For more than 40 years, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation has worked to make a difference by helping to build and sustain the organizations that serve and strengthen Arkansas. Through grantmaking and strategic partnerships, we are working even harder to help close the economic and educational gaps that leave too many Arkansas families in persistent poverty. Working together, the needle can and must move from poverty to prosperity for all Arkansans.
Winthrop Rockefeller is born on May 1st in New York City, the fifth of six children, into one of the wealthiest families in history. Win recalled, “From my earliest recollection, we were taught to respect the value of the dollar and to recognize that inherited wealth was, in a sense, given to us in trust – that we were stewards – that while we would live comfortably with that which we inherited and earned, we had the responsibility to see that these resources were also used wisely in the service of our fellow man.”
Win withdraws from Yale University to work as an apprentice in the Texas oil fields. Working as a roughneck and roustabout for the Humble Oil and Refining Company, he works hard, makes friends, and has life-changing experiences.
Win enlists as a private in the U.S. Army. Years later, it will be one of his army friends, Frank Newell, who invites him to Arkansas.
Win participates in the Battles of Guam and Okinawa, leaving the service a decorated lieutenant colonel in 1946. His decorations include the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart.
Win accepts Frank Newell’s invitation and settles permanently in Arkansas. In June, he purchases a 927-acre tract atop Petit Jean mountain, 60 miles west of Little Rock, where he builds Winrock Farms into an internationally recognized cattle operation. The WR brand became internationally known as a symbol of excellence among cattle breeders.
Win establishes the Rockwin Fund as a vehicle for his personal philanthropy and chooses Mary McLeod to be its first director.
Win is selected the first chairman of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (AIDC). Under his leadership, more than 600 new industrial plants and 90,000 jobs are brought to Arkansas. His nine years as head of AIDC transformed Arkansas’ economy: an 88 percent increase in manufacturing wages and a 45 percent increase in industrialized jobs in a state that had lost 50,000 jobs in the preceding decade.
After consulting with the Department of Education and Arkansas State Teachers College, Win chooses to invest in improving education in his home district by establishing Morrilton Elementary School. Going further, he champions increased teacher salaries with $100,000 of his own money. Win took pride in the fact that the community supported his efforts by voting for a higher school millage and increased property assessments.
Win’s passion for the arts leads to his meeting with members of the Little Rock Junior League and challenging them to broaden their vision.
From the very beginning, it was taking art out to everybody – all the rural towns, the black population, white population. Wherever. It wasn’t just for the wealthy. It was about human dignity and letting people see what humans can create and what they are capable of creating.
—ANNE BARTLEY, stepdaughter.
The new vision is realized with the opening of the Arkansas Arts Center; almost a third of the cost is funded by Win Rockefeller.
Winthrop Rockefeller is elected the first Republican governor of Arkansas since 1874.
Sixty-seven bills are passed during the General Assembly, including the first minimum-wage act in Arkansas.
While in office, Win tackles sweeping reforms in the prison system. His reforms include establishing a Department of Corrections and hiring the first professional penologist in Arkansas. By the time he leaves office, blacks have moved from being disenfranchised to holding positions of influence within state government, and the state’s schools have all been peacefully integrated. Winthrop Rockefeller is credited with bringing much needed integrity and independence to the office of Governor.
Winthrop Rockefeller dies of pancreatic cancer on February 22nd. He leaves the bulk of his estate to the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust with instructions to be bold, creative, and devoted to “a more comprehensive approach to balanced economic growth and human resource development in Arkansas and the immediate region.”
The Rockwin Fund is redefined and renamed the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation by the Trustees of his estate, broadening the scope from a mainly educational focus to one more inclusive of Win’s other passions, including economic development and justice. In the initial charge, WRF is to serve as “an independent advocate for reform of outdated state policies”.
Tom McRae becomes the Foundation’s first president, serving to 1989. During those 14 years, WRF becomes a philanthropic organization that embodies the legacy of the late Governor and continues to work toward his vision for Arkansas’s future. Under his leadership, a dozen policy reports are published, from School Daze to Fulfilling the Promises of Reform, from Responsible Choices in Taxation to Toward More Informed Decisions, and Obstacles and Opportunities. Long before we claimed the phrase “Moving the Needle,” it was in the fabric of WRF’s work.
