The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra has received the largest gift in its history, a $1.8 million donation from the estate of a former board member Linda Garner Riggs, the organization announced Tuesday (Feb. 20).
Earnings from the ASO endowment are restricted for use to support the annual operations of the symphony, and the Riggs gift will be used to expand educational programs and recruitment of professional musicians to the area, according to ASO. The Riggs gift also will endow the principal cello chair at the ASO, and which will be permanently named for Riggs, according to the organization.
“Throughout its history, the ASO has made our state a better place, enriching our lives through music,” ASO Chair Jan Hundley said in a press release. “Linda had the vision to know her donation and others like it will secure the future of live music, music education and service to Arkansas for generations to come. These kinds of sustainable gifts provide us with the confidence in knowing there will continue to be a worthwhile and valuable cultural presence in our state in the future.”
Riggs, who died this past November in Little Rock, previously served as chair of the ASO Foundation Board of Directors. She also was Arkansas Insurance Commissioner, legislative and budget director for former Gov. Frank White, and director of the research and committee staff for the Arkansas Legislature, according to an ASO press release. Prior to that, she worked for 25 years in corporate finance at Stephens and was a managing director of the company’s investment banking firm.
“We are overwhelmingly thankful for this gift from a longtime benefactor and friend,” ASO CEO Christina Littlejohn said in the release. “Linda’s generosity, we can position ourselves for the future with a strong, sustainable endowment fund that further solidifies ASO as one of our state’s cultural cornerstones. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will all benefit from this gift.”
The gift symbolizes her appreciation for the orchestra, said her husband, Dr. Lamar Riggs. “Linda loved the sound of the orchestra and recognized the ability of its members and leadership. Her gift commemorates her memory and its melody,” he said in the release.