Arkansas State University junior Ethan Barnes knew he wanted to major in business the first time he rubbed two dimes together. Thanks to a newly created scholarship endowment created by businessman Curt Bradbury, his wife Chucki, and their sons, Barnes will have a little more cash to pay for his college expenses.
Barnes is the first member of the Bradbury Free Enterprise Scholars Program announced Wednesday at ASU headquarters in Little Rock. Bradbury, through his Bradbury Family Foundation gave the College of Business $300,000 cash gift to be used for scholarships. His hope is to spark debate on college campuses about how the free enterprise system has created the best economy in the world, he said.
“We don’t seek to impose our views anybody … we just want there to be an intellectual debate,” Bradbury said.
Six scholars will be chosen each year. Those selected will receive $2,000 apiece. To qualify a student must declare themselves for the certificate of free enterprise program at the school. Classes required include capitalism and free enterprise, legal environment of business, entrepreneurship, and others. At least two must be completed to qualify. All ASU students are eligible if they declare into the program. ASU College of Business Dean Dr. Shane Hunt said he was grateful for the gift. His program endeavors to accomplish two things – produce future business leaders and provide an affordable education.
“It’s a great day to be a Red Wolf,” he said to cheers.
Bradbury first contemplated the program almost five years ago. He noticed a divide festering in the country. Many have fallen across ideological fault lines, and the animus has grown, he said. The free enterprise system is one subject of consternation.
“It (free enterprise) has created more prosperity than any other system in the history of the world,” he said. “It’s about freedom.”
There’s no intent to force his or his family’s views on anyone, he said. The hope is to cultivate fact-based discussions on college campuses, he said.
A free enterprise lecture series will be offered at some point, according to the school. A free enterprise conference is also in the planning stages, and a summertime workshop at ASU for high school economics teachers will be offered. Hunt said ASU will work with Economics Arkansas, an advocacy group for economics education based in Little Rock, on additional opportunities for extending the new program’s impact.
Barnes was chosen because of his high grades, his school involvement, and his ability to survive tough circumstances. While growing up in Sharp County, Barnes told Talk Business & Politics he’d been abandoned and rejected during parts of his life, and it has only fueled his desire to succeed. He plans to pursue a master’s degree and then possibly a law degree.
He’d like to run for public office and represent the rural district he used to call home in Northeast Arkansas. His political aspirations may push him to seek loftier offices.
“My ultimate goal is to be the governor someday,” he said.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson stepped away from a busy slate at the Capitol to speak at the announcement. The NASDAQ ticker in New York’s Time Square posted a message congratulating the Bradbury family on their gift to ASU.
“Did NASDAQ stocks go up or down,” Hutchinson said to a chorus of laughter.