The Foundation awards $100,000 to Governor David Pryor’s Economic Development Study Commission to conduct a comprehensive analysis of factors affecting the growth and development of the State of Arkansas. In keeping with Governor Rockefeller’s intent, economic development has remained a primary focus of the foundation.
WRF, in partnership with a number of community leaders throughout the state, establishes the Arkansas Community Foundation (ARCF). The foundation filled a void and became the model for the family and community foundation that had not yet been embedded in the culture of Arkansas. Today, that model is well-known and well-established because ARCF has built an impressive culture of philanthropy across Arkansas. ARCF has been building philanthropy in Arkansas through its work with donors, nonprofits, and communities for over a quarter of a century. As ARCF succeeds, it generates more potential partners in the quest for a better future for all Arkansans. In its first 33 years, ARCF has made over $70 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies throughout Arkansas.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) is established with core support from WRF. For 30 years, AACF has addressed some of the most stubborn and debilitating issues affecting families – from school dropout rates to the effects of crystal methamphetamine on the child welfare system. Through research, policy advocacy, and consensus building, AACF has changed Arkansas.
WRF provides financial assistance to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to support work on employment-related race and sex discrimination cases in Arkansas.
WRF supports the Department of Education’s Program for Effective Teaching based on evidence from studies conducted in previous decades by the Rockwin Fund that show the state as one of the most poorly financed educational systems, resulting in a mediocre- to low-talent pool of teachers.
An interest-free loan to the Nature Conservancy, coupled with money from the state, makes possible the purchase and preservation of over six thousand acres of one of the few remaining tracts of bottomland hardwoods in the southern United States. Years later, this parcel of land hosts ornithologists in search of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, long believed extinct.
WRF funds the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to implement the first year of a three-year curriculum development project to establish a new and permanent division within the College of Medicine to be called the Division of Medical Humanities.
The Arkansas Interfaith Hunger Task Force receives funding from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to address the chronic and devastating problem of hunger among the state’s poorest and least able citizens. Four years later, the organization – now named the Arkansas Rice Depot – will have given away its one-millionth pound of rice. Today, Rice Depot distributes over 6 million pounds of free food a year – not just rice – to organizations and food banks around the state. Forty-one states now have programs modeled on Arkansas Rice Depot’s Food for Kids program.
WRF funds the College Station Community Development Fund, Inc., to support development in this small community of color whose median income level is well below the federal poverty level. The work includes the organization of a fund, securing and developing a forty-acre tract, establishing a land bank, planning and implementing a housing rehabilitation program, securing funding for a sanitary sewer, and small business start-up assistance. Today, the College Station Credit Union is a branch of Hope Community Credit Union, a regional community development financial institution with over $200 million in assets.
WRF makes its first grant to the Boys, Girls, Adults Community Development Center in Marvell. Founded in the late 1970s, BGACDC provides thousands of Phillips County residents with an array of services, ranging from daycare to dental care to job training.
The Foundation leads the creation of Southern Bancorp (SDB), a community development bank focused on spurring growth in rural southern and eastern Arkansas counties where economic vitality is waning; ShoreBank Corporation of Chicago would provide technical assistance, and a total of $11.3 million had been raised to support the development of the project. In a unique model, the bank’s earnings would be used exclusively for workforce development and other programs targeted at the economic revitalization of the communities in which the bank operated.
WRF supports Winrock International’s Forestry Study to analyze policy issues and development options for forests and other renewable resources in Arkansas. This work leads the way for future innovations in sustainability and natural resource development. Today WRF, Winrock International, and Winrock Institute make up WR3 and work together to further Governor Rockefeller’s vision for Arkansas.
Mahlon Martin is appointed the second president of the Foundation and serves until 1995. Martin brings a great understanding of Arkansas and firsthand knowledge of the mechanics of state government. His ability to positively interact with the government and with all people is an asset. Martin believed that one of his roles as the Foundation’s president was to identify leaders from across the state and to encourage and support their efforts to make positive change. Much like Governor Rockefeller, Mahlon Martin’s leadership was based on the belief that, given a chance, Arkansans would recognize and accept their responsibilities to make this a better place for all. He firmly believed that long-lasting improvement in the quality of life in Arkansas happened person by person, organization by organization, and community by community.
