U of A receives $5M toward Don Tyson Ag. Center

by Kimberlie Clyma
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences will soon become a reality thanks to a $5 million dollar gift from Tyson Foods Inc. and the Tyson family to help fund the approximately 60,000-sq.-ft. research facility for the Univ. of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, officials announced Monday.

The center will house laboratory space, two greenhouses and a 300-seat multipurpose room, and is expected to cost approximately $16.3 million. Division funds and other private funds are expected to pay for the remainder of the cost. Ground is expected to be broken on the site this year.

“This gift and this facility will advance Arkansas Agriculture into the distant future and help our state compete in the very competitive global world of agriculture research for many generations to come,” said Mark Cochran, the division’s vice president for agriculture. “To have an iconic name like Don Tyson attached to it demonstrates what a significant facility this will become. It’s an outstanding legacy of an amazing family and company, and this is by far one of the most historic days in the state’s history of Agriculture research.”

The center – approved by UA System trustees in September – will also serve as the administrative home for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the division's primary research arm that has been based in Fayetteville for more than 125 years.

Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest producers of chicken, beef, pork, and prepared foods, has a decades-long history of supporting agriculture and sustainability research, particularly in its home state. The company was founded in 1935 by John W. Tyson, whose family has continued to lead the business with his son, Don Tyson, guiding the company for many years and grandson, John H. Tyson, serving as the current chairman of the board of directors. Don Tyson died in 2011. This $5 million gift is the largest individual gift Tyson Foods has ever given to a Univ. of Arkansas System division or campus.

“My dad’s involvement in, and commitment to agriculture in Arkansas is legendary. To be able to formally recognize that with this building, in partnership with the UA System Division of Agriculture, is indeed an honor for our family and the company founded by my grandfather,” said John Tyson. “The research and other work that will take place in this building and on the farm surrounding it will, I’m sure, be vitally important in helping secure the future of agriculture and agri-business in our state for generations to come.”

A few buildings on the main UA campus have been named after members of the Tyson family, with the company also supporting various UA endeavors. John Tyson also served for nearly six years on the UA System's board of trustees before resigning in 2013. But the $5 million gift is the largest gift from Tyson Foods to a UA campus or entity, according to UA officials.
"With two partners that have stood together since Tyson Foods started in 1935, this is not the first time our two organizations have worked together, and I know it won't be the last," said UA System President Donald R. Bobbitt.

Little Rock, Ark.-based WER Architects and Conway-based Nabholz Construction are signed on to complete the project.
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