niece told her she wanted to pursue Nursing, she replied, “Yep, yep, I think that is great! Be you and do what you love and success and happiness are sure to follow”. She was always supportive of the “kids” as she called them.
At one point she aspired to be a professional basketball player, but gave that up when she realized she would not be taller than five feet four inches. She had tremendous common sense and was practical in assessing her limits. This did not, however, diminish her competitive spirit in high school and intra-mural basketball in college. Her “left hook shot” was un-guardable and rarely missed going through the hoop! She was an avid reader with a very diverse subject matter interest and maintained a large stamp and coin collection; always had beautiful flowers in her garden as well as good vegetables (which she tended herself).
Betty prepared well for her chosen profession and never stopped studying and learning even in retirement. She exemplified what young women in Arkansas and elsewhere can become with education, study, and perseverance.
In summary, three quotes stand out: Betty was quoted on many occasions saying, “If you have any ideas about the future of our society then you know that this depends on making sure our children of today have the best health and education we can give them”. To quote President Bill Clinton at her retirement, “To me, she just took care of kids better than anybody. And she inspired a whole new generation of doctors to do the same. Betty, you have lived your life well in the most noble way possible – pouring yourself out for others”. One of her great nephews who spoke at her memorial told of an instance when Aunt Bett had said something he had done was “cool”. He followed by saying that “ When Aunt Bett said something was cool, now that was cool!”
Bettye McDonald Caldwell (December 24, 1924 - April 17, 2016) was an American educator and academic who influenced the development of Head Start.
Caldwell was born in Smithville, Texas, to Thomas and Juanita McDonald. Her family was poor, as her father was a railroad firefighter who lost his job when Caldwell was young. After graduating first in her high school class, Caldwell attended Baylor University, where she was a psychology and speech major. She earned a master's degree at the University of Iowa and a doctorate in psychology at Washington University. After graduate school, Caldwell was on the faculty or staff of several universities, including Northwestern University, Washington University, Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate.
While at Syracuse, Caldwell worked with pediatrician Julius Richmond on child development studies. Finding that poor children trailed off developmentally after the age of one, they created a day care center for children six months to five years of age. As the first infant group day care, the center required a waiver from the state. Caldwell felt that an emphasis on early childhood education could help to "level the playing field" for poor children before they started kindergarten. In 1964, Caldwell and Richmond's work led to the establishment of the Head Start project under Lyndon B. Johnson. Richmond was the first director of the project.
In the late 1960s, Caldwell moved to Arkansas. Working on the faculty of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, she established the Kramer Project, an inititive establishing a day care center associated with a Little Rock elementary school. Caldwell joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1974. The school made her Donaghey Distinguished Professor in 1978, the same year that she was one of Ladies' Home Journal's 10 Women of the Year. She was named to the faculty of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 1993.
She and her husband, Fred Caldwell, had two children. Fred Caldwell died in 2004. Bettye died in April 2016.
As a Community Development advocate, Cathy Cunningham believes in the power of education - cultural, political & economic - to change lives and communities. She believes that young people and adults, who understand the importance of helping to create an improved quality of life for all, can positively affect the direction of a community’s future.
After marrying Ernest Cunningham in 1978 and moving to Helena, she was fortunate to share in the lives of his two sons and now five grandchildren. Mrs. Cunningham soon became a champion of historic preservation and led an effort to restore several historic structures. Upon seeing the dramatic results several friends were easily persuaded to become involved with the restoration of the 1905 Short House, still in operation as the Edwardian Inn Bed & Breakfast.
Cathy Cunningham has been dedicated to the improvement of her ‘adopted’ hometown through tourism and economic development. She was appointed by Governor Frank White to the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (Arkansas Economic Development Commission). She served as Chairman of the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council and as one of the founding board members of the Arkansas Main Street Program. She was the first woman asked to serve on the Board of Arkansas Power & Light (Entergy Arkansas), and has served many years on the Board of First National Bank of Phillips County (Southern Bancorp, Central).