Training Community Organizations for Change is created in partnership with the University of Arkansas Foundation. The focus of TCOC is to develop leadership in organizations that are working for progressive change in their communities and in Arkansas. In its first year, TCOC works with a broad cross-section of Arkansas community organizations, including the Arkansas Association of LeadAR Alumni; the Arkansas Disability Coalition; Boys, Girls, Adults Community Development Corporation; Centers for Youth and Families; and FORGE.
WRF funds the Centers for Youth and Families to develop strategies to improve judicial, state, and local government, and legislative policies that impact women in prison and their children. This effort is the beginning of a long look at supporting Arkansas’s most marginalized citizens and harks back to the work Governor Rockefeller did to improve the state prison system. WRF and CFYF begin looking intentionally at the impacts incarceration has on its citizens and those left behind.
WRF funds Mid South Delta LISC to develop a four-year economic development program in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The work focuses on training, technical assistance, funding, and financing to community development corporations (CDCs) to help them make communities affordable and safe places in which to live, work, conduct business, and raise children.
The Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund (ASPSF) is developed to enable low-income single parents to attain self-sufficiency through post-secondary education. WRF’s support of ASPSF is a targeted strategy to increase college graduation rates in Arkansas.
Dr. Sybil J. Hampton brings thirty years of public service and education experience, along with a deep commitment to improve public education, to her role as the third president of WRF (1996 – 2006). Dr. Hampton inherits a foundation with a strong tradition of work linked to public policy, and she fervently continues this advocacy. During her tenure, WRF launches research studies that set the stage for changes in tax policy and entrepreneurial education. Halfway through her tenure, the foundation adopts a strategic plan that focuses on the root causes of Arkansas’s poor national ranking in per capita income. Under her leadership, WRF serves as a catalyst for change in the state’s educational funding priorities and commitments.
In preparation for the 25th anniversary of the Foundation, WRF commissions the Corporation for Enterprise Development to assess the capacity of the state’s counties to promote sustainable development. This work forms the basis for the Connecting the Dots study, published in 2003. Accelerate Arkansas is formed as the public–private partnership to steer state efforts to support entrepreneurship. The Foundation’s investments in two small venture capital funds also arise from this work.
WRF supports the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, one of the nation's leading community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and recently the Hope Enterprise Corporation. Hope provides financial products and services in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and in the Greater Memphis area. With Hope's professional assistance, the Delta Supreme Fish Processors, near Dumas, is founded by nine fish farmers from the local Mennonite community.
WRF joins the Centers for Youth and Families in shedding light on the problems of children with incarcerated parents – the forgotten families. WRF continues to develop this work through support to Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind, formed to advocate and reform policies that have an impact on children of prisoners and their families. In 2003, Arkansas Voices leadership will lead to the passage of the first state legislation in the nation to sustain the funding of services for children of prisoners.
WRF joins with The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas to assist with a comprehensive community and economic development plan for the city of Clarendon. Despite the loss of much of its economic base, Clarendon’s 1,960 residents are not content to let their city vanish. Residents want to preserve their natural resources, create jobs, and improve their quality of life. A community with a vision for its future is a community with hope.
WRF supports Yale University School of the 21st Century Program’s efforts to launch a major demonstration project in Arkansas. The 21C model transforms schools into year-round, multi-service centers, with emphasis on early childhood education, ages birth to eight. The project strengthens existing 21C models and helps expand the model to other districts around the state. WRF increases its support of the 21C model in 2003, providing funding to create the Arkansas 21C Network. By 2009, 21C has been implemented in one-fifth of Pre-K/elementary public school sites in Arkansas. Even more important, Arkansas’s ranking on early childhood education soars from near bottom to near the top of the national list.
WRF provides a ten-year low-interest loan to Southern Financial Partners, to capitalize growth in their loan portfolio supporting small businesses in south and east Arkansas. An additional grant provides technical assistance to applicants and borrowers. Tabby’s Parts Service in Pine Bluff is among the beneficiaries. Tabby and her husband, Steve, brought energy and experience, but needed financial resources to grow the business. Through the Women’s Business Development Center, Tabby and her husband received the loan they needed to buy a larger building and expand their business. Now known as Southern Bancorp Capital Partners, the nonprofit continues to be a stable source of credit to small businesses in south and east Arkansas.
WRF funds a study of the Arkansas Tax System in anticipation of the 2002 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on the Lake View case. Working together, the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and Histecon Associates in Little Rock are commissioned to analyze funding alternatives to assure fair and adequate support to all students attending Arkansas public schools. Released in 2003, Tax Options for Arkansas: Funding Education After the Lake View Case continues to inform tax policy, especially around education reform in Arkansas.
