Ellis Arnold, interim president for Hendrix College, spoke to the Rotary Club Thursday afternoon about the freshman class, the college’s accomplishments and what lies ahead.
Arnold was born in Little Rock and grew up in North Little Rock, but Conway served as a second home for him. His grandfather lived on Caldwell Street, graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in the 20s and was a member of the Rotary Club.
Arnold recalled memories of his childhood, many spent on the UCA campus.
“In many ways a lot of us who work at Hendrix or graduated from Hendrix have deep roots in this town,” he said. “We care an awful lot about all three colleges here.”
With 2,002 applications this year, Hendrix will have the largest freshman class in its history this fall.
“I’m really proud to say this, we’ve got the largest contingency of students coming from Arkansas this year, over 200 in a decade,” Arnold said.
Arnold anticipates when the census comes out next week, the college’s enrollment numbers will be north of 1,400, he said.
In a time when most liberal arts colleges’ female to male ratio is being skewed, Arnold said, he is excited that Hendrix’s ratio has remained balanced with a freshman class ratio of 50.5 percent female and 49 percent male.
He estimates the overall ratio to be 54 percent female and 46 percent male.
This year has also been a year of new development.
At the beginning of the year, Hendrix broke ground on the Athletics Master Plan, and is now in the final stages of completing the construction.
The plans consist of a new stadium, 18,000 square foot athletic center and tennis bubble with three indoor courts.
Eventually the outdoor tennis courts located on the right-hand side of the Village at Hendrix will be turned into commercial property. Those courts will be moved internally with the other facilities completing the final stage of the Athletics Master Plan.
In July, Hendrix announced the second phase of the Village at Hendrix they’re calling Market Square South.
The structure itself will be three-stories and occupy 54,000 square feet. The top two floors will be owned by Hendrix College and used for student housing. The bottom floor was purchased by the Purple Cow, a local diner that serves burgers and shakes, and Delta Trust & Bank, a full-service financial cooperation with branches across the state.
“Instead of being traditional residence halls like our other spaces, we’re going to do what we call Live and Learn, a thematic type space for students to live with common spaces for interactive communication opportunities,” Arnold said. “It will be a pretty neat place to live.”
Once complete, there will be 175 students living at The Village. The restaurant and bank are expected to open next summer.
The money to fund these projects comes solely from the college and private donors.
One of the major differences between public and private institutions, Arnold said, is everything Hendrix does has no tax money involved.
“It really only comes from three sources,” he said. “It comes from tuition and fees, it comes from our endowment fund and it comes from annual giving. That’s it, so philanthropy is really important for us to be able to do the things we’re able to do.”
At the end of the college’s fiscal year on May 31, $6.6 million was raised for Hendrix. The previous year the school raised $5.5 million, and the endowment reached $177 million compared to $155 million the year before, according to Arnold.
The college is currently working toward their Vision 2022 to bring enrollment numbers to 1,800 by 2022. The next piece of the strategic plan will be residence halls, Arnold said.
“We have built some nice facilities for student housing, but our six main, traditional halls on campus, where many of us lived when we were undergraduates, are in desperate need of upgrades,” he said. “We’ll probably gut them, renovate them and start over.”
Martin Hall will have its 100 year anniversary in 2018. It will probably be the first residence hall to be renovated, Arnold said.
A national search committee is also reviewing applicants for the new president of Hendrix. Arnold said they hope to make a decision by the end of December.
With the rate of growth and new development, Arnold said, the success of Conway’s colleges is a testament to the success of the city as a whole.
“In many ways I think what we do at our campuses is a reflection of what’s happening in town,” he said.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)