Mrs. Cunningham and her husband were instrumental in the decision of KIPP; the Knowledge is Power Program, to open a school in Helena. A national network of public Charter Schools dedicated to preparing students in underserved communities for success in college & in life; KIPP opened in 2002 with 3 classes of 5th grade students and now serves over 1500 students in Helena-West Helena, Blytheville, and Forrest City. Mrs. Cunningham serves on the Board of KIPP Delta where, as Chairman of the Development Committee, she led a campaign to raise several million dollars to support KIPP Delta Public Schools.
As a Community Development Consultant with Southern Bancorp Community Partners, and as Chair of the Helena Advertising & Promotion Commission, Mrs. Cunningham led the development and implementation of the Civil War Helena project and many tourism related improvements in the community. The Civil War project included the construction of a ¾ replica of the former Ft. Curtis, development of Battery C, construction of Freedom Park, and the placement of more than 100 interpretive kiosks, bronzes, & canons throughout the community. Civil War Helena shares the emotional stories of both Union & Confederate soldiers, Contraband (former slaves) and the families left behind.
Kay Kelley Arnold retired from Entergy Corporation as vice president of Public Affairs three years ago and now spends her time gardening, fishing, entertaining friends at her cabin on the Little Red River, playing with her dog Scout, traveling and volunteering for political candidates and non-profit causes she believes in. She was a pioneer in understanding and acting on the belief that working cooperatively together, government and the private sector can accomplish goals that can not and do not happen alone. She has led award-winning programs that support the environment and economic growth. She developed effective grass roots campaigns to pass significant legislation and to raise funds for innovative projects that bridge the gaps that exist between economic prosperity and environmental quality.
Her experience in philanthropy and political action is now focused on several state, regional and national organizations where she serves as a board member and volunteer. She currently serves on the board of Arkansas Hospice, and is a founding director of two new environmental non-profits, the Arkansas Environmental Defense Alliance and the Little Red River Foundation. She continues to serve on the national board of The Conservation Fund and is an advisory board member to the Inter-American Foundation and the Foundation of the Mid South. She is also serving as a citizen advisor to the Metroplan board, appointed by Mayor Mark Stodola and an Arkansas advisor to the Clinton Foundation. She is an active member of the Arkansas Women’s Forum and serves as an honorary member of Arkansas Women of Power.
As the first Arkansas director of the Nature Conservancy field office, she learned the importance of partnerships between government, non-profit and corporate entities. Working together these organizations can accomplish more than any one of them could do by themselves and the societal benefits of these collaborations are both enduring and tangible. As the Director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage she experienced the power people have to improve their communities when they are focused and flexible to make changes and work diligently toward common goals.
Public service is part of Kay Kelley Arnold’s DNA. Her parents, Henry and Tommie Kelley, always participated in the life of their community and taught their children that it was an honor to be asked and a duty to serve, to volunteer their time and talent to the betterment of society, in small and large ways. That foundation coupled with enlightened employers who understand the value of volunteer opportunities and who encourage employees to find meaningful ways to give back to their community gave Kay the love, spirit and ability to get involved in a wide variety of projects.
For almost 40 years, Kay has been an active volunteer, serving and leading on more than 45 Board of Directors for non-profit and governmental agency advisory boards at the local, state, national, and international levels. As her numerous board and committee positions attest, Kay utilizes her passion for the environment and her commitment to eliminating poverty and expanding economic opportunity to advocate for meaningful change, both within Arkansas and beyond.
Arnold’s decade of volunteer service to the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission, the body responsible for setting policy for Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, brought momentous improvements to the airport’s passenger experience while dramatically increasing its economic impact on the state of Arkansas.
Arnold, who twice served as chairwoman, was influential in changing the airport’s longstanding business model with airlines, an unheard-of move at the time. This enabled the airport commission to begin retaining record earnings, which have helped to bring about $90 million in improvements during the largest construction initiative within the organization’s history. The projects have included a new ticket lobby, baggage claim renovation, an enlarged security checkpoint in addition to an upcoming concourse renovation. Much of the work, which was completed by local contractors, began at the end of the recession, and provided a much needed spur to the local economy. The first phase of the terminal redevelopment project was completed in May 2013 with President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton in attendance to celebrate the airport’s transformation, and formally dedicate the facility as Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. The concourse renovation, the last portion of the long-term project, will start later this summer.