In collaboration with the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority, WRF begins intentional targeted support of middle school science programs around the state. The initial grant is to implement a science mini-grants program for middle school classrooms that encourages hands-on learning and increases the level of interest in science. At the same time, WRF funds a program to establish pilot sites for a demonstration project enabling teachers to electronically monitor student learning. In later years, the program is expanded to incorporate funding through Arkansas Community Foundation affiliates.
WRF provides Dogwood Literacy Council with support for literacy training for non-English-speaking employees in the local workforce. This work builds on grants from 2001 and 2002 for literacy training in poultry plants and Chinese restaurants. Other related grants focus on financial literacy in the Latino Community. In all these grants, private–nonprofit partnerships are key to achieving positive outcomes.
WRF funds the Arkansas Study Circles with the Arkansas School Board Association Education Foundation, which provides the opportunity for each and every citizen in Arkansas to come together and participate in respectful conversation about education that will lead to action and change. Using A Citizen’s Guide to Arkansas State Taxes – an offshoot of the Tax Options for Arkansas report also published in 2003 – citizens around the state grapple with tax policy and education. When citizens are involved, when they are the change agents, research shows that they will take ownership and act. Citizen involvement is at the very core of positive community change.
Camp Connections Conference and the Life Interrupted: the Japanese American Experience in WWII Arkansas exhibit educate the citizens of Arkansas and the region about the legacy of the Jerome American and Rohwer internment camps through a series of exhibits at four Central Arkansas sites. Nearly 17,000 Japanese Americans arrived by train in Arkansas from the west coast to be held in these camps. In September 2004, more than one thousand made a pilgrimage to the former internment sites in southeast Arkansas.
In response to Arkansas’s record-high levels of immigration, WRF commissions a study with the Urban Institute, the University of North Carolina, the University at Albany SUNY,and the Migration Policy Institute to fully explore key demographic trends, economic factors, and public-policy issues associated with immigrants in Arkansas. The first volume, Immigrant Workers, Families and Their Children,provides a demographic overview of the state’s foreign-born population, explores the composition of the labor force, and describes trends in the state’s population of children in immigrant families. The second volume, Impacts on the Arkansas Economy, describes immigrants’ purchasing power, tax contributions, fiscal costs, and indirect economic impacts through spin-off jobs.
Creative expression through art is an integral part of our cultural heritage in Arkansas, but it is also an important economic engine. To leverage creative forces for economic progress is the primary goal of the Arkansas Creative Economy Project funded by WRF and led by Regional Technology Strategies. Three studies published over two years document that Arkansas’s creative economy consists of nearly 35,000 people, making it the third largest industry cluster. The studies focus primarily on rural areas and less advantaged populations, and gauge the economic potential of Arkansas’s creative assets and the possibility of shaping them into sustainable economic advantages for individuals, businesses, and communities.
Dr. Sherece West joins WRF as the fourth president of the organization. Dr. West brings experience in grantmaking from her tenure at the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, where she was the first executive director, and at the Carrier Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. Throughout her career, Dr. West’s focus has been on addressing the issues related to poverty, race, social justice, education, and community development. In the tradition of her predecessors – Tom McRae, Mahlon Martin, and Sybil Hampton – Dr. West focuses on moving Arkansas out of the bottom five in measures of family and child well-being.
After meetings with government agencies, and with nonprofit and community leaders, the WRF Board and staff adopt the Moving the Needle (MTN) strategic plan.
WRF and the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund (SPSF) release Positive Outcomes, a report indicating that education is the key to defeating poverty in Arkansas. The report assesses whether obtaining a post-secondary education lead to self-sufficiency and skilled employment for single-parent families in Arkansas. Graduates report improvement on quality-of-life indicators, including job readiness, opportunities for advancement, earnings, and home-ownership. Eighty-eight percent of SPSF graduates are employed full-time, and 98 percent of those earn above-poverty wages. WRF funds the study as part of its newly developed Moving the Needle strategic plan.
In an effort to learn more about effective interventions for disconnected youth, WRF invests in the efforts of Black Community Developers, Inc. (BCD) Working in midtown Little Rock, BCD has developed a community-based approach to increasing literacy levels, enhancing academic outcomes, and increasing employability skills for young people living in high-need neighborhoods.
