A Tradition of Giving

Donnie D. Pendergraft's $5 million gift changed the lives of not just of untold students but the entire University


Donnie D. PendergraftPerhaps no other family name is more closely associated with UA Fort Smith than “Pendergraft,” and Donnie D. Pendergraft is a caring benefactor of that tradition. “We have been blessed, and I want to give back because of that,” said Pendergraft, whose $5 million gift is the institution’s single largest contribution from an individual and the lead gift of the Giving Opportunity Campaign.


The family is represented across the campus in endowments for scholarships, professorships, colleges, and buildings, and her late husband, Ross, an executive with Donrey Media Group (now Stephens Media Group), played a large role in the support for the Donald W. Reynolds Plaza, Tower, and Campus Green through membership on the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Board. Their son, Neal, is a member of the UA Fort Smith Foundation Board and co-chair of the Giving Opportunity Campaign.


“I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, so through scholarships I can help others have that chance,” said Donnie. “I enjoy watching these students grow and listening to how proud they are to be getting an education. They have the desire, the know-how, and everything it takes to achieve their goals, except the money. Now they can get better jobs, start their own businesses, even help others in their own families get an education—and the entire city will benefit.”


At her 80th birthday celebration in March 2010 on the UA Fort Smith campus, Donnie was joined by 19 “Pendergraft Kids”—students and alumni who have benefited from scholarships funded by the Pendergraft family.


But those 19 were only a small contingent of the 90 UA Fort Smith graduates the Pendergrafts have helped over the years with more than $270,000 in total scholarships.


Today, those graduates, who hold degrees in fields ranging from accounting to athletic training and radiography to rhetoric, live and work across the central U.S. from Mississippi to Wisconsin. Talk about impact!