The late Winthrop Rockefeller was a two-term governor of Arkansas and great philanthropist to the state. His legacy is one of innovation and public policy with an emphasis in arts and education. His vision can be seen today on the land he once farmed atop Petit Jean Mountain, now called Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Rockefeller’s birth. To celebrate, the Institute will offer several events throughout the year, including a reception, an assortment of academic conferences, public forums, art exhibits, and educational programs. This anniversary should encourage reflection not only on the historical significance of the Rockefeller administration, but also on current challenges and opportunities for the state.
The celebration will highlight Rockefeller’s legacy in the state 40 years after he left office as our 37th governor. It is intended to promote an understanding of these accomplishments to an audience that may know little of his deeds as an historical figure or his contributions to the evolution of the state. His leadership in political, economic, and cultural arenas as well as in his philanthropic endeavors had a significant impact on the development of Arkansas.
Winthrop Rockefeller was born in 1912 the fourth son to John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. He enlisted in the Army in 1941 and became friends with Frank Newell from Arkansas, who encouraged him to come to Arkansas after World War II. Rockefeller got to the mountain in ’53 and laid his property out to be a model ranch.
He brought Santa Gertrudis cattle to the mountain, and tons of topsoil for the pasture as only a Rockefeller can do. He created several ponds, even pumped some water up from the river. He also had a hand in getting roads paved and electricity and gas up to the mountain.
Rockefeller created Winrock Farms and Winrock Enterprises though his philanthropies occupied much of his time. He died in 1973. The farm eventually became headquarters for Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development. It contained offices for planners, programmers and executives, and a conference center. In 2004, when Winrock International decided to move its headquarters to Washington D.C., it gave the land on Petit Jean Mountain back to the Rockefeller Charitable Trust. The University of Arkansas became interested in the facility if it could become an educational conference center.
Today, Winthrop Rockefeller Institute provides a “sense of history, a sense of place, a sense of change.” The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in partnership with the University of Arkansas System functions primarily as an educational conference center, but also offers a range of programs and activities for participants of diverse backgrounds, interests and perspectives. It is a place for study, a place for policy initiative, a place for continuing education, and a place for recreation and relaxation.
For more information and directions, phone 501-727-5435 or visit the Web site www.uawri.org.