Clinton National Airport, which is now debt free, has been a trailblazer as airports across the country have since adopted the Little Rock Airport’s best practices, set forth by the airport commission, as their choice financial model for future success.
The airport is home to nearly 4,000 jobs with approximately half of those located at Dassault-Falcon Jet Corporation. Occupying more than 1-million square feet, Dassault-Falcon’s operation at Clinton National is the largest in the world. In 2013 during Arnold’s last term as chairwoman, Dassault was looking at several communities that were vying to be the site of the company’s new facility to serve as the completion center for two new jets, the Falcon 5X and the Falcon 8X. Arnold was exceedingly determined that Little Rock would be chosen, which would result in a 250-thousand square foot expansion and additional, good paying jobs. Through Arnold’s leadership, the airport provided $41 million in rent incentives, which helped Little Rock win the project that was completed in November 2015.
Lottie H. Shackelford has made history throughout her impressive 40 plus years in local, state and national politics. In 1987, she became the first woman elected Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas. Six years later, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), making her the first African American woman to serve on that Board. She also has the distinction of having the longest tenure as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), having served for 20 years and is currently Vice Chair Emeritus and Chair of the DNC Women’s Caucus.
Ms. Shackelford's political career began in 1978 when she was appointed to the Board of Directors for the city of Little Rock, Arkansas. She was elected and re-elected city wide three times before being elected the City’s first woman Mayor. During her tenure in local government, Ms. Shackelford directed liaison activities for minority businesses and held leadership positions in the National League of Cities. Additionally, she presented papers and conducted lecture tours on local government, economic development and electoral politics nationally and in European and African countries, as well as, leading economic trade missions to Asian countries.
For the past several decades, Ms. Shackelford has worked tirelessly with the Democratic Party and has been a delegate to every Democratic National Convention since 1980. Her national political experience includes senior positions on presidential campaigns, working on White House transition teams, and Co-Chair of the 1988 DNC Convention.
With wide-ranging institutional knowledge and political experience, Ms. Shackelford remains an invaluable asset to the Democratic Party. During her tenure as DNC Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation, Ms. Shackelford traveled across the country and around the world, sharing the Democratic Party’s message and engaging voters in the political process. She regularly participated in political forums in other countries, including Azerbaijan, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, and observed elections and the electoral process in Romania, the Baltics, West Germany and Taiwan.
Ms. Shackelford has also been an active member, locally and nationally, of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and has received numerous honors and awards with some of the most coveted being a recipient of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Trailblazer Award in 1980 the Mary Church Terrell Award in 1998 at National Convention, The Delta Legacy Award at the 42nd National Convention, Esquire Magazines 40 most influential African Americans in 1984, induction into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1993, Woman of Distinction, 2003, Jimmie Lou Fisher-Lottie Shackelford Dinner, 2014 to honor women who have worked tirelessly on behalf of key issues that affect women in Arkansas and a Greek Legend Honoree in 2015.
Ms. Shackelford received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas and was a Senior Fellow at the Arkansas Institute of Politics and a 1983 Fellow of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
She has an extensive record of having served on numerous boards and commissions such as the Board of Directors of Philander Smith College, Little Rock, AR, Southern Regional Council, Atlanta, GA, and Little Rock Airport Commission. Ms. Shackelford is also a member of many civic and social organizations including the Urban League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc. and The Southern Youth Leadership Development Institute.
A native of Little Rock, Arkansas and a member of the First Baptist Church of Little Rock, Ms. Shackelford is a proud mother of three adult children, a son and two daughters, and a devoted grandmother of six. She is a mentor to dozens of young women and men interested in politics and continues to open doors for future generations who want to serve the public.
Joycelyn Elders, the first person in the state of Arkansas to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology, was the fifteenth Surgeon General of the United States, the first African American and only the second woman to head the U.S. Public Health Service. Long an outspoken advocate of public health, Elders was appointed Surgeon General by President Clinton in 1993.
