Philanthropist Surprises South Arkansas Community College with the Largest Gift in the College's History
January 2012 – El Dorado, Arkansas
“I was incredulous, ecstatic and a little breathless,” said Cynthia Reyna, Director of the South Arkansas Community College (SouthArk) Foundation. “I was immediately very humbled and grateful that a person unknown to me and, from all accounts, unknown to our board leadership and college leaders, would have the faith in our college to give us a gift of any size and particularly in the amount of almost a quarter million dollars.”
Fort Smith accountant, Norris Cunningham Taylor, Jr., who passed away in October, 2011 at the age of 84, left SouthArk the generous bequest of $247,550 in his will. The gift was just one of 40 such gifts, totaling more than $11 million that Taylor bequeathed to institutions and organizations throughout the state of Arkansas. Mr. Taylor was raised in Trumann, Arkansas and was a graduate of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He had no children or spouse.
“I was convinced that there was some connection that he had with us during his life, but the knowledge I have collected is that Mr. Taylor loved this state, its citizens and those agencies and organizations that make a strong impact on their communities,” said Ms. Reyna. “I have come to understand that this is a gift in the truest sense of the word.”
In a letter to SouthArk, Mr. Taylor’s nephew and estate administrator, Rick Watkins, explained that the donation is “a token of the respect he had for your fine institution and its mission.” Mr. Watkins further indicated that the gift may be used in any way the college sees fit. “I suspect that unrestricted gifts from unfamiliar benefactors are somewhat rare but extraordinarily welcomed these days,” Watkins wrote.
SouthArk President, Dr. Barbara Jones notes this gift will touch many lives in the future. “When learning of the bequest of Mr. Taylor, I was thrilled and excited but also humbled that he chose to leave SouthArk a planned gift in his will,” Jones said. “This generous gift leaves a legacy that will impact the college for years to come.”
Terry Norman, SouthArk Foundation President said that while why Taylor selected SouthArk might remain a mystery, it is an honor that he did. “Many other organizations or institutions could have been chosen by Mr. Taylor, but he saw fit to select SouthArk,” Norman said. “The funds from this donation will be used in the Foundation’s ongoing mission to support the educational efforts of the college – certainly a worthy mission, and one that will benefit El Dorado and the surrounding area.”
Mr. Taylor was, by all accounts, a generous, thoughtful professional who planned his estate to benefit those who make the biggest life-affirming impact in their communities,” indicated Reyna. “He was a staunch advocate of education. The information that I have received is that Mr. Taylor had strategically selected viable, deserving organizations in the state that do good works for and make an impact on their community’s well-being.”
The donation will support college initiatives and priorities, but final decisions have not been made. President Jones indicated that it could be used to fulfill many different needs.
The Clements Group has assisted SouthArk with its recent major gifts campaign. For more information visit the college website at www.southark.edu or contact Cynthia Reyna at firstname.lastname@example.org.