A $1 million gift to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith from the Pendergraft family is designed to have an impact on the nursing shortage in the Fort Smith region.
Half of the gift will fund two professorships of nursing, with the other $500,000 designated for equipment and a reconfiguration of a simulation lab used by nursing students. The two new professorships will be named for Jim L. Hanna and Douglas O. Smith, according to Neal Pendergraft.
“These two men were such close personal friends and colleagues of my father, Ross Pendergraft,” said Neal Pendergraft, “and we wanted to honor them for their years of friendship and for the vision and leadership they demonstrated in their lives.”
Jim Hanna, originally from Wichita Falls, Texas, made his home in Fort Smith, where he formed Hanna Oil and Gas Co. in 1969. During his lifetime, he was actively engaged in making the community better, especially for the next generation. Hanna died in July 2010.
After working in the oil and gas industry for about five years, Hanna opened Hanna Oil & Gas in 1962. Boosted by a solid well (Lincoln #2) in Crawford County, Hanna grew the company into a national industry player. The company today has operations in several U.S. states and in Canada. Hanna died July 19, 2010.
Doug Smith, a long-time attorney and community advocate, joined Warner, Smith, and Harris Law Firm in 1959 and had an active law practice until the firm dissolved and closed operations in July 2011. He was a loyal friend to the late Ross Pendergraft and Hanna, and even now, uses Hanna’s office for his professional activities.
Neal Pendergraft said Jim Hanna and Doug Smith are no strangers to UAFS, since both have served on the UAFS Foundation Board and have been long-term supporters of the University.
“It is only fitting that our gift honor Jim Hanna and Doug Smith,” he said, “since both of them served as mentors for young men and women during their personal and professional lives. Having the Hanna and Smith names on the professorships is important because it speaks to the qualities and values of these two fine men, qualities that are important to instill in others.”
Pendergraft said there are a wealth of talented, caring individuals who would love to enter the health care profession.
“We need to give those folks the opportunity to fulfill their dreams by providing them the highest level of education available anywhere and do it right here at the University,” he said.
The Pendergraft name is no stranger to the UAFS campus. Donnie D. Pendergraft’s previous generosity to the University resulted in the Pendergraft Health Sciences Center bearing her name. She also began scholarship endowments in her daughter Lauri’s name and endowed professorships in honor of son Neal and in memory of her late husband Ross.
Dr. Paul Beran, UAFS chancellor, said this latest Pendergraft shows a continued commitment by the Pendergraft family to UAFS and the Fort Smith region.
“(T)hey see the need for more nurses and are willing to step forward and help address that need,” Beran said in a statement. “The nursing shortage is local, state-wide, national and world-wide. What the Pendergrafts have done with this gift is give UAFS a way to help work toward alleviating the nursing shortage. We are deeply grateful to them for their gift and for their honoring Doug Smith and Jim Hanna.”
Arkansas ranks below the national average of registered nurses per 100,000 population. Projections indicate a 34% increased need for nurses in Arkansas by 2020.
Dr. Marta Loyd, vice chancellor for university advancement, said she and Dr. Carolyn Mosley, dean of the College of Health Sciences, were visiting with Neal Pendergraft about the simulation lab when he posed the question, “What can we do to address the nursing shortage?” Dr. Mosley said UAFS nursing graduates have a 100% employment rate.
The Pendergraft family made several other contributions to UAFS when it was Westark, including Ross Pendergraft’s significant role in helping the University obtain funding for the Donald W. Reynolds Plaza, Tower and Campus Green. The Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center also bears the Pendergraft name in his honor.
“I love UAFS,” Donnie Pendergraft said. “It’s been a part of my family for many years, and the school has helped so many students to better their lives and the lives of their families. It was important to Ross, and it’s important to us. I’m glad we could help UAFS meet the need for more nurses.”
Dean Mosley said UAFS faces a critical need for additional nursing faculty.
“We have encountered numerous challenges in recruiting these high-demand professionals,” Mosley said. “Accrediting agencies require us to operate with a specified, low student-faculty ratio.”
More than 700 students are in the pipeline to be a part of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, which increases the need for additional laboratory space, according to Mosley. The $500,000 designated toward reconfiguring a simulation lab will cover architectural and construction costs as well as the purchase of three simulators, including two adult and a pediatric one.
A recent $300,000 gift from Benefit Bank, which was announced in February, will allow UAFS to fund one nursing professorship and purchase a second Pediatric High-Fidelity Simulator.