Hendrix choir performance leads to $26 million gift

This article was published August 27 in the online and print editions of the Log Cabin Democrat

By Jeanette Anderton  

Hendrix College announced on Wednesday that the estate of Mary Ann Dawkins donated $26 million that the school will use to support scholarships and kick off a fundraising campaign to build a new welcome center.

Dawkins had previously set up a scholarship after hearing the Hendrix Choir perform around Christmas in 1986 at her United Methodist Church in North Little Rock.

“She was so inspired and moved by the performance that she established a modest endowment scholarship in honor of her late husband, Dr. David Dawkins, a Little Rock dentist,” President Bill Tsutsui said during a news conference. “Neither Mary Ann nor her husband were Hendrix graduates, and she was not the daughter, mother or grandmother of any Hendrix alums. But, over the years, she regularly heard from grateful Hendrix students who wrote letters to her thanking her for the opportunities that her generous gift of a scholarship made possible.”

Dawkins died in December and her estate donated $26 million to Hendrix College. Tsutsui said that the gift was the school’s largest ever and helped the Hendrix endowment surpass $200 million for the first time in the institution’s history.

“It is also, I am happy to say, the largest single gift to an independent college in Arkansas from someone whose last name is not Walton,” Tsutsui said, drawing a roar of laughter from the packed room.

Aside from scholarships, the funds will be used to build a welcome center, David Knight, Hendrix College Board of Trustees chair, said.

“It will jumpstart the fundraising effort for a much-needed facility that we have discussed for a number of years, a front door to the college that will be named after Mrs. Dawkins and her husband,” Knight said. “It will also allow us to accelerate and expand various initiatives that we have really been focused on to make Hendrix more affordable, especially to qualified students who need financial aid.”

Tsutsui said that Dawkins will always be a part of the Hendrix family.

“Her legacy of generosity will live on, and the affection she felt for Hendrix College, sparked that December night in 1986 at a choir service, will be felt on this campus forever,” he said.