WRF’s community development efforts include a multi-year partnership with Mid South Delta LISC. LISC is working with communities in the Arkansas Delta to support strategic planning and economic development opportunities.
WRF partners with the Arkansas Public Policy Panel to make one of the first of several investments designed to leverage federal funds made available through the historic American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. With WRF support, the Public Policy Panel is able to deploy 16 AmeriCorp VISTA volunteers to build capacity in rural non-profit organizations.
WRF expands its portfolio of mission-related investments with a $250,000 deposit into Hope Community Credit Union (HOPE). For over 15 years, HOPE and its nonprofit sponsor, Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD), have provided entrepreneurs, small businesses, homeowners, and working families in economically distressed Arkansas communities with access to affordable financial services and related technical assistance. With this investment, WRF brings its total PRI investments to over $5 million.
WRF's Marginalized Males Workforce and Education Consortium (MMWEC) develops into a learning community of stakeholders working diligently to improve retention and graduation rates for African American, Latino, and low-income white males of all ages. Numerous partners further these efforts with grant funding from WRF including: Arkansas Baptist College, City Youth Ministries, P.A.R.K., Philander Smith College, Pulaski Technical College, The STAND Foundation, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
WRF invests in Financing Ozarks Rural Growth and Economy, Inc. (FORGE) with a program-related investment of $200,000. This investment builds on an ongoing partnership between the Foundation and FORGE. Recent WRF grants had enable FORGE to implement a business plan which resulted in FORGE doubling their loan capacity over an 18 month period. For over 20 years, FORGE has worked to build sustainable small communities by lending to start-up businesses, families in need, small farmers, and individuals denied credit by the conventional banking system.
The Arkansas Legislative Taskforce on Reducing Poverty and Promoting Economic Opportunity releases a report with the goal to reduce poverty in the state by half in 10 years. The report proposes policy recommendations and benchmark goals. WRF served as a key partner in the report's development and funded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families to support research undertaken by the group, town hall meetings and focus groups.
VITA sites help low-income families in Arkansas access free tax filing services and increase uptake of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). VITA sites supported by WRF served more than 6,000 low-income families and generated more than $3 million in EITC refunds in Arkansas in 2010. Studies show EITC is one of the most effective strategies for lifting families out of poverty.
The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR) tackles barriers to reading proficiency. AR-GLR's goal is that by 2020, all Arkansas children will read at grade level by the end of the third grade. Through mobilizing communities, AR-GLR supports moving the needle on third-grade reading. Managed by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, AR-GLR is part of the nation Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national collaborative of foundations, nonprofits, states and communities.
Arkansas is worthy of the time and attention of anyone interested in making sound investments in a better future for children, families and communities. WRF helped organized the Why Arkansas? Campaign, in partnership with Arkansas nonprofits and state and national foundations, to attract resources to the state that increase recognition of Arkansas as a model state for smart and effective investments.
Immigrants, a small but rapidly growing part of Arkansas's population, are having a positive impact on the state: they are vested in and benefit their communities and Arkansas's economy. The data contained in A Profile of Immigrants in Arkansas 2013, a three-volume report, describes the demographic characteristics of the state's immigrant population, their economic and fiscal impact, and the state's Marshallese community.
To build the case statement for the importance of school/community partnerships for grade-level reading, the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has created the Community Solutions Initiative (AR-GLR CSI). AR-GLR CSI will support five sites across Arkansas to implement local community-led initiatives that mobilize stakeholders around grade-level reading challenges and solutions.
To build on the success of Moving the Needle, WRF has launched Moving the Needle 2.0 which envisions Arkansas ranking among the top states in major measures of child and family well-being. From 2014-2019, WRF will pursue four bold goals for Arkansas: Increase prosperity, increase educational attainment, strengthen communities, and build the nonprofit infrastructure.
Forty years ago, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation began making grants with the explicit mission of improving the lives of Arkansans. Since that time, the Foundation has developed a more targeted approach that focuses our resources on three interrelated areas: Economic Development; Education; Economic, Racial, and Social Justice. WRF has contributed more than $140 million in grants and technical assistance in support of its mission to improve the lives of all Arkansans.
The Arkansas State Board of Education votes to establish the ForwARd initiative, a strategic partnership between WRF and the Walton Family Foundation to lead the development of a comprehensive plan to strengthen public education in the state with actionable recommendations for academically distressed schools and districts.