Myles Friedman might have been a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but his heart always stayed in Fort Smith, the city where he grew up and began his college career.
Now, Friedman’s legacy will stay in Fort Smith as well. The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith announced on Sept. 25 a $10.8 million estate gift to the university from the late engineer and former Westark Community College faculty member, the third-largest gift in the university’s history and the largest gift given to UAFS by an individual.
Upon his death, Friedman funded a $10.8 million charitable remainder trust. When the trust terminates, the residual amount is donated to a charitable beneficiary. In this case, it will be added to the Myles Friedman Scholarship Endowment and will provide additional merit-based scholarships to students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in the arts or sciences. In recognition of the gift, UAFS also renamed its Honors International Studies Program to be named the Myles Friedman Honors Program.
A graduate of Fort Smith High School, Friedman attended UAFS when it was Fort Smith Junior College and was a lifelong resident of the town save for his time in school at MIT and the University of Missouri.
“Myles taught classes at University of Missouri and Westark, and he believed in giving back to his community,” said Mark Moll, chair of the UAFS Foundation Board. “During his lifetime, Myles established the Myles Friedman Scholarship Endowment ... Since this endowment was established, we have awarded 20 Myles Friedman scholarships.”
“When Myles began to think about his legacy, he thought of UAFS. He thought about the past, his time at Fort Smith Junior College, now UAFS, and our students, and how his legacy could transform our university,” Moll continued. “So today, we are here to celebrate the legacy he left through his estate plan.”
Anne Thomas, interim chief development officer for the UAFS Foundation, said the university was “honored and grateful that Myles thought enough of us to make us the sole beneficiary of his estate gift.”
“Myles was a Fort Smith guy. He attended Fort Smith Junior College and went off to MIT, but he came home to us and built his legacy here,” Thomas said. “He knew that without private philanthropy like this, we would be less able to serve the students who are at the heart of our mission. This gift helps us give students the aid they need to change the trajectory of their and their families’ lives.”
Thomas also thanked the work of professional advisors who played a role in the realization of the gift, including Friedman’s attorney, wealth manager, accountant and trust officer.
She added that the endowment’s spending allocation could fund approximately 60 full-time scholarships per school year within a few years of the gift being realized.
Dr. Edward Serna, interim chancellor at UAFS, lauded the gift and the financial assistance it will give students.
“I hope it’s clear, from our designation as the most affordable university in the state and the unveiling of our fixed tuition program, that we care about helping students with the cost of their college education,” Serna said. “This gift … will also help our students with the cost of their education. To say it will be life-changing for our students is an understatement. Numerous metrics point to a college education being more valuable now than ever before. This gift will help more students realize the dream of a college education that will change the trajectory of their and their family’s lives, and we are enormously grateful to receive it.”
Dr. Georgia Hale, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said it was fitting for UAFS to name its honors program in Friedman’s name and discussed the impact of the gift on university students.
“We are all here today because we share Myles’ passion for higher education. Every gift to the university ultimately helps students, but scholarship gifts, especially one this large, have the most direct impact,” Hale said. “We can reach out to the student who receives the gift and say, ‘Myles Friedman helped make this part of your life possible. Whatever you do in the future will grow out of this moment. Remember him as you advance.’”
UAFS graduate Payton Radley, who participated in the Honors International Studies Program as a student here, discussed the impact of the program on her growth as a student and an individual.
“I can and will credit the honors program for a lot of my successes in life. It pushed me to not only be a better student, but to be a more well-rounded person,” she said. “The travel opportunities that the honors program offers helped shaped my idea of culture and broadened my horizons of life in general. I am 24 years old. I have seen empty tombs in Israel, I have bought jars of jam at Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, I have toured congressional buildings, I sat in British cafes and drank tea in the same spot great authors once had, I’ve climbed castles in Wales, I’ve ridden on trains that inspired fantasy worlds full of wizards and magic, I’ve swum with sharks and stingrays in Belize, adventured through ancient Mayan caves, ate whole chickens cooked into a flauta.”
“Being a part of the honors program created opportunities for me to hear, see, taste, smell, and truly feel the world around me,” Radley added. “It has shaped me in ways that I know I could never be the same. For that I am thankful.”
At the ceremony, UAFS officials also presented Deanna with an artwork of the gates of campus, where Friedman and his wife gathered with other community members on Jan. 1, 2002, to celebrate UAFS becoming a four-year university. The artwork signifies the merging of the past, present and future of UAFS.
Dr. Dennis Siler, director of the honors program, also spoke at the ceremony. Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, was also in attendance.
A charitable remainder trust is an irrevocable form of giving in which an individual transfers cash or assets to fund the trust. In return, the assets are invested to pay income to the individual and/or any other trust beneficiaries for a set period of time, or for the life of one or more non-charitable beneficiaries. When the trust terminates, the remainder passes to charitable beneficiaries designated by the donor.