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Governor Rockefeller's Legacy

“Being a millionaire is a tough road to hoe.” The late Winthrop Rockefeller was fond of saying that. Staff would also sometimes explain to him that everybody within the sound of his voice—without exception and including his staff— would trade places with him so fast it would make your head swim. They’d hand over all their worldly possessions in exchange for his wallet (and its contents) without even having to think about it. They’d also throw in their hound dog, if they had one.

At this point, if there were time, Rockefeller would patiently explain what he meant; and if you watched him and paid attention when he was engaging in the philanthropic activity that took so much of his time, you could see that it made sense. It really was tough being wealthy if you had the obligation, the responsibility [poured] into you since birth, to be a good steward of the money passed to you, to make the lives of others better with it, to cause good things to happen that would benefit even those you most likely would never see or know.

Rockefeller gave in a direct and personal sort of way $20 million during his lifetime, the equivalent of $158.4 million in 2019 dollars, a good bit of it after he got to Arkansas. Those were the dollars he could claim on his tax forms. There was a good deal that could not be claimed, but which nevertheless was charity in the best sense of the word and which swelled his charitable giving to perhaps twice the amount claimed.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust, which received his estate, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, which began with assets from the Trust, Winrock International, and the Arkansas Community Foundation all owe their beginnings to Rockefeller.

— Excerpted from “Philanthropy,” by John Ward, UALR Magazine, Fall 2003

1912

Rockefeller is Born

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.” Read Less

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1953

Win Settles in Arkansas

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. Read Less

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1956

Rockwin Fund is Started

Governor Winthrop Rockefeller uses personal philanthropy to start Rockwin Fund, the predecessor organization for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. It was renamed in 1974. Read Less

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1966

Winthrop Rockefeller as Governor

Winthrop Rockefeller is elected the first Republican governor of Arkansas since 1874. While governor, sixty-seven bills are passed during the General Assembly, including the first minimum-wage act in Arkansas. Winthrop Rockefeller 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. Read Less

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1968

Governor Rockerfeller Holds a Public Memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On April 7, Governor Rockefeller holds a public ceremony to mourn the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Alone among the Southern governors, he stood on the steps of the capitol with blacks and whites together and said, “I am not my brother’s keeper. I am my brother’s brother.” Read Less

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1973

The Legacy of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller

Winthrop Rockefeller dies of pancreatic cancer on February 22, 1973. 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”. Read Less

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1975

Tom McRae Becomes the Foundation’s First President

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.

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1989

Mahlon Martin Becomes WRF’s Second President

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. Read Less

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1996

Dr. Sybil J. Hampton Becomes WRF’s Third President

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. Read Less

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2007

Dr. Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury Becomes WRF’s Fourth President

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. Read Less

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2008

Moving the Needle

After meetings with government agencies, and with nonprofit and community leaders, the WRF Board and staff adopt the Moving the Needle (MTN) strategic plan. Read Less

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2009

WRF Expands Its Mission-Related Investments

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. Read Less

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2009

WRF and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel Work to Build Rural Capacity

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. Read Less

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2010

MMWEC: A Learning Community

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. Read Less

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2010

Program-Related Investment in FORGE

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 enabled 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. Read Less

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2011

Poverty Taskforce Identifies Opportunities to Move the Needle

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. Read Less

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2011

WRF Supports Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

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. Read Less

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2012

WRF Launches the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR) tackles barriers to reading proficiency. AR-GLR's goal is that 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. AR-GLR is part of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national collaborative of foundations, nonprofits, states and communities. Read Less

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2012

Why Arkansas? Campaign

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. Read Less

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2013

WRF Releases A Profile of Immigrants in Arkansas 2013

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. Read Less

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2013

Moving the Needle 2.0

To build on the success of Moving the Needle, WRF launched Moving the Needle 2.0, which envisioned Arkansas would rank among the top states in major measures of child and family well-being. From 2014 - 2019, WRF pursued four bold goals for Arkansas: Increase prosperity, increase educational attainment, strengthen communities, and build the nonprofit infrastructure. Read Less

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2013

Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Solutions Initiative

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. Read Less

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2014

ForwARd Partnership for Arkansas Education

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. Read Less

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2014

WRF Celebrates 40 Years

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. Read Less

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2015

Launches Expect More Arkansas

Expect More Arkansas: Our Jobs, Our Future shows that jobs are in Arkansas now, and more than half a million are coming in the next 10 years. However, nearly 70 percent of current jobs are low-skill jobs, most of which do not pay family-supporting wages. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation launches the Expect More Arkansas initiative to increase investment from businesses, educators, and governments in the right advanced-skills training and education for Arkansans. Read Less

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2016

Expect More Community Conversations

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation visits more than 15 communities to learn how residents as well as community, education, and business leaders are actively setting visions and taking action to expect more of themselves, their children, and their state’s future. The Foundation documents what works in communities and shares the Expect MoreBright Spot videos series. Read Less

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2017

Begins Strategic Planning at the Biennial Grantee and Stakeholder Convening

In the midst of the Reflection, Analysis, and Planning (RAP) process, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation asks partners one important question: “What will Arkansas look like in the future if each of us do our part to improve the lives of all Arkansans?” The Foundation begins using what it has learned from grantees and stakeholders from across the state to begin charting the course for change in Arkansas. Read Less

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2019

AR Equity 2025, the Foundation's Relentless Pursuit of Equity

Governor Rockefeller’s commitment, courage, and collaboration created systemic change. This is the legacy on which the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation was founded. It is the inspiration for our new strategic direction, AR Equity 2025.<br /><br /> Through a year-long strategic planning process, AR Equity 2025 was born. This soul-searching process led to a reimagination of Arkansas as a place where everyone has access, resources, and tools to achieve their potential and prosper. <br /><br /> We have a bold, new mission: to relentlessly pursue economic, educational, social, ethnic, and racial equity for all Arkansans.<br /><br /> We all want a good-paying job so we can support our families. We want healthy, vibrant, and connected communities so we can enjoy Arkansas’s unsurpassed quality of life. We want to leave the state a better place for future generations, and we want our kids to have the best opportunities to reach their full potential and find fulfilling careers that allow them to raise their families in Arkansas.<br /><br /> WRF is ready to learn and form partnerships to identify what works to create a state where every Arkansan has the access, tools, and resources to prosper. Read Less

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