University of Arkansas at Fort Smith officials announced Tuesday (Sept. 25) that the Myles Friedman trust has donated $10.8 million to the university. It is the largest donation by an individual and the third-largest gift in UAFS history.
Friedman, who was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, grew up in Fort Smith. He graduated from Fort Smith High School and began his college education at what was then Fort Smith Junior College.
Upon his death, Friedman funded a $10.8 million charitable remainder trust. When the trust terminates, the residual amount is donated to a charitable beneficiary. In this case, it will be added to the Myles Friedman Scholarship Endowment and will provide additional merit-based scholarships to students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in the arts or sciences. In recognition of the gift, UAFS also renamed its Honors International Studies Program to be named the Myles Friedman Honors Program.
“Myles taught classes at University of Missouri and Westark, and he believed in giving back to his community,” said Mark Moll, chair of the UAFS Foundation Board. “During his lifetime, Myles established the Myles Friedman Scholarship Endowment … Since this endowment was established, we have awarded 20 Myles Friedman scholarships.”
“When Myles began to think about his legacy, he thought of UAFS. He thought about the past, his time at Fort Smith Junior College, now UAFS, and our students, and how his legacy could transform our university,” Moll continued. “So today, we are here to celebrate the legacy he left through his estate plan.”
Anne Thomas, interim chief development officer for the UAFS Foundation, said the endowment’s spending allocation could fund approximately 60 full-time scholarships per school year within a few years of the gift being realized.
“Myles was a Fort Smith guy. He attended Fort Smith Junior College and went off to MIT, but he came home to us and built his legacy here,” Thomas said. “He knew that without private philanthropy like this, we would be less able to serve the students who are at the heart of our mission. This gift helps us give students the aid they need to change the trajectory of their and their families’ lives.”
Thomas also thanked the work of professional advisors who played a role in the realization of the gift, including Friedman’s attorney, wealth manager, accountant and trust officer. She said the endowment’s spending allocation could fund approximately 60 full-time scholarships per school year within a few years of the gift being realized.
UAFS graduate Payton Radley, who participated in the Honors International Studies Program as a student, discussed the impact of the program on her growth as a person.
“I can and will credit the honors program for a lot of my successes in life. It pushed me to not only be a better student, but to be a more well-rounded person,” she said. “The travel opportunities that the honors program offers helped shaped my idea of culture and broadened my horizons of life in general. I am 24 years old. I have seen empty tombs in Israel, I have bought jars of jam at Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, I have toured congressional buildings, I sat in British cafes and drank tea in the same spot great authors once had, I’ve climbed castles in Wales, I’ve ridden on trains that inspired fantasy worlds full of wizards and magic, I’ve swum with sharks and stingrays in Belize, adventured through ancient Mayan caves, ate whole chickens cooked into a flauta.”
“Being a part of the honors program created opportunities for me to hear, see, taste, smell, and truly feel the world around me,” Radley added. “It has shaped me in ways that I know I could never be the same. For that I am thankful.”
At the ceremony, UAFS officials presented Friedman’s widow, Deanna, with an artwork of the gates of campus, where Friedman and his wife gathered with other community members on Jan. 1, 2002, to celebrate UAFS becoming a four-year university. The artwork signifies the merging of the past, present and future of UAFS.