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Murphy Oil to provide $10 million to South Arkansas College for resident hall, baseball field

Posted on June 18, 2024

Charles Brandom

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Thanks to a $10 million donation from Murphy Oil Corporation this week, students attending South Arkansas College in El Dorado will soon have the opportunity to live in a residence hall and watch their school’s successful baseball team take the field in a brand-new stadium.

The donation is the largest gift in the college’s history, according to a South Arkansas College press release.

Beyond just shiny new facilities and places to live, Dr. Stephanie Tully-Dartez, South Arkansas College’s president, said the gift will help the school attract more students. The construction of a residence hall will give the school an opportunity to welcome students from farther away.

“It is important that students that have been on that mindset of going to college since kindergarten, that have this image of what a college is, [are] able to have that while still having these work force occupations. It is going to help the community as a whole,” she said.

The portion of Murphy Oil’s donation set aside for the construction of a new baseball stadium will also impact student life, Tully-Dartez said. Again, it contributes to that whole idea of a college experience and the positive image of what a student gets to experience when they are in a college environment, she said. It helps the college recruit high-schoolers interested in playing baseball from farther out of the region.

“Athletes are very naturally talented at balancing school and work and practice,” Tully-Dartez said. “They are not just new students to us, but they are also good students to add to our mix.”

The contribution is only the base layer of funding for the school projects, Tully-Dartez said. The school is about to begin a capital campaign in hopes of collecting the rest of the funding. At this point, she said the administration is seeking anyone who is willing to contribute to the potential they have laid before them. The college has not committed to any particular request at this point, she said.

Tully-Dartez said philanthropy has been a part of Murphy Oil’s corporate identity within the city of El Dorado. They have consistently been supportive of the community and education as a whole, she said.

Murphy Oil funded the El Dorado Promise scholarship, established in 2007, with a $50 million donation. The Promise is a scholarship for El Dorado High School graduates that covers tuition and the mandatory costs that come with attending a two- or four-year college or university anywhere in the United States, according to the El Dorado Promise web page.

Claiborne P. Deming, former CEO of Murphy Oil, called El Dorado the company’s “legacy hometown.” He said Murphy Oil has a real commitment to the city. Not only is El Dorado a big part of the company’s legacy, Deming said many of the enterprise’s leaders still live in the south Arkansas community.

Since South Arkansas College is one of the few junior colleges that does not have a residence hall, Deming also stressed the importance of the contribution. A residence hall helps the college both attract and retain students, so the college wants to started building as quickly as possible, he said.

Deming said the college happens to have a really good baseball team and that although funding sports must be done in the right proportion, the school’s baseball team deserves the new field.

“I think it can get out of whack, sometimes it is out of whack,” Deming said, “but I think in this particular case, it is certainly not at all. It is a small part of the college and a small part of the college’s budget.”

There was really not a specific origin of the donation but the hope is that it helps grow the city of El Dorado, Deming said. One of the ingredients that makes a town competitive, vibrant and interesting is either a two-year or four-year college, he said.

Deming said Murphy Oil has always valued education, calling it a “ticket to contributing to society and bettering yourself.” The company is proud of the fact they provide El Dorado High School graduates with the opportunity to go to college, he said.

“It will impact South Arkansas,” Deming said. “The better El Dorado does, the better South Arkansas does.