Born to poor farming parents in 1933, Joycelyn Elders grew up in a rural, segregated, poverty-stricken pocket of Arkansas. She was the eldest of eight children, and she and her siblings had to combine work in the cotton fields from age 5 with their education at a segregated school thirteen miles from home. They often missed school during harvest time, September to December.
After graduating from high school, she earned a scholarship to the all-black liberal arts Philander Smith College in Little Rock. While she scrubbed floors to pay for her tuition, her brothers and sisters picked extra cotton and did chores for neighbors to earn her $3.43 bus fare. In college, she enjoyed biology and chemistry, but thought that lab technician was likely her highest calling. Her ambitions changed when she heard Edith Irby Jones, the first African American to attend the University of Arkansas Medical School, speak at a college sorority. Elders—who had not even met a doctor until she was 16 years old—decided that becoming a physician was possible, and she wanted to be like Jones.
After college, Elders joined the Army and trained in physical therapy at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. After discharge in 1956 she enrolled at the University of Arkansas Medical School on the G.I. Bill. Although the Supreme Court had declared separate but equal education unconstitutional two years earlier, Elders was still required to use a separate dining room—where the cleaning staff ate. She met her husband, Oliver Elders, while performing physical exams for the high school basketball team he managed, and they were married in 1960.
Elders did an internship in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, and in 1961 returned to the University of Arkansas for her residency. Elders became chief resident in charge of the all-white, all-male residents and interns. She earned her master's degree in biochemistry in 1967, became an assistant professor of pediatrics at the university's Medical School in 1971, and full professor in 1976.
Over the next twenty years, Elders combined her clinical practice with research in pediatric endocrinology, publishing well over a hundred papers, most dealing with problems of growth and juvenile diabetes. This work led her to study of sexual behavior and her advocacy on behalf of adolescents. She saw that young women with diabetes face health risks if they become pregnant too young—include spontaneous abortion and possible congenital abnormalities in the infant. She helped her patients to control their fertility and advised them on the safest time to start a family.
Governor Bill Clinton appointed Joycelyn Elders head of the Arkansas Department of Health in 1987. As she campaigned for clinics and expanded sex education, she caused a storm of controversy among conservatives and some religious groups. Yet, largely because of her lobbying, in 1989 the Arkansas Legislature mandated a K-12 curriculum that included sex education, substance-abuse prevention, and programs to promote self-esteem. From 1987 to 1992, she nearly doubled childhood immunizations, expanded the state's prenatal care program, and increased home-care options for the chronically or terminally ill.
In 1993, President Clinton appointed Dr. Elders U.S. Surgeon General. Despite opposition from conservative critics, she was confirmed and sworn in on September 10, 1993. During her fifteen months in office she faced skepticism regarding her progressive policies yet continued to bring controversial issues up for debate. As she later concluded, change can only come about when the Surgeon General can get people to listen and talk about difficult subjects.
Dr. Elders left office in 1994 and in 1995 she returned to the University of Arkansas as a faculty researcher and professor of pediatric endocrinology at the Arkansas Children's Hospital. In 1996 she wrote her autobiography, Joycelyn Elders, M.D.: From Sharecropper's Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States of America.
Now retired from practice, she is a professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, and remains active in public health education.
Patti Upton of Heber Springs is the founder and former president and chief executive officer of Aromatique Inc., a multi-million-dollar international company that launched the decorative fragrance industry. Before Upton, American women brought color and fragrance to their home only by using live flowers. She changed the world with decorative fragrance in open bowls, as well as fragranced candles. Aromatique, founded in 1982, now features many fragrance product lines, complete with accessories and decorative containers, and a full bath line. Her first fragrance creation – The Smell of Christmas – was made up of Arkansas native botanicals such as acorns, pine cones, gumballs and hickory nuts, fragranced with spices and oils. Placed in a friend’s shop, the fragrance sold out and customers clamored for more. Today the company employs more than 200 people in Arkansas. Media took notice, including People magazine, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," the London Sunday Express, Southern Living and the Washington Post. Upton has been recognized by Working Woman magazine, the International Women's Forum, the Society of Entrepreneurs and the Easter Seal Society. She was honored as the Arkansas Business Woman Owner of the Year and her company as the Arkansas Business of the Year. Several organizations have benefitted from her philanthropic work, including the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and The Nature Conservancy. Upton was recognized with the Distinguished Citizen Award from Little Rock’s KARK-TV and the Office of the Governor of the State of Arkansas for her charitable work. In February, 2016, Patti was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.
