FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Two anonymous gifts totaling more than $5 million will make history and create new opportunities for students and faculty in the University of Arkansas Libraries.

The majority of the contributions will come from a planned commitment and will establish two endowed faculty positions in the University Libraries, with $3 million allocated for an Endowed Dean’s Chair and $1.5 million reserved for an Endowed Professorship in Special Collections. Another $600,000 will support Phase II of the Mullins Library renovation and will create a materials and preservation area in Special Collections and an office suite for Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts, a program of the University Libraries, according to a press release from the university.

The combined total of the gifts makes it the single largest contribution given to the University Libraries.

“It gives us great pleasure to choose the University of Arkansas for our charitable contributions,” the donors said. “We are both from Northwest Arkansas and are graduates of the U of A. As lifelong Razorback fans, we enjoy attending numerous events on campus. We have served on several committees over the years, which has helped us to realize the importance of continued financial support, and through our donations, we are able to designate to areas of need that are of special interest to us.”

The positions, which will be endowed in the future through an estate gift, mark an important step for the university. They will be the first endowed faculty positions for the University Libraries, adding them to a short list of SEC schools that have received similar support for their libraries faculty.

The purpose of the Endowed Dean’s Chair will be to attract and recruit highly qualified individuals to the position of dean, provide the holder of the position with the resources to further scholarly contributions to teaching, research and public service, and afford resources to address various challenges and opportunities that may arise throughout the academic year.

This gift is transformational, and we’re incredibly grateful to be the recipient of such generosity. Endowing these two key positions is critical for the Libraries’ aspirations to grow our collections, expertise and recruitment as we strive to keep pace with the university’s growing research endeavors. The Phase II gifts come at the perfect time as we commence on the design and planning stage of the final part of the Mullins renovation project.

Jason J. Battles, dean of the University Libraries.

The Endowed Professorship in Special Collections will provide similar funding for the associate dean for the Special Collections division, which supports the research, teaching and learning mission of the U of A by collecting, preserving and providing access to unique and rare materials.

“This endowment will enable the Special Collections Division to amplify many of its existing programs, including collection development, paid student internships, public exhibitions and programming, as well as emerging needs such as multi-modal learning and digital preservation,” said Lori Birrell, associate dean for Special Collections.

The capital support afforded by the donors will enhance the work being done to Mullins Library. Preparation for Phase II of the Mullins renewal project is underway, with architectural planning commencing in the spring semester of 2022.