The University of Arkansas announced Friday (July 10) a $2 million gift from alumnus and entrepreneur Sam Alley and his wife, Janet, of Little Rock will be used to develop a new Master of Science in construction management program.
The gift will create the Sam and Janet Alley Master of Science in Construction Management Program Endowment and establish an interdisciplinary Master of Science in construction management program that will be housed in the College of Engineering. The gift also will contribute to Campaign Arkansas, UA’s $1.25 billion capital campaign to advance academic opportunities at the university.
“When I think about how important the University of Arkansas has been to me and my family, this gift is just a small manifestation of that gratitude,” Sam Alley said. “There is no denying how critical the role my education from the U of A and the relationships I built there played in our lives. I’m excited to help create a program where future leaders in our state can learn about the great work we do in construction and find their place to add value. Being able to give back and establish a master’s in construction management program is an honor and a dream come true.”
Sam Alley is chairman and CEO of Little Rock-based construction company VCC.
“The Alleys are a hardworking, entrepreneurial family, and their passion for the University of Arkansas and the state has always left an impression on me,” Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said. “As a fellow first-generation college graduate, I recognize the struggles and successes Sam has felt during his career, and I applaud his family’s decision to pave the way for the future of construction management. This interdisciplinary effort will help the university offer a new graduate degree to students who aspire to be leaders — like Sam — in the construction industry.”
Sam Alley developed a passion for civil engineering in high school and started to work for Pickens Bond Construction Co. while he was a UA student. He became a project manager for the company after he earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the College of Engineering in 1979. In 1987, he co-founded VCC, and it has been recognized as the largest retail contractor in the United States.
“We strongly believe that some of the greatest work opportunities for the next generation will exist in the construction industry,” Sam Alley said. “And, as an industry, we have a perception problem where those opportunities are not being seized at a high enough rate. Nationally, there is a severe shortage of young professionals entering the field. It is critical that we all do our part to educate talented people in the field of construction, and I believe the state of Arkansas can lead the charge in that regard. We have an unbelievably strong pool of students at the University of Arkansas. I hope this program will inspire some of them to recognize that, in construction, they can be entrepreneurs, harvest great financial opportunities and have a significant impact on the built world in their communities.”
The Sam and Janet Alley Master of Science in Construction Management Program will be interdisciplinary and involve the College of Engineering, Sam M. Walton College of Business, Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design and the School of Law. The endowment will support the creation of the Master of Science in Construction Management, including the cost associated with instructor salary, course development, advertising and online support and speaker seminars.
The UA Board of Trustees has approved the new program, and it is awaiting approval by the Arkansas Department of High Education. A decision is expected on July 31.
“We’re so grateful to Sam and Janet for their investment in this brand new online program for students from varied technical backgrounds,” said John English, dean of the College of Engineering and Irma F. and Raymond F. Giffels Endowed Chair in Engineering. “This interdisciplinary program will give students the chance to learn from faculty experts across the university, granting graduates the well-rounded education they need to be successful in today’s construction management industry. The Alleys’ longtime support of the College of Engineering has made a tremendous impact on the lives of engineering students and faculty members, and we can’t thank them enough.”
“This kind of interdisciplinary program is exactly what students today need and what industry demands,” said Matt Waller, dean of the Walton College and the Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair in Business. “The generous gift by the Alleys to create it will ensure that we are training and graduating the leaders of tomorrow in construction management for Arkansas and for all of the United States.”
Sam Alley is a member of the Arkansas Academy of Civil Engineering, was named a distinguished alumnus of the College of Engineering in 2015 and received the Citation of Distinguished Alumni from the Arkansas Alumni Association in 2018. The Alleys are life members of the Arkansas Alumni Association and served as co-chairs of the Campaign Arkansas Committee for central Arkansas. They also are members of the Campaign Arkansas Steering Committee.
In 2010, the Alleys established the Sam and Janet Alley Family Foundation Civil Engineering Access Arkansas Scholarship at the UA. They are members of the Chancellor’s Society and considered Thoroughreds for their consecutive years giving to the UA.
They have three children: Jessica, Derek and Adrianna. Jessica Alley Haddad is a 2007 graduate of the School of Law and serves as chief legal officer for VCC and the family business. Derek Alley and Adrianna Alley Sapra serve in leadership positions for the company.
“Being the first in my family to graduate from college, the university represented a generational shift for educational and financial freedom for my family,” Sam Alley said. “It opened doors of opportunities that, before we moved to America, we could only dream about. That impact can never be overstated. Just as importantly, the university represents lifelong relationships that have nourished our lives with fun and fellowship. The Razorback community is one that we and infinitely proud to be a part of, and we are excited to be a small part of the next generation taking us all to new heights.”