One of the most commonly seen names in science and education efforts in Arkansas belongs to a man who actually spent very little time in the state. Donald W. Reynolds built a newspaper and media empire but turned to charity in his later years, building a foundation that would last well after his passing.
Reynolds was born in Oklahoma in 1906 to a salesman and raised in Oklahoma City. His first job was selling newspapers at the railroad station. He would later enroll in the journalism program at the University of Missouri. After graduation, he eventually came to own the Okmulgee Daily Times.
In 1940, he bought the Fort Smith Times Record, and formed the Donrey Media Group. He eventually acquired more than a hundred different media outlets, including newspapers, radio and television.
As his media empire grew, he became determined to give back to the communities who had made him so successful. In 1954, he established the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to give to local charities in Arkansas, Nevada, and Oklahoma. Reynolds died in 1993, and Donrey Media was sold to benefit his foundation. The Reynolds Foundation would support homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, food banks, medical research, and supporting education. The Children’s Discovery Institute allows museums to bring science exhibits to children in rural communities.
Just a handful of the foundation’s efforts in Arkansas include: Reynolds Institute on Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, libraries and community centers, numerous college science buildings and student centers across the state, and as part of a 1999-2001 renovation, the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas.
Foundation directors expect the funds should be exhausted by 2022, leaving a powerful impact on dozens of communities. As Reynolds showed, the measure of a man, and his legacy, is often what he gives rather than what he acquires.
Dr. Ken Bridges is a Professor of History at South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado. He can be reached at http://soarkhistory.com.