UCA receives major gifts

The University of Central Arkansas recently received two major gifts.

UCA President Tom Courtway (from left); TJ Johnston, director of corporate relations; Charles D. Morgan; Dr. Steven Runge, executive vice president and provost; Dr. Stephen Addison, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; and Dr. Mehemmed Celebi, chair of the Department of Computer Science.


UCA received a $300,000 gift from Acxiom founder and former CEO, Charles D. Morgan.

“UCA has made major contributions to the business community through their graduates, and I wanted to show my appreciation and help ensure that this contribution continues,” said Morgan.

The Charles D. Morgan Endowed Chair of Computer Science Fund will be used to support and recruit faculty in the computer science and technology fields.

“We are grateful for Charles Morgan’s generous gift in support of our efforts in computer science,” said Dr. Stephen Addison, dean of College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “The support of our local partners in the IT industry is vital to the ongoing development of our programs in computer science and is mutually beneficial to our partners.”

Addison said the gift will also expand the university’s offerings in the area of computer science, as well as respond to new industry challenges. Currently, UCA students can earn a bachelor of science degree in computer science and a master of science degree in applied computing.

“We appreciate and thank Charles Morgan for his generosity, but more importantly for his belief and commitment to our computer science students and faculty. Having him associated with our computer science program is something we have always strived for, and just as he has done in so many other education endeavors, he has come forward to help us,” said UCA President Tom Courtway. “He is a visionary, an entrepreneur and someone we admire and respect, and we are very, very grateful for his gift.”


Southwestern Energy Company presented UCA with $300,000 to support undergraduate and graduate student research. The announcement was made at the newly constructed Conway Corporation for Sciences on the UCA campus.

“I am deeply honored to be here to announce the creation of the Southwestern Energy Endowed Fund for Student Research as a fund within the University of Central Arkansas Foundation. Through our $300,000 gift and the creation of this endowment, we have the opportunity to carry on our advocacy of science, technology, engineering and math education to secondary education in order to expand students’ opportunities and employability, whatever careers they pursue,” said George Sheffer, Southwestern Energy Company vice president of Operations-Fayetteville Shale.

The Southwestern Energy Endowed Fund for Student Research will be granted to students conducting research in the fields of environmental science, geography and physics.

Graduate student Christopher Robinson was announced as the first Southwestern Energy/Steven L. Mueller Research Fellow. “I know this is a really competitive grant, and I’m proud of myself and of my research and of my advisor for our hard work of what we’ve committed to this project,” Robinson said.

The Texas native came to Arkansas to earn a master’s degree at UCA and study the prairie lizard with Dr. Matt Gifford, assistant professor. The $1,500 grant from the fund will allow him to quantify his research.

“This work is for my master’s thesis,” Robinson said. “I’m really honored that the committee selected me and that they thought my work was worth funding and that my study animal, the prairie lizard, is something that was consideration for conservation and trying to understand how the species interacts with their environment and how temperature change can affect their species.”

A selection committee made up of UCA professors will recommend an annual awardee who will receive at least $1,500 for his/her research. Southwestern Energy Company currently employs 28 UCA graduates who work in various roles across the eight states in which the company operates.

“We appreciate this most generous gift to the UCA Foundation to support the University of Central Arkansas. This pledge is more evidence of SWN’s commitment to this area of the country and educational opportunities for students,” said Courtway. “It is very important to UCA for two fundamental reasons. First, it shows the value of student research in the fields of environmental science, physics and geography, supervised by our extraordinary faculty in the natural sciences. And second, it will help us attract and retain the best and brightest students in these disciplines because they know they will have opportunities early in their educational career to engage in research projects.”