Murphy: Scholarship Program Offers Hope To Small Arkansas Town

Thursday, September 27, 2007 - by Judy Frank

When the Fortune 500 company his grandfather founded decided it wanted to improve the quality of life in the small town where it is headquartered, focusing on education just seemed natural, Charles "Chip" Murphy told Chattanooga Rotary Club members on Thursday.

The upshot: Murphy Oil committed $50 million to fund El Dorado Promise, a scholarship program for all public school students in El Dorado, AR. The company will spend $5 million annually for the next 10 years helping students afford to go to the colleges of their choice.



Already, the program has generated enthusiasm throughout the community, he noted. For example, one college senior -- after learning El Dorado Promise would help pay his way to any college, anywhere -- said he wished he had known about it sooner.

"If I'd known I had choices, I would have worked harder," the student confessed.

Based on how long they attended El Dorado schools, students can get as much as $6,200 per year to help pay their college tuitions.

"We've given a raise to everybody in the community who has children," he said.

The idea is not original, Mr. Murphy confessed. "We stole it" after reading an article about the Kalamazoo (Michigan) Promise in the Wall Street Journal, he said.

As the only Fortune 500 company headquartered in a completely rural area, he said, Murphy Oil designed El Dorado Promise to meet the needs of the South Arkansas residents it targets.

El Dorado peaked in population around 1921, he said. During recent years, the community has been losing its industrial base and has seen its number of residents decline.

Today, only about 4,400 students attend public school there.

Nevertheless, Murphy Oil officials, realizing the company "can make a difference in a town of this size," is committed to making El Dorado Promise a success, he said.

"We don't know yet how this will turn out," he said. "It may be that the only thing that will come of this is that the kids going to school in El Dorado will get to go to college.

"And that's fine," he added.

But he's hoping the program will have a positive impact on the entire community, not just the students it helps through school.

Currently, Arkansas ranks low on educational achievement and number of college graduates, he noted. With any luck, this program can help change that.

And along the way, he said, it could make it easier for Murphy Oil and other employers in the area to recruit new workers from outside the area.

A 1971 graduate of Baylor School, Mr. Murphy went on to obtain a degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University.

Following graduation, he worked as manager of the Ashley Plantation in Tallulah, LA, and oversaw a 5,200-acre row crop operation and participated in the formation of the Great River Grain Co.

Over the years, he has:

* Worked as manager of planning and development for Deltic Farm and Timber Co. in El Dorado, AR, where he managed land acquisition and budgeting for the 450,000-acre forest product company.

* Developed and implemented the master use plan for Chenal Properties, a 7,000-acre mixed-use real estate project in Little Rock, AR.

* Spent a decade in Warsaw, Poland, where he founded International Farms, a cross-breeding project intended to improve beef production in eastern Europe.

* Designed and developed Quail Ridge, a mixed-use development in suburban Wichita, KS, that was awarded the 1996 Public Improvement Award by the state of Kansas.

Today he serves as managing member of the Murphy Group; chairman of the board of ClearPointe Technology; chief operating officer of Amaterra, Jamaica; and vice president of Loutre Land and Timber Co. in El Dorado.

He is a member of the Baylor School board of trustees.


Ephemeral Forms: Works By Shadow May Is At AVA Gallery

Ephemeral Forms: Works by Shadow May, will ope at the AVA Gallery with a reception on Friday, Nov. 7, from 5:30-8 p.m. The exhibit will run from Nov. 7-25. Mr. May received his Bachelor degree in English and Art History from the University of Alaska. He then completed a Ceramics work-study at Penland School of Crafts and went on to major in Ceramics at Haywood Community College. ... (click for more)

Weekly Road Construction Report

Here is the weekly road construction report for Hamilton County: U.S. 27 (SR-29) reconstruction project from Manufacturers Road (Olgiati Bridge over the Tennessee River) to U.S. 127 (SR-8, Signal Mountain Road/Boulevard):  Weather permitting, the contractor may have lane closures throughout the project area on weeknights to perform road work.  On Saturday from 7 a.m.-3 ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Firm Gets $1,010,000 Contract For Overseeing VW Expansion For New SUV Line

A Chattanooga firm is getting the contract for overseeing the construction work for the new SUV line at the Volkswagen plant. Officials said the EMJ Corporation has been selected for the project that will give a new surge of activity and employment at the plant at the Enterprise South Industrial Park. The work includes additions to the body shop and tech center and adding ... (click for more)

Man Airlifted To Erlanger After Early Morning Crash In Bradley County

Bradley County EMS responded to an early morning crash Thursday at 7 a.m. at the intersection of Lauderdale Memorial Highway and Walker Valley Road in Charleston. Three ambulances and an EMS supervisor responded to the scene. There were three vehicles involved and one car left the roadway.   One adult man suffered serious injuries and it was determined that he needed ... (click for more)

Chairs Cost How Much?

Many times while growing up, I would go to the store with my parents. More often than not, I would see something I wanted, and ask my parents to buy it for me. More often than not, they said no. “Why?” I asked. “Son, money doesn’t grow on trees.” That’s a phrase I’m sure many of us have heard more than once over the course of our lives. However, I have since learned that they were ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Dear Friend Luther

One sunny morning in June years ago, the renowned radio icon Luther Masingill was on his way back to the WDEF studios on South Broad Street when he stopped for a red light and noticed a young couple in a car idling next to his familiar light blue Ford pickup. “What caught my eye was a buck-toothed boy eating a banana in the back seat,” he explained in an aside to that day’s lunchtime ... (click for more)