Madison Forges Fulbright College

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 51 views 

Dean will retire after a decade of service; spearheaded effort to establish King Fahd Middle East Studies Program

When Bernard “Bernie” Madison stepped forward to present graduates from the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, spontaneous applause erupted from the crowd at the University of Arkansas’ All-University Commencement ceremony on May 8.

A couple of hours later, Madison was honored for his service as dean during the Fulbright College’s commencement and was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation.

The response in both cases was a show of appreciation from faculty and students alike. Amid controversy, Madison announced in April that he would resign July 1 from his position as dean, a job he has held for the past decade.

During that time, enrollment in the Fulbright College has increased by 30 percent to 6,133 (42 percent of the all the UA’s students), grants and contracts increased from $2 million to $10 million, the College’s endowment increased from $6 million to $60 million, enrollment in the Honors Program quadrupled to 930, and more than one-third of the College’s current tenure-track faculty of about 300 were hired.

Madison was instrumental in founding the King Fahd Middle East Studies Program, which was made possible by two endowments totaling $23.5 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In an effort to further link the UA arts and sciences college with Fulbright’s name and international reputation, Madison worked to raise $750,000 to see that the 41-foot-tall Fulbright Memorial Peace Fountain was erected between Old Main and Vol Walker Hall in 1998.

Adding it up

Bernard L. Madison was born Aug. 1, 1941, at Rocky Hill, Ky. He graduated valedictorian of his senior class in 1958 at Brownsville High School in Kentucky.

In 1962, Madison earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, where he was president of the student assembly and editor of the campus newspaper during his senior year.

Madison received two degrees from the University of Kentucky: a master of science in mathematics in 1964 and a doctorate in mathematics, with a minor in physics, in 1966.

From 1966 to 1979, Madison was at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He was hired as an assistant professor in the mathematics department. By 1979, he was a full professor.

In 1979, Madison moved to Fayetteville as a professor of mathematics. He served as chairman of the department from 1979 to 1989, when he became dean of the Fulbright College. From 1986 to 1987, Madison served as mathematics chairman for the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

The College of Arts and Sciences was renamed for Fulbright in 1982. Fulbright, who hailed from Fayetteville and once served as president of the UA, was a formidable figure in the field of international relations. Fulbright was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the 1960s and instituted the Fulbright Scholarship Program, which has allowed hundreds of scholars to study abroad.

Middle East Studies

Madison believed the Fulbright College should live up to the reputation of its namesake and the UA would benefit as a result.

With Fulbright’s name on the College, Madison thought it might be easier to raise funds for a program in Middle East studies. The Saudi government had funded such programs for universities on both U.S. coasts but not in middle America.

Madison helped draft a proposal that then-Gov. Bill Clinton presented to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia in 1990. Within four years, the Saudi government had endowed Arkansas colleges with $23.5 million – $3.5 million in 1992 (initially for an Arabic language program at the UA) and $20 million in 1994.

Of the two endowments, $2 million was divided between Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The remaining $21.5 million went to the UA in Fayetteville, primarily to institute a Middle East Studies Program.

At the time, it was the largest gift in the UA’s history.

The Middle East Studies Program began in 1994. The funding has helped the Fulbright College underwrite scholarships and fellowships for students and salaries for faculty members.

The endowments have allowed the Middle East Studies Program to hire eight specialists: two each in history and anthropology and one each in political science, foreign languages, English, and curriculum and instruction.

“They’re all experts in a particular area of the Middle East,” Madison says.

Madison says other schools have Middle East studies but not many state universities have a program “as extreme and as ambitious” as the UA’s.

Every summer since 1994, 12 to 15 faculty members have traveled to the Middle East to study. In 1994, Madison went to Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Last year, he traveled to Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan.

“It’s such a different society that one has a hard time appreciating it and understanding it without looking at it firsthand,” he says.

Madison says the program also allows scholars from the Middle East to study at the UA and visiting faculty members from that area to teach on the Fayetteville campus.

“Normally, we study the Middle East like an artifact,” Madison says. Now, with scholars traveling both directions between the UA and the Middle East, the educational exchange is “beneficial to both of us,” he says.

“We have a dozen or so Jordanian students here studying physics, anthropology and American studies,” Madison says.

“In the Fulbright tradition, we believe knowledge about one another is the surest way to lead to peace and understanding.”

Madison says about 100 students “in some way or another are studying the Middle East as part of our academic programs,” but he would like to see that number double.

