FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — University of Arkansas-Fort Smith on Friday announced the largest single gift in its history with $18.7 million from the Windgate Foundation going toward the university’s nursing and visual arts programs.

According to a press release, the gift addresses critical needs in the River Valley, creating a pathway to “dramatically increase nursing graduates and cultivating an immersive arts experience for students and the public through the expansion of the Windgate Art and Design building and its offerings.”

“The Windgate Foundation cares so deeply about Fort Smith,” said Blake Rickman, Executive Director of the UAFS Foundation and vice chancellor for University Advancement. “This is their hometown, and they understand the unique relationship this institution has with our city. We aren’t just a university in Fort Smith; we are Fort Smith’s university, and we couldn’t be more thankful for their support.”

Prior to this gift, the Windgate Foundation awarded more than $25 Million to UAFS in support of the Windgate Art and Design building and endowment, visual arts and design programming, and a comprehensive scholarship endowment for high-need students.

Over the past three years, the university and the Windgate Foundation pivoted from discussing a single gift to improve fine art facilities at UAFS to designing the multi-tiered plan to “holistically advance the health and wellness of the River Valley,” Rickman said

“This gift empowers the university to tend to the human needs of every member of our community,” said Katie Waugh, Head of Art and Design at UAFS. “Cultivating overall wellness is crucial for nurturing a functioning society and arts environment.”