Pat Walker was born in Boise, Idaho, on May 9, 1919. She was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After Pat graduated from high school, she and her mother moved to Coffeyville, Kansas, where she met her future husband, Willard. Pat and Willard lived in several different towns before settling in Springdale to raise their two children, Patricia and Johnny Mike. Pat feels blessed to have shared 61 years of marriage with Willard before he passed away in February, 2003. She has seven grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren: each one brings her great happiness. Every day is a celebration of life as she enjoys time with friends and family.
In 1986, Willard and Pat created the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation. Since that time, their generosity has touched the lives of thousands of Arkansans. Pat still serves as a lifetime board member for the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, is an active member of SpringCreek Fellowship of Springdale, and pursues an active role in the Walker Charitable Foundation. As one of the Razorback’s most loyal fans, Pat enjoys the spirit of the fans and the competition of the games, especially in football, baseball, basketball and gymnastics.
Many awards have been bestowed upon Pat in recognition of her philanthropy, including the 2002 American Heart Association Tiffany Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Razorback Foundation and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Distinguished Service Award. She has been recognized as one of the Most Distinguished Women in Arkansas. Pat and Willard were inducted into the Towers of Old Main in 2001 and are long-time members of the University of Arkansas Chancellor’s Society and the UAMS Chancellor’s Society. Pat served as honorary chairperson in 2005 for Komen Ozark Race for the Cure.
Pat Walker has left her mark on many institutions across the state. In 1996, the Pat Walker Theater was dedicated at the Springdale High School. The Pat Walker Health Center was dedicated in November, 2004, at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville campus. In 2007, the University of the Ozark’s dedicated the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program. The Pat Walker Center for Seniors at Washington Regional Medical Center was opened in April, 2008, recognizing Pat as a role model for senior adults. In 2010, Arkansas Children’s Hospital named the Pat Walker Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in honor of Pat’s commitment to healthcare.
Through philanthropy, Pat has provided many people with the opportunity to reach their full potential. Each gift has come with a sincere desire to better others lives. Ozark Guidance, Circle of Life Hospice, The Jones Center for Families, the Fayetteville Public Library, the Springdale Public Library, Crystal Bridges and many other Northwest Arkansas organizations have received the philanthropic support of the Walker Charitable Foundation. As well, many scholarships bearing the Walker name have been set up across the State to enable students to further their education and reach their full potential in life.
Willard and Pat Walker made the decision together to focus on healthcare and education in their state and community. Pat looks forward to continuing this mission for many years to come.
In 1824, Catherine McAuley found herself a wealthy heiress. For years, she had observed in her native Ireland, the plight of single women and the poor. Now, with the finances, she began in earnest to address these needs; gradually others were attracted to assist. As many joined her ranks, though she had no intention to form a religious community, in 1841, it became increasingly necessary for organizational support. The rest is history! Within a few years, the Sisters were providing shelter and education for poor women and children throughout Ireland and England, coming to Little Rock Arkansas in 1851. Mount St. Mary Academy, the oldest continuously operated high school in Arkansas, was the Sister’s first focus, later responding to health and social needs. Through the years, the Sisters embraced the needs of ALL including the Civil War, where in Helena, wounded soldiers from both Union and Confederate armies received their care.
In Arkansas, over the last 165 years, the sheer number of lives the Sisters have touched is overwhelming! Currently there are seven Mercy Hospitals, a residential care facility, schools and direct services to the needy. The influence of “Mercy” in Arkansas and many parts of the United States has and continues to spread far and wide, driven by the Direction Statement of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:
“Animated by the Gospel and Catherine McAuley’s passion for the poor, we, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, are impelled to commit our lives and resources to act in solidarity with the economically poor, especially women and children; Women seeking fullness of life and equality in church and society; One another as we embrace our multicultural and international reality”.