Madison says about 30 graduate students are currently supported through the endowments from Saudi Arabia. Every fall, about 25 students enroll in Beginning Arabic, a language course. About 12 of the Arabic students go to Lebanon to study for the summer.

Another summer course funded through the Middle East Studies Program allows a dozen students to live in Jordan for six weeks and excavate tombs as part of the UA’s architectural field school.

Madison says he never expected large numbers of students to come to the UA to major in Middle East studies. Middle East studies is offered as a second major, but Madison hoped more students would become interested in the Middle East after beginning school at the UA.

Peace through education

Madison says the Fulbright Peace Fountain will serve as a permanent reminder of the work of Sen. Fulbright, who died in 1995 after suffering a stroke. Fulbright had served in the Senate for 30 years.

The 11,000 pound, four-story tall, bronze fountain was erected Aug. 7 on a granite base where water now cascades down its steps resembling an artesian well. The tower and fountain were designed by Fayetteville architect E. Fay Jones.

UA police have worked hard to keep students off the tower, although a stuffed King Kong was found half way up the structure on May 8, the day of commencement ceremonies. He was holding a Barbie doll in one hand and clinging to the tower with the other.

In addition to the fountain, a statue of Fulbright sculpted by Gretta Bader of Alexandria, Va., will guard the back door of Old Main. The sculpture, which will cost about $100,000, will depict Fulbright from the early 1960s. It was taken from a photograph of Fulbright at the dedication of the Greers Ferry Dam, an event that was attended by President John F. Kennedy.

Madison says Arkansas needs to memorialize its heros, and that is what he is doing in the case of Fulbright. He says the UA has benefited by having Fulbright’s name on the College of Arts and Sciences.

“It’s given us a purpose and a mission to try to promote Sen. Fulbright’s philosophy of peace through education,” Madison says.

“The term ‘Fulbright’ has become synonymous with international exchange,” he says. “It’s sort of the embodiment of his philosophy that we wouldn’t be so hostile toward other cultures if we knew them better.”

The top donor for the peace fountain was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which kicked in $300,000.


Madison announced his resignation April 27.

Madison and his wife, state Rep. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, had attended a formal dinner with Chancellor John White and other UA administrators on April 17. The Madisons apparently became upset because of the way attendees were introduced at the dinner by David Gearhart, the UA’s vice chancellor for advancement.

Others at the dinner say the introductions were meant to be humorous, not insulting to anyone.

But word of a rift between Rep. Madison and UA administrators had been circulating for months before the dinner.

Last fall, Rep. Madison sought an attorney general’s opinion to determine whether private funds could be used to supplement the income of non-academic personnel at the UA.

Although the request was broad in nature, it seemed to be specific in reality. Gearhart was hired in 1998 at $200,000 per year, well above the university’s line-item maximum salary of $112,181. The difference between the maximum and Gearhart’s $200,000 was being paid by the University of Arkansas Foundation, a private organization that supplements the salaries of several UA professors and endowed-chair holders.

As a fund-raiser, Gearhart’s position is non-academic. He is the fourth-highest paid employee on the Fayetteville campus behind White and coaches Nolan Richardson and Houston Nutt.

Attorney General Mark Pryor responded Feb. 15 to Rep. Madison’s request saying public funds could not go toward the salary of “nonacademic” state employees who earn more than 125 percent of the state’s line-item maximum salary. According to the AG’s opinion, all of Gearhart’s salary would have to come from private funds since he is paid 78 percent above the line-item maximum.

On Feb. 22, state Sen. David Malone, D-Fayetteville, introduced a law that would do away with the “non-academic” aspect of the current statute. In addition to being a state senator, Malone works for the UA Foundation. The law passed.

Also, during the last legislative session, which ended in April, Rep. Madison opposed 5 percent pay raises (from state funds) for UA administrators when the faculty was only receiving 2.8 percent pay raises. The administration will still receive the 5 percent raises, but funds will come from private sources instead of state monies.

The week after the dinner, Rep. Madison told a newspaper reporter that White asked her husband to resign from his position as dean. Bernie Madison will remain on campus at the same salary as a professor of mathematics.

Rep. Madison is currently serving her last term in the Arkansas House of Representatives. She was cited by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette with an honorable mention for her service during the 82nd session of the Arkansas General Assembly. The article noted that Rep. Madison “had a noteworthy legislative session [with] at least 28 Madison-sponsored measures becoming law.”