Funding the future, Walmart CEO makes $1 million donation

A $1 million donation from Walmart CEO Doug McMillion and his wife Shelley to the University of Arkansas will help kick start the creation of a new School of Global Retail Operations and Innovation.

The donation will be used to establish the McMillon Family Endowed Excellence Fund to benefit the university’s Sam M. Walton College of Business where the proposed school will be located. Assuming additional fundraising efforts are successful and the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees grant approval, the school will have a unique interdisciplinary scope and global focus to engage both undergraduate and graduate students in retail learning and research.

“It’s an honor and a joy to help launch the School of Global Retail Operations and Innovation at Walton College. The University of Arkansas has given us so much, and Shelley and I appreciate the chance to give back,” said McMillon, a native of Arkansas and a 1989 graduate of the Walton College. “This is a time of great change in the retail industry. We need to invest in a new generation of innovative leaders, and Walton College can play a unique role as a destination for cutting-edge retail education. We hope this fund will increase opportunities for students and faculty members, strengthen the college and lay the foundation for many promising careers around the world. Northwest Arkansas has revolutionized retail before, and the students of the U of A can do it again.”

The proposed School of Global Retail Operations and Innovation is intended to educate future retail leaders and foster research that benefits business by advancing the science of retailing. The goal is to have the school become the leading interdisciplinary higher education institution for the discovery of innovative solutions to complex retail challenges. The proposed school would initially draw on the expertise of all departments and outreach centers within the business college, but those behind the effort envision it someday growing to include disciplines from across the university as diverse as agriculture, anthropology, architecture, communication, engineering, psychology, sociology and even areas such as the visual arts.

“The school has the potential to offer interdisciplinary programs in retail, generate international prominence and establish ourselves as the premier location for consumer research and retail education,” said University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart. “The McMillons’ generous contribution will positively impact both the Walton College and the University of Arkansas as a whole, as each one will benefit from the other’s success.

The McMillon’s fund will increase opportunities for advanced retail studies by providing support for initiatives promoting consumer sciences and consumer behavior-related research. Summer support for faculty members, doctoral student stipends and retail research stipends will all qualify for funding, as will graduate-level retail curriculum and faculty travel to key conferences to promote the proposed School of Global Retail Operations and Innovation.

“Many at Walton have been working toward the creation of such a school, and this gift gets us closer to making it a reality. We are hopeful that others will follow the McMillons’ lead and support our vision of building a best-in-class retail school focused on the current and future needs of retailers and suppliers around the world,” said Walton College Dean Eli Jones.