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Mother traveled everywhere, but I think that she … enjoyed the thrill of seeing college students experience their first travel to Europe more than anything.

Curtis Finch

Gifts: Doubling Down on the Value of Study Abroad

by John D. Treat

In the 1950s and 1960s, Libby Finch made a vocation of taking students on extended trips to Europe at a time when travel abroad was the exception for Arkansans. To honor her pioneering spirit, in 2004 Curtis and Jackye Finch of Little Rock donated $250,000 to establish the Libby Finch Study Abroad Award. This gift in memory of Curtis Finch’s mother was matched by a gift from the