Members of the university community packed the lower level of the Alumni Center last week to hear President Steve Scott announce a $5-million gift for the fine and performing arts center. The 30-year-old dream is now tantalizingly close to becoming reality.
President Scott told the crowd that the gift was made through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation made possible with support and a recommendation from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. The gift honors PSU alumnus and former Walmart President and CEO, H. Lee Scott. It brings the total raised for the 90,000-square-foot fine and performing arts center to nearly $20 million. The project is expected to cost approximately $30 million.
“We are extremely grateful to the foundations for this generous gift,” said Steve Scott, president of Pittsburg State University. “It’s a reflection of their belief in this project, and the many benefits it will provide for our students, faculty, staff and community. We are now closer than ever to being able to fill a void that has been on our campus for more than 30 years.”
Carney Hall, which held the university’s last large performance venue, was torn down in 1980 due to age and deterioration. It was used by thousands of students, including H. Lee Scott, a Baxter Springs native, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1971.
“The fact that this gift honors H. Lee Scott is significant,” said President Scott. “In many ways, he embodies the very values we strive to help develop in all of our students. His belief in hard work, service to the community and the power of people working together, is an example of the type of student who is attracted to Pittsburg State. As president of the university, I’m very proud of Lee’s accomplishments, and as his brother, I’m even more proud of him. In both roles, I’m especially appreciative that this gift was made to Pittsburg State University.”
Upon graduating from PSU, Lee worked for Yellow Freight Systems prior to joining Walmart in 1979 as an assistant director of transportation. In 2000, Lee was named CEO and president of Walmart. He served in that position for nearly a decade, before fully retiring in 2011.
“The leadership and legacy of Lee Scott holds special meaning to all of us affiliated with the Waltons,” said former U.S. Sen. Kaneaster Hodges, who chairs the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation’s Board of Directors. “In his 32-year Walmart career, including 10 as CEO, Lee represented the timeless values that made Sam Walton an American success story and Walmart a global business leader.”
The Encyclopedia of Business offered this description of Lee Scott’s legacy at Walmart: “Scott managed to increase the company’s profits at a time when many retailers were forced to scale down and cut back.
Engineering an ambitious expansion program both in North America and abroad, Scott maintained the legacy and culture of the company’s founder, Sam Walton.”
“Today’s announcement of a $5 million contribution in support of the creation of the fine and performing arts center at Pittsburg State is exciting and for my wife, Linda, and me, it is also fulfilling,” said H. Lee Scott. “Our appreciation of Pittsburg State and the role the university plays in the lives of students dates back to 1969, when we were students there. Linda and I would like to thank the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation for supporting this wonderful and generous gift. It will enhance the college experience for future generations of Gorillas.”
While today’s gift is significant, PSU officials are quick to note that there is still much work to be done.
“Today’s gift is a reminder of how important it is for supporters to invest in their university,” said Kathleen Flannery, director of university development. “Thanks to the many supporters of this project, we have momentum on our side. There’s never been a better time to get involved and help Pittsburg State and the Pittsburg community continue to move forward.”
Additional details about Pittsburg State University’s fine and performing arts center, including ways individuals can help support the project, can be found at pittstate.edu/fpac.
The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation is a public charity separate from the Walton Family Foundation that funds projects of special and historic interest to founders Sam and Helen Walton. The organization largely funds projects that further higher education at universities in the state of Arkansas, including the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and the Walton International Scholars Program at John Brown University, College of the Ozarks and Harding University. The organization also provides funding to the Arkansas Community Foundation to support the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Program.