The University of Arkansas announced Wednesday (Feb. 12) the Department of Accounting in the Sam M. Walton College of Business will be named for William Dillard, the founder of Little Rock-based department store chain Dillard’s Inc.
The William Dillard Department of Accounting will recognize Dillard’s pioneering work in the retail field and founding of the department store chain that bears his family name, according to a UA news release. Dillard, who died in 2002, founded Dillard’s in Nashville, Ark., in 1938.
Dillard was born in 1914 and graduated from the UA’s College of Business Administration with an accounting degree in 1935. He was responsible for the development of one of the nation’s retail giants, with its rapid growth and success that was attributed to his personal work ethic and hands-on management approach, his ability to turn marginal operations into profitable outcomes and his efficient system of distribution and inventory control, according to a news release. Dillard himself attributed his success to a commitment to customer satisfaction and reasonable pricing.
The William Dillard Department of Accounting is one of only two named departments at the UA.
“We are pleased and honored to have the William Dillard Department of Accounting established at the University of Arkansas,” said Chancellor Joe Steinmetz. “Mr. Dillard’s leadership and accomplishments in business are an inspiration to our students and faculty and the naming of this department in his honor ensures his legacy will continue to inspire our students and serve our campus for years to come.”
Dillard was inducted into the first class of the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 1999. His son, William T. Dillard II, chairman and CEO of Dillard’s, joined the hall of fame in 2016. The younger Dillard graduated from the UA with an accounting degree in 1966 and has given $6.5 million to support the accounting department toward a planned total gift of $10 million.
“The act of naming a department is pivotal to the continued improvement of the accounting department and to our college as a whole,” said Matt Waller, business college dean and Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair in Business. “The recognition it represents and the association with the business acumen and success of Mr. Dillard strengthens our ability to attract the best students and attract and retain top faculty.
“Naming also recognizes the contribution of outstanding Arkansans such as William Dillard to the University of Arkansas and our state and is consistent with our position at Arkansas’ flagship university.”
The gift is expected to have a transformational impact on the development of the accounting department, the release shows.
“Hundreds of students already benefit from Mr. Dillard’s generosity every year,” said Gary Peters, department chair and holder of the S. Robson Walton Endowed Chair in Accounting. “Thousands of students, the accounting profession and the Arkansas business economy will continue to benefit for years to come. As a member of Arkansas’ flagship university, the accounting department has a storied history of contributions to Arkansas’ accounting profession. Dillard’s gift expands those contributions and opportunities for students as a nationally recognized program.”
Naming gifts benefit the department, its faculty and students. The Dillard gifts will provide the following support: faculty development and retention, professional outreach, program innovations, research and doctoral funding, accounting analytics and technology curriculum, Masters of Professional Accounting scholarships and executive-in-residence opportunities.
The other named department at the UA is the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering. In 2005, Ralph E. Martin, who was born in Eureka Springs and founded PetroFac Inc. of Tyler, Texas, gave $5 million to endow the chemical engineering department.
All naming opportunities must be approved by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.