JONESBORO, Ark. – Gov. Mike Beebe, a 1968 graduate of Arkansas State University and past chairman of its Board of Trustees, today announced he would donate his eight years of gubernatorial papers, video, photographs and memorabilia to the university.
A-State plans to use the contribution as the basis for what will be the most comprehensive effort ever to perpetuate the legacy of an Arkansas governor, including the Governor Mike Beebe Economic Development & Education Institute and a Web site for access to the collection. Additionally, areas of the historic V.C. Kays House and the Dean B. Ellis Library will be available to establish interactive presentations of the governor’s legacy in public service and illustrate Beebe’s role in major Arkansas history issues.
“I’ve made no secret of my love for Arkansas State University and the opportunities this school created for me,” Governor Beebe said. “I’ve been fortunate to participate in many historic Arkansas events during the past 32 years. I’m pleased to work with ASU to share my part of our history with researchers, historians and students from Arkansas and beyond.”
ASU System President Chuck Welch and A-State Chancellor Tim Hudson expressed their gratitude to the governor and noted that plans for the archives collection focus on both the past and the future.
“Gov. Beebe’s contributions to our state and our university are extraordinary,” Welch said. “It’s only fitting that Arkansas State would be given the honor of sharing his historic story and extending his legacy of leadership through the Institute.”
Hudson said tentative plans for the initiatives related to Gov. Beebe comprise multiple facets of the university, including the Department of Heritage Studies, the Dean B. Ellis Library Archives, the Kays House, the Department of Political Science in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, the ASU Museum, the College of Business, the Delta Center for Economic Development and University Advancement.
“The governor is giving us a unique opportunity to bring together faculty and student talents from many disciplines,” Hudson said. “We will preserve and communicate the history of Gov. Beebe while creating interactive educational experiences.”
The mission of the Governor Mike Beebe Economic Development & Education Institute will be to develop Arkansas leaders who value the role of education in economic expansion, cultivate pragmatic ideas that lead to transformative change and perpetuate the legacy of the 45th governor of Arkansas. A-State will create an annual summit to bring together leaders in education, business and government to the Institute.
Jeff Hankins, vice president for strategic communications and economic development for the ASU System, is coordinating efforts between A-State and Governor Beebe. The tentative budget is $650,000, and private funds and grants will be sought to pay for the archives, renovations, Web site and exhibits related to the project. Additionally, the university hopes to raise funds to endow the Mike Beebe Chair of Political Science and fund a Mike Beebe Delta Scholars program.
Hankins said plans for the Kays House include re-creating Beebe’s State Capitol office in the living room, using his furniture and memorabilia. The room, to be known as “Governor Beebe’s Office,” will be used for small dining and reception events. Exhibits in other rooms on the first floor will feature not only Governor Beebe, but also other prominent Northeast Arkansas historical figures such as U.S. Sen. Hattie Caraway.
Earlier this year, the Kays House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places — the first A-State property to have that distinction. Additionally, the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council approved a $200,000 grant to aid in the renovation and restoration of the property on Aggie Road, and $80,000 in private funds has been raised for the Kays House project. The university continues to consider additional uses of the facility.
An existing 600-square-foot area near the entrance to the Dean B. Ellis Library and the ASU Museum will be renovated for exhibits related to Beebe’s role in Arkansas history.
The Archives & Special Collections division of the library will oversee the archiving process, the ASU Museum will curate the exhibits and the Publications & Creative Services department will develop the Web site. Graduate and undergraduate students will work with faculty and staff members on the project.
A full-time archivist will be hired for three years to transition Gov. Beebe’s collection to A-State, Hankins said. Priority will be given to major historic issues including the Lake View School District case; healthcare initiatives such as the Private Option and ArKids First; managing state government amid the Great Recession; reductions in the grocery sales tax; support for higher education and research; and jobs creation.
“We’re fortunate that so much of the collection is already in digital formats — from documents to photos to video,” Hankins said. “But it will still require careful archiving and planning. The campus site exhibits will be nice, but we’re just as excited about being able to make the materials widely accessible through a database-driven website.
A-State expects to hire an archivist this fall to begin work on the project and help plan for the transfer of the collection when Governor Beebe’s term ends on Jan. 13, 2015. Beebe previously donated his papers from his time as attorney general and state senator to A-State.
The original A-State news article can be found here.