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The University of the Ozarks has received $525,000 from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation in Bentonville. The gift was made in honor of the university’s long-time former president and foundation board member, Rick D. Niece.
Niece, Ph.D., was president of Ozarks for 16 years, from 1997 to 2013. Only former presidents F.R. Earle (1858-1891) and Dr. Wiley Lin Hurie (1923-1949) served longer tenures than him in the university’s 186-year history.
He also served as a director for the foundation from 1997 to 2019, and as its vice president for several years.
A majority of the gift — $500,000 — will go into the Dr. Rick and Sherée Niece Endowment for Student Enrichment fund, which provides competitive grants to students in support of their research, creative projects and professional preparation through internships and study abroad opportunities.
The remaining $25,000 will be invested in the Lewis H. and Dortha J. Geyer Niece Scholarship Endowment Fund, named in honor of Niece’s parents to provide scholarships to students majoring in performing arts and communications.
In addition, Niece and his wife, Sherée, established a third endowed program that will not benefit from this gift.
Under Niece’s leadership, the private, Presbyterian-affiliated university saw student enrollment increase by 20%, endowment grow by more than 20%, and the number of full-time faculty increased from 28 to 48.
The university also raised nearly $150 million during his tenure and added several new facilities, including four apartment-style residence halls, the Walker Hall teacher education and communications center, the Rogers Conference Center and the Mabee Student Fitness Center.
The university named Niece president emeritus in 2013.
He and his wife are retired and living in Hot Springs Village.