by David Ramsey
HOT SPRINGS — The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts announced a $300,000 grant from the Oaklawn Foundation during a ceremony Tuesday at the school’s Administration Building.
The grant is the largest single gift in the school’s history. It will be dedicated to the construction of the $4.5 million Creativity and Innovation Complex, the first new academic building to be built on campus since the school opened in 1993. It will provide classroom and work space for computer science and digital arts courses as well as an assembly space for the school.
The CIC will be the second new building on campus since the school opened in 1993. The Student Center opened in August 2012. It serves as the primary residence for students. It also includes the cafeteria and library.
The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees recently selected Harris Architects of Hot Springs to serve as the design professional for the building. Work on the 20,000-square-foot complex is expected to start in mid-2017 with the building opening in time for the start of spring 2019 semester.
The Oaklawn Foundation receives funding each year from Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs. The foundation uses the money to fund programs and scholarships that benefit Garland County students and senior citizens. Previous projects supported by the Oaklawn Foundation include the Oaklawn Foundation Scholarships for Garland County students and the Oaklawn Center on Aging in cooperation with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
Members of the Oaklawn Foundation board said the grant for the CIC project was a good opportunity to support the future education of talented and motivated students in Garland County and throughout the state.
“The board understands the mission and the goals of this school; they agree with it,” said Larry Stephens, a member of the Oaklawn Foundation board. “They see that it has not only succeeded [meeting its goals] but exceeded its goals.
“We felt like the future of this school is now. We felt like we wanted to be a part of the future, and we think what you’re doing is the future.”
Stephens and fellow board members Kermit Tucker and Dennis Smith are members of the foundation’s long range planning committee. Smith, who also serves as vice chairman of the Oaklawn Foundation, said the board wanted to put the foundation’s funds back into the community.
“We decided we wanted to support the larger, most important nonprofits in the county through substantial grants from us,” Smith said. Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs received a previous grant. “The next few years we plan to continue with our grant program. We’re just happy that [ASMSA] could be a recipient.”
“ASMSA’s community of learning is humbled to receive this exceedingly generous gift from the Oaklawn Foundation,” said ASMSA Director Corey Alderdice. “The foundation’s work has been transformational in the lives of many Garland County citizens. Their support sets the stage not only for the continued evolution of ASMSA’s campus but also is another step in the revitalization of downtown Hot Springs.”
Tucker added that ASMSA’s dedication to the growth of its education efforts strategically matches the Oaklawn Foundation’s long-term investment in education.
ASMSA is the state’s only public residential high school that specializes in the education of academically gifted juniors and seniors from across Arkansas. This year, students from 51 of Arkansas’ 75 counties are attending ASMSA. Students currently enrolled come from all 35 state senatorial districts. In the past four years, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The Daily Beast have ranked ASMSA among its top 25 high schools in the nation.
The Oaklawn Foundation grant is the latest of several gifts and grants to support the construction of the CIC. The Dan Fredinburg Foundation made a $50,000 gift in the name of Dan Fredinburg, a 1999 ASMSA alumnus. Fredinburg was the head of privacy for Google X, the research and development facility for Google, at the time of his death in April 2015.
The Fredinburg Foundation gift was announced at the Community of Learning Luncheon in April. Inspired by the Fredinburg Foundation’s gift, more than $100,000 has been raised toward the complex through a series of gifts from Fredinburg’s friends and family as well as friends of the school.
ASMSA also received a $500,000 General Improvement Fund grant from Gov. Asa Hucthinson during the 90th General Assembly in 2015. The majority of those funds will be used for architect and engineering fees for the formal plans and renderings of the CIC. The remaining funds will be used toward construction of the building.
ASMSA joined the University of Arkansas System in 2004. Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the UA System, attended Tuesday’s announcement ceremony. He said the support for the CIC building is an indication of ASMSA’s growth and success in its mission.
“I think the school’s reputation is what’s driving the interest across the state,” Bobbitt said. “When people are contemplating what to do with their educational career and they see the success ASMSA graduates have had, how well-rounded they are, whether they continue their studies in the state of Arkansas or go out of state, I think that sends a very powerful message. This is a serious place with serious intellectual and cultural pursuits.”
Bobbitt applauded the efforts of Alderdice and the school’s management team “to do some very significant things for the future of ASMSA” while creatively using funds available while not putting the school in any form of financial distress in the future.
About ASMSA: The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts is one of 16 public residential high schools in the country specializing in the education of academically gifted juniors and seniors. Located in historic downtown Hot Springs, the school is a campus of the University of Arkansas System. For more information about Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, visit www.asmsa.org or call 1-800-345-2767.