The past few years have been bleak for fund-raisers and donors, thanks to stocks going south. But the clouds are parting, revealing a sunny picture that includes a $22.5 million events center taking shape at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a $3 million business building at Ouachita Baptist University, a $2 million alumni center at Arkansas State University and more. Each of those gifts came from individuals, with Jack Stephens in the lead. Stephens gave the money for the UALR events center, made good on his $48 million pledge to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences for the Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute, gave $10 million to the U.S. Naval Academy for a stadium, and another $2.5 to St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center. Those gifts made him the Chronicle of Philanthropy's 12th most generous philanthropist in the United States for 2003. (Joan B. Kroc's amazing $1.91 billion bequest topped the list.) Individuals provide 76 percent of all philanthropic dollars, and much of that money goes to churches, so it's not surprising that Bible Belt residents are among the country's most philanthropic, when giving is measured as a proportion of income. The Catalogue for Philanthropy studies IRS data and in 2003 ranked Arkansas No. 2 on its "Generosity Index," behind No. 1 Mississippi. On the corporate front, Wal-Mart Stores of Bentonville was named the "Largest Corporate Cash Giver" by Forbes magazine in 2003. Forbes cited Chronicle of Philanthropy figures that put the Wal-Mart Stores nationwide giving at $136 million in 2002. On the receiving end, UAMS was particularly in the sun in 2003, thanks to Stephens' gift and the largest foundation gift since this time last year, $21.5 million from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation. The Walker money will go to the Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Alzheimer's Disease Center and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Medicine. Last year, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville received the $300 million challenge gift the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation announced in 2002. That unprecedented gift sent the UA soaring to fourth place on the Council for Aid to Education's list of top funded universities for the year, behind only Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania. Matches to the Walton gift have been rolling in, putting the UA's total private support in fiscal year 2003, excluding pledges, at $365.3 million. But these are rays of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy setting, thanks to the stock market's plunge in the past three years. Nationally, foundation assets plummeted 10.5 percent from 2000 to 2002. But the market is showing signs of slow, if cranky, recovery, and giving independent fund-raisers hope that they're close to the end of the tunnel. Donors and grant-seekers alike are "cautiously optimistic," Paul Gardner, co-owner of Horizons Stewardship of Cabot, said. While assets rise, gains in giving may not parallel that good news. Smaller givers - i.e., donors of stock worth $50,000 to $100,000 in the market boom of the late '90s - have pulled back, Gardner said, and he doesn't see a recovery from them "for a while," Gardner said. He predicts giving will return to previous levels when portfolios are safely ahead of where they were when the market went into its nose-dive three years ago. For grant-seekers, 2003 was a "mixed bag," Gardner said, with some feeling squeezed and others having a great year. "There's a lot of pent-up emotion. We've been sitting in the starting gate for three years, wanting to get projects going." Now, he thinks, there's reason to be hopeful that the money will come in. Fred Hueston of Conway says he's more encouraged today than he has been in the past three years. "People are talking about feasibility studies and capital campaigns" again, he said. Those philanthropic storm clouds have a silver lining, Hueston said: Tighter dollars have produced smarter fund-raisers. They're "becoming much more accurate in their reporting of what they're doing, and treating donor resources more as investments … They're more cognizant of [the best way to use and report] the charitable dollar they receive." Just as those who seek, the Walton family is also turning a more careful eye toward how they give, with a new strategy of investment in the Delta (see accompanying story). The family foundation (as opposed to its charitable trust) was 50th on the Foundation Center's list of largest foundations United States in 2002, with assets of $791,918,529. The $81 million it gave away made it the 35th most generous. The foundation has not yet reported 2003 end-of-year assets and giving to the IRS, but assets have probably increased - especially if, as John Walton reportedly has said, the family is transferring 20 percent of their $100 billion holdings in Wal-Mart stock to the foundation and Walton Charitable Trust. The Waltons are quiet about their giving. The trust's gift of $300 million to the UA got significant advance publicity, but other gifts are seldom announced. Their giving is also labor intensive. It divvied up the $81 million it gave away in 2002 among 516 grants, ranging from several $1,500 and $2,000 grants to the $20.3 million donated to the Children's Scholarship Fund, a voucher program. (According to an article in USA Today, the Waltons have helped pay private school tuition for 62,000 children.) Below, the Times' annual philanthropic honor roll, a sampling of individuals and foundations who've made significant donations to Arkansas entities, since April 2003. Notably absent from the roll is the Walton Foundation, which has not yet reported its giving since April 2003: Jack Stephens: $48 million to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to build the