The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture dedicated its new Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences today in Fayetteville, making it the second time in three days that Tyson Foods and the Tyson family helped Northwest Arkansas make a major advancement.
The opening of the new 54,000-square-foot building, which was funded in part by a $5 million gift from Tyson Foods and the Tyson family, came just two days after Tyson Foods celebrated the opening of a new Springdale facility that will become the company’s technology hub in the city’s downtown area.
Northwest Arkansas’ largest companies and its leading families continue to make remarkable investments in education and quality of life projects across the region.
Some of the more recent gifts include the Walton Family Foundation’s investment into NorthWest Arkansas Community College to open Bridgewater culinary school in 2016, and the Walton Family Foundation announced earlier this year that it would provide funding to open a School of Art at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The Walton Family Foundation continued its giving just this week, providing a combined $3.6 million in grants to Northwest Arkansas cities to make improvements to downtown parks and public spaces in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale.
Meanwhile, a groundbreaking ceremony was held just two weeks ago to start work on Springdale’s Northwest Arkansas Nature and Education Center, a project of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that received a $5 million gift from Johnelle Hunt and her family.
In the case of the new agricultural sciences center in Fayetteville, Tyson Foods and the Tyson family provided $5 million for the project two years ago and that kicked off the construction. John Tyson, the company’s chairman of the board, announced that he will give an additional $1 million to the Division of Agriculture.
The building will provide modern laboratories and workspace for Division of Agriculture scientists and graduate students. The planning and need for the building goes back many years, said Mark Cochran, vice president of agriculture for the University of Arkansas System.
“We’re very fortunate to have the relationship we have with the Tyson family and Tyson Foods,” Cochran said. “They’ve been long-standing benefactors of our programs within the Division of Agriculture and Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.”
The building bears the name of Don Tyson, who is John Tyson’s father. Don Tyson died in 2011 and wouldn’t allow the company or his family to put his name on buildings while he was still alive.
“We felt it was important to recognize dad’s contribution to agriculture in Arkansas and his relationship with the Division of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas,” John Tyson said. “We’re very proud to have Don Tyson’s name on this building.”
Leading up to the gift in 2015, Tyson representatives met with the Division of Agriculture leadership to discuss and begin planning for the building.
“We wanted to build an iconic research and education building,” said Richard Roeder, associate director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experimental Station, the division’s research branch. “Without the generous corporations and families that we have in Arkansas, it would not be possible for the university or the Division of Agriculture to build the buildings that we need to house our research and education programs.”
Agriculture is Arkansas’ largest industry, Cochran said, providing about one of every five jobs. The state is in the top 20 states for production in 25 agricultural categories. Poultry, rice and forestry products lead the way.
The Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences helps meet a need in Arkansas for high-end laboratory space, Cochran said. He said the building will enhance Arkansas’ ability to make important research discoveries and it will help put those discoveries “into practice in industry, farms, businesses and other laboratories across the nation.”