Lyon College has received a $1 million gift commitment from board chair Perry L. Wilson for the creation of an endowed professorship to launch a new institute of free enterprise and entrepreneurship, the Batesville school announced Tuesday.
Wilson is making the gift on behalf of the Lee Wilson family. It will create the Michael E. Wilson Professorship of Business, Management and Social Entrepreneurship within the Institute for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. The institute will include a comprehensive business incubator to combine academics with applied entrepreneurship, as well as a center for economic analysis and data for northeastern Arkansas, school officials said.
“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 said in s statement.
Starting this academic year, the business division at Lyon will reorganize to emphasize business and entrepreneurship to support the institute, which will focus on programming in the areas of economic development, entrepreneurship and free enterprise. Business faculty positions and new minors including entrepreneurship and leadership; social entrepreneurship and economic development; and health economics will be added.
“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.
Wilson, former Economics Arkansas board chair, is the great-great-grandson of the founder of Lee Wilson & Co., which began operations in 1886 in the Mississippi County company town that still bears the family name. The endowed professorship will be named after Wilson’s father, Michael Evans Wilson, who served on Lyon’s board of trustees for many years.
The new institute will be unique within Arkansas and modeled after others across the country including the one at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., Wilson said.
“If we don’t have an educated population in the state of Arkansas, the state will fail,” 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.”
Wilson added that he’s proud to carry on a family tradition of devotion to education and entrepreneurship.
“Those things have been strong in my family for four or five generations,” he said. “My dad, my grandfather before him and certainly my great-great-grandfather, were all about economic development for the state of Arkansas.”