UAFS seeking to rename Family Enterprise Center after the late Jim Walcott

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 706 views 

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) is working to get the university’s Family Enterprise Center (FEC) named for the late Jim Walcott.

Walcott, a business and community leader who played a part in the creation of the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, died May 7 after a long battle with cancer. He was employed by Fort Smith-based Weldon, Williams & Lick for 43 years and was president and CEO for 32 of those years, according to information provided by the company.

Jane Walcott, Jim’s wife, said the naming means his efforts to mentor others will continue.

“Jim’s positive outlook on life and devotion to service in Fort Smith will continue with the Jim Walcott Center at UAFS. Our family is grateful and touched by the renaming of the center. Jim guided us through the challenges of life. His business sense and mentorship will continue to help others in the future,” she said in a statement to Talk Business & Politics.

University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt sent a letter to the UA System Board of Trustees stating that UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley is requesting their approval to name the UAFS Family Enterprise Center for Walcott. All naming requests must go to the Trustees for approval. The item is on the board’s September board meeting Thursday (Sept. 14) and Friday (Sept. 15). Bobbitt said he supports the renaming recommendation.

The UAFS Family Enterprise Center offers family businesses a learning community to meet the unique needs of the family in business, according to the university.

“One of the overriding goals of the Center is to provide a forum that allows learning across family generations, with non-family professional managers, and with family members who are not actively involved in the business,” Bobbitt said in his letter.

Jim Walcott

First National Bank of Fort Smith gave a gift of $400,000, and Citizens Bank and Trust gifted an additional $100,000, to support the naming opportunity as part of the UAFS’ ongoing comprehensive campaign.

“Additionally, the banks have agreed to fuel a public match challenge encouraging their partners to give an additional $500,000 to further support this initiative,” Bobbitt’s letter said.

This means the bank assisted UAFS advancement staff in securing an additional $500,000 beyond their gift, to total a $1 million endowment for the FEC, said Rachel Putman, UAFS director of communications. She said typically when naming a program, center, or physical location on campus, funding or endowment minimums are set at the campus level. The gift and match will meet the campus minimum for naming a center in a non-physical space.

Putman said an endowment will be created for the benefit of the FEC, using the gift, and materials related to the FEC will be rebranded to represent the new name of the center.

Sam Sicard, president and CEO of First National Bank of Fort Smith, said it seemed fitting that the FEC, an institution with a mission closely aligned with Walcott’s values, should bear his name.

“Jim Walcott was a model of respectable leadership, a tireless mentor, and a fierce advocate for the importance of family, business ownership, and the economy of the River Valley. His contributions have spanned across both the industry landscape and the wider community. His unique character – viewing his career as a mission more than a job and embodying the spirit of ‘where our work is, there let our joy be’ – not only inspired those around him but also made a profound impact on the region at large,” Sicard said in a letter in support of the naming. “This move not only honors a man who dedicated his life to the betterment of our community but also serves as a poignant reminder to current and future generations of the potential they possess to enact change and make a difference in the world.”

He said First National Bank of Fort Smith and Citizens Bank Trust hope this gesture will spur further advancements and investments in education, community development, and the nurturing of family-owned businesses that are the backbone of the local economy.

Bobbitt said members of the UAFS university advancement team have reviewed various files and publications regarding Walcott’s impact and legacy and found no records or historical documents pertaining to his work or institutional support that might cause concerns about affixing his name to the center.

Putman said if the resolution to rename is approved by the UA Trustees, the next steps will include finalizing account details.

“Then we will get to work on rebranding our print and web materials to reflect the new name,” she said.