article was published August 27 in the online and print editions
of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
By Debra Hale-Shelton
CONWAY -- An heir of the founders of
Coulson Oil Co. bequeathed $26 million to Hendrix College, the largest gift in
the private Methodist-affiliated college's history, the school announced
The donation by the estate of Mary
Ann Dawkins, a member of the United Methodist Church, is more than twice as
large as the college's previous biggest gift -- almost $11 million from the
Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in 1998, Hendrix President Bill Tsutsui said.
"I wish I could have said this
to her personally: Thank you truly, Mary Ann," Tsutsui told a large
audience of students, faculty and staff members, and others who welcomed the
news by popping open paper rolls wrapped in the school's orange-and-black
colors and stuffed with candy and Hendrix key rings.
The donation "will first and
foremost support student scholarships," promote college affordability and
boost the school's recently increased focus on helping students with financial
needs attend Hendrix, Tsutsui said. The money also will help further recently
announced diversity efforts, he said.
The college also plans to use some
of the money to start a fundraising effort to build a welcome center at the
northeast corner of the campus. That center, which already was a dream of
campus leaders, would house admissions and financial aid, replace Raney Hall
and provide a "warm" welcome to prospective students, Tsutsui said.
The building would be named in honor
of Dawkins and her late husband, Dr. David Dawkins.
"Not only is today's
announcement a historic moment for Hendrix, it's an incredible moment for
future students," Tsutsui said.
"Her generosity will help keep
Hendrix affordable and accessible," he said.
Dawkins died in Little Rock on Dec.
29 at age 68. Her husband and her parents, Lois and Ray Coulson, preceded her
in death, according to her obituary.
"But her legacy and generosity
lives on" and will be felt on the Hendrix campus "forever,"
Moments before the announcement,
Hendrix College choir members, each wearing a white robe and carrying a lighted
white candle, walked into the room and performed a brief candlelight carol
service in honor of Dawkins.
"Christmas may have just come a
little bit early this year," Tsutsui said.
Later, he explained that
"almost 30 years ago" in 1986, Dawkins had attended a performance of
the Hendrix College Choir's candlelight carol service at First United Methodist
Church in North Little Rock. That experience inspired her to establish the Dr.
David and Mary Ann Dawkins Endowed Scholarship Fund at Hendrix in memory of her
Neither she nor her husband nor her
parents were Hendrix alumni, Tsutsui said. The couple had no children, college
spokesman Rob O'Connor said.
Her earlier gifts prompted
scholarship recipients and others to send her thank-you notes. The school began
sending her newsletters and information, including "all the
propaganda" colleges tend to mail prospective donors, Tsutsui said to much
Dawkins, a philanthropist, became a
long-term donor to the college and other organizations, Hendrix board Chairman
David Knight said.
Knight said the Dawkinses' gift
"substantially strengthens our endowment," which Tsutsui said now
exceeds $200 million.
"This is clearly the most
exciting development in the life of the college," Knight said.
"I would assure her, we will be
good stewards" of her money," Knight said.
Mary Ann Dawkins had retired from
Coulson Oil Co. of North Little Rock after working there 41 years. She had
worked as a corporate secretary and previously was on the company's board of
directors. She was also on boards of the Arkansas Oil Marketers Association and
the Mid-South Make-A-Wish Foundation. She was a Special Olympics supporter.
Mike Coulson, board chairman of
Coulson Oil, released a statement through the company, saying, "On behalf
of all members of the Coulson family, we are very pleased and proud that my
late sister, Mary Ann Dawkins, chose to bestow such a major contribution to
higher education in Arkansas, especially to a progressive and life-changing
institution like Hendrix College.
"Our family, along with our
professional family at Coulson Oil, is eager to see how Mary Ann's gift will
support the Hendrix community's long-recognized culture of vision, innovation
and life encouragement," he added.
In the past decade, Hendrix has
increased the annual amount of scholarships and financial assistance it
provides from $6 million to $36 million, a college news release said.
The college created the Hendrix
Arkansas Advantage financial-aid program for Arkansas high school students
earlier this year.
Hendrix also has established
partnerships with the League of United Latin American Citizens, also known as
LULAC, and the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, Delta Public Schools. Those
partnerships are intended to create scholarship opportunities for students who
are members of minority groups.