Jack Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute, $22.5 million to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to build an events center for its basketball and volleyball teams, $10 million to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis for a stadium and $2.5 million to St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center to support the hospital's new heart center. Total: $83 million. The Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation of Springdale: $21.5 million to the UAMS ($15 million to the Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, $5 million to the Alzheimer's Disease Center and $1.5 million to the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Medicine), $8 million to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to build the Willard J. Walker Graduate Business Building in the Sam Walton College of Business, a pledge of $1 million to Arkansas Children's Hospital, and a pledge of $100,000 to UALR for nursing nursing student scholarships. Total: $30.6 million. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation: $4,347,232 to the YMCA of Warren and Bradley County for construction and renovation of a YMCA in Warren, and a pledge of $3 million to UAMS for the Fred W. Smith conference center and auditorium on the top floor of the Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute. Total: $7.3 million. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation: Grants to 60 organizations and 122 schools included $1.28 million to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, $951,040 to help produce the exhibit "Life Interrupted: The Japanese American Experience in WWII Arkansas" and $443,750 to the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority for a pilot entrepreneurial growth project. Total: $6.8 million. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.: A pledge of $5 million to Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas toward a $140 million health center in Rogers. Frank D. Hickingbotham: $3 million to Ouachita Baptist University at Arkadelphia for the construction of a new 40,000-square-foot Frank D. Hickingbotham Hall for business students. Tyson Foods: A 1989 King Air B200 turboprop aircraft valued at $1.8 million, to be matched with $1.5 million from the Walton gift to endow the Donald "Buddy" Wray Chair in Food Safety in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. Tyson and subsidiary Cobb-Vantress also gave $844,793 to the UA to build a poultry research facility near Savoy, west of Fayetteville. Total: $2.6 million. Darrell and Charlotte Pugh Cooper: $2 million to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro toward the construction of the $5 million, 20,000 square-foot Cooper Alumni Center. Anonymous: $1.6 million to UALR for the renovation of Gary Hogan Field at Curran-Conway park. The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation: $1.5 million challenge grant to Arkansas Children's Hospital. Estate of Col. John H. and Jane W. Donaldson: $1.3 million to the UA for scholarships for graduate teaching students. The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust: $1 million to Arkansas Children's Hospital. The Judd Hill Foundation. Pledged $1 million over 10 years to ASU to endow the Judd Hill Chair in Agricultural Biotechnology. Larry T. Wilson and Natalie and Tom Garrison: $375,000 each to fund the Wilson/Garrison Chair in Accounting in the Sam. M. Walton College of Business at the UA.* Norma Lea Beasley: $1 million to the UA School of Law building and expansion project. The Sparks Guild: $1 million to Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith to buy a new magnetic resonance imaging unit. Robert and Sunny Evans: $1 million to the UA to build a sanctuary and children's garden at the School of Architecture's botanical gardens, Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs. John Ed and Isabel Anthony: $1 million to the UA's botanical garden, Garvan Woodland Gardens, to build the Anthony Chapel. Fred Berry: $710,000 to the Nature Conservancy of Arkansas's Ozark Rivers Legacy Program. Jim Blair: $750,000 to the UA to establish the Diane Divers Blair Chair in Political Science in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.* UALR Professor Emeritus Cal Ledbetter: $250,000 to UALR to endow KUAR-FM and KLRE-FM. Ledbetter, who in 2002 gave $400,000 to establish a scholarship fund for non-traditional students and previous to that $360,000 to establish the Arkansas History Monograph Series, is the ninth member of the university's George W. Donaghey Society of donors of $1 million or more. Simmons First National Corp. and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield: $250,000 to the UA faculty fund in honor of Louis and Joy Ramsey. Bill and Susan Montgomery: $250,000 to the UA to create the "Dallas Scholars" Honors Academy Fellowships.* George and Shirley Combs: A pledge of $250,000 to the UA to create Honors College scholarships for Fort Smith students who want to attend the College of Engineering. The Tom Joyner Foundation: $250,000 to the Philander Smith College scholarship fund. Gerald L. and Vicki Harp: $150,000 to the UA for Rotarian scholarships to international students. The Joe and Carolyn Tenenbaum Charitable Remainder Trust: $107,241 to the St. Vincent Foundation to construct an orthopedic surgery teaching and research center at St. Vincent Infirmary. Emily Johnson: Slides of mushrooms and other fungi worth $100,000 to the Department of Biological Sciences in the Fulbright College of the UA. Gus and Irene Vratsinas: $100,000 to the UA for scholarships for civil engineering majors. To be matched with $80,000 from the Walton gift. *Gift is a dollar-for-dollar match to funds given the UA by the Walton Family Charitable Trust's $300 challenge grant. Many other gifts to the UA, such as the Vratsinas donation, are partially matched.