APRIL 26, 2006 | As longtime UAMS supporter Pat Walker sliced a ceremonial ribbon April 19, a five-story addition to the Jones Eye Institute was dedicated in her name.
The 56,000-square-foot addition was made possible through a $15 million gift from the Springdale philanthropist. The addition doubles the size of JEI and allows it to expand programs and develop new ones. It is one of only 20 free-standing eye institutes in the country.
UAMS officials, University of Arkansas System President B. Alan Sugg, Ph.D., and keynote speaker former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers hailed Walker and her late husband Willard for their commitment to helping others.
“She and Willard never took their good fortune as due but as a duty and responsibility to help those less fortunate,” Bumpers said during the dedication ceremony in the Fred Smith Conference Center of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute – which featured a view of the expanded JEI across the street.
Sugg told of Willard Walker’s hiring by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton to manage his second retail store during the pre-Wal-Mart era. Walker’s character and hard work made the store a success.
“Pat and Willard Walker have been extremely generous with their gifts,” Sugg said. “There is no doubt that they have literally changed the course of human history in Arkansas. UAMS and the University of Arkansas are much better universities because of them.”
John Shock, M.D., director of the eye institute, paid tribute to Walker for her support of UAMS, saying it was an expression of her desire to help people.
“Without fanfare she delights in helping others, not because she has to, but because she wants to,” said Shock, who also serves as UAMS executive vice chancellor, professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. “Her interpretation of the Golden Rule is that she treats others better than she expects to be treated herself.”
Shock then introduced a video tribute to Walker that included historical photos of the Walkers at UAMS and praise from UAMS leadership as well as Walker family members. Walker was then escorted by Shock, Wilson, Sugg and Bumpers to the ribbon on stage, which she cut to officially dedicate the new addition.
The Walkers created the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation in 1986. Since that time, their generosity has touched the lives of thousands of Arkansans.
In 2002, JEI received a gift from the foundation that established the Pat and Willard Walker Eye Research Center.
The foundation has given more than $37 million to UAMS. Their most recent gift of $21.5 million included $15 million for the Pat Walker Tower at JEI, $5 million for Alzheimer’s disease research at the Institute on Aging and $1.5 million for the Psychiatry Research Institute. Also, the Walkers gave $8 million in the mid 1990s to expand the Arkansas Cancer Research Center at UAMS. The ACRC’s Pat and Willard Walker Tower is named in their honor.
UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D., also credited Shock for his vision in the success of the 12-year old Jones Eye Institute. When Shock arrived on campus about 27 years ago, the Department of Ophthalmology had only one full-time faculty member and its offices were housed in an old chemistry lab, Wilson said. Its clinic was in a facility that had previously been used to treat tuberculosis patients on property where the Veterans Hospital stands today.
“John Shock has been a difference maker at UAMS,” Wilson said. “Look at what’s happened since he arrived. Today we have a nine-story institute that is one of the best in the nation.”
The new Walker Tower includes:
• Two additional outpatient surgery suites, bringing the total to four
• 20 additional exam rooms and five more special procedure rooms
• Expanded space for the Arkansas Lions Eye Bank founded in 1985 by the Ophthalmology Department at UAMS.
• Additional administration space and a new library to support curriculum and research
• Education space for the Ophthalmic Medical Training Program (OMT), one of only seven in the nation.
• Expanded space for clinical trials and unfinished expansion space for future research.
The addition was designed by Polk Stanley Yeary Architects Ltd. and built by Baldwin Shell.