A $1 million gift from the family of Perry Wilson to Lyon College will go toward establishing an entrepreneurship institute with a business incubator and a focus on the northeastern Arkansas economy.
Wilson, an attorney with the Barber Law Firm, is chairman of the board of trustees for the private college in Batesville.
The Institute for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship is set to launch its first programs in the fall of next year, Lyon College spokeswoman Madeline Roberts said.
Wilson, in a statement released by the college, said the new institute aims to help with economic development.
He has previously served as chairman of Economics Arkansas, a group of business and other leaders that supports economics and personal finance education.
Wilson said “if we give students a basis upon which to go out and create something new, and they stay in Arkansas, that can only serve to better economic development for the state.”
Future plans for the institute include creating an incubator combining academics with entrepreneurship, as well as having it become a center for analysis about the region’s economy.
The Wilson family gift kicks things off by establishing the endowed Michael E. Wilson Professorship of Business, Management and Social Entrepreneurship.
The endowed chair is named in honor of Wilson’s father, who Roberts said served on the Lyon College trustees board from 1989 to 2001 and from 2002 to 2008, the year he died.
The college expects the new free enterprise institute to take on a different name “upon receiving additional funding,” according to the announcement of its creation.
“This is a way to accentuate and bolster the rigorous liberal arts education from Lyon with what students will experience in the real world,” Wilson, who has served on the Lyon College board since 2009, said in a statement.
The school last fall enrolled 661 students, according to state data.
Plans for the college include adding business faculty positions, according to the announcement of the gift.
Reorganizing efforts to support the new institute will begin this year, Lyon College’s top academic officer said in a statement.
“Our business faculty have been planning the changes to the curriculum for some time, and the Wilson family’s gift will support the implementation of the business division’s new focus on entrepreneurship,” said Provost Melissa Taverner.