A Meeting of Miss Americas

Members and guests at the Women's Giving Circle spring reception

The Women's Giving Circle hosted their spring reception on April 20 for members and guests and honored one of their founding members, Donna Axum Whitworth. Whitworth is a 1966 graduate of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and was Miss America 1964. Savvy Shields, Miss America 2017, was a special guest at the event, and she and Whitworth had the chance to share their experiences and special bond.

"Each of the founding members of the Women's Giving Circle has a different story, and we were fortunate to hear Donna's firsthand while she was back on campus," said Melissa Hawkins, president of the Women's Giving Circle. "She and Savvy have both represented the university well, and it was a pleasure to hear about their journeys."

Shields was given an honorary membership in the circle for one year, which means she and Whitworth now have one more association in common.

Angela Oxford, director of the Center for Community Engagement in the Division of Student Affairs, was the speaker on behalf of grant recipients and she talked about the impact of the Women's Giving Circle funding to the Dream B.I.G. projects that were conducted in the communities of Elaine and Springdale.

The Women's Giving Circle recognized other founding members and early supporters in the fall and announced the creation of a new scholarship in honor of these extraordinary women philanthropists – Pat Cooper, Debbie Walker, Harriett Phillips, Mary Trimble Maier, Mary Lib White, Julia Peck Mobley, Lynne Walton, Margaret Whillock, Johnelle Hunt and Sylvia Boyer. The Women's Giving Circle Founders Endowed Advance Arkansas Scholarship began with an endowment of $50,000 and has now grown to $80,000, thanks to generous contributions from the membership. The Circle's goal is to increase the endowment to $200,000 before the conclusion of Campaign Arkansas in 2020.

The Women's Giving Circle was created as part of the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century. Since 2003, the circle has awarded over $1.1 million in funding to faculty, students and staff members from various departments and academic units at the university. This year marks the 15th year of funding for the circle, which has grown to 139 members. The goal is to increase membership to 200.

As the Women's Giving Circle grows, so does its ability to fund more projects. Membership is open to all alumni and friends of the university and requires an annual commitment of $1,000. Faculty and staff and their spouses, along with current students and recent graduates (within the past five years), are eligible for membership at a special rate of $500 annually. A new lifetime membership level of $10,000 was recently added to show a long-term commitment. The circle utilizes its annual membership dues to fund grant proposals at its annual voting event. To join, visit their website or call Kellie Knight at (479) 575-2681.