UACES Facebook Whitaker’s interest in helping youth translated into a first-class animal science center
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Whitaker’s interest in helping youth translated into a first-class animal science center

“It’s the front door to the department of Animal Science for students and the community." — Mike Looper

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

April 3, 2023

Fast facts

  • Pauline Whitaker’s gift made Animal Science Center possible
  • Whitaker remembered as ‘low-key and modest’

(800 words)

(Newsrooms: with file art: )
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Pauline Whitaker’s desire to make life better for children in northwest Arkansas has played out in many ways, including the construction of the animal science center that bears her name at the Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

Whitaker passed away March 25 at age 93.

Pauline Whitaker is being remembered for her generosity in helping improve educational opportunities and healthcare for youth in northwest Arkansas. Her gift helped complete the Animal Science arena that bears her name. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Fred Miller)

Whitaker and her family moved from Abilene, Texas, to Northwest Arkansas in the early 1960s. Her husband, Don, ran the first Walmart store in Rogers, and Pauline was the cashier who completed the store's first sales transaction. Later in life, Whitaker founded the Whitaker Family Foundation to support healthcare and education efforts.

24 years of mission-driven activity

The Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center opened in 1999 and has since hosted countless classes, demonstrations, conferences, competitions and even the world-famous Lipizzan stallions, which showed their airs above the ground.

“It’s the front door to the department of Animal Science for students and the community,” said Mike Looper, head of Animal Science for the Division of Agriculture and the Bumpers College.

“We do mission-driven activities out there. This is such a beautiful facility and it adds so much to her vision.”

Looper said grad students always point to the Pauline Whitaker Center as the thing they remember. With the white fences, the horses and the Dorothy E. King Equine Pavilion, “that’s the visual they remember years after they come here.

“It’s a great recruitment tool,” Looper said. “We always make it a tour stop.”

Looper said Bernie Daniels, then head of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station; Keith Lusby, then head of Animal Science; and Chuck Culver, head of stakeholder relations “worked tirelessly on the arena, which has become a center point for what we do in animal science.”

Built with youth in mind

“I knew her quite well,” Lusby said. “She was quite interested in helping kids — she wanted to help kids up here and have good things to get them interested in.”

Lusby and Culver paid a visit first to Whitaker’s son. Pauline then agreed to visit Lusby and Culver at a tiny Italian restaurant in Bentonville, which was still very rural at the time.

“I wasn’t even sure how to get there. I wasn’t even sure we were still in Arkansas,” Culver said.

Lusby and Culver would later visit Whitaker at her home in Rogers.

Lusby remembered Whitaker as being “modest and low-key.”

“She liked the horse program we were starting, and all the animal science things we had,” Lusby said. “And she wanted to have a first-class place to do that. At the time, there was none.

“She didn’t want any publicity, but we did talk her into putting her name on the building. I think she was proud of it,” Lusby said.

Culver said “she didn’t micromanage anything we did. She trusted we were going to do the right thing.

“She was proud of her involvement afterward as t became more evident how important this arena was not just to our program but also for the region,” Culver said.

A sense of urgency

Culver said that because the landscape for federal funding on such projects had changed, “there was a sense of urgency on our part” to get the final round of needed dollars in place.

Culver said Whitaker’s response was unexpected.

“We made the ask on Friday, and on Monday, we had our money,” Culver said. “It was her gift that made that arena possible.”

“She was just a generous person,” Culver said.

Today Whitaker’s name can be found on educational and hospital campuses across northwest Arkansas, as well as the Pauline Whitaker Parkway in Rogers. 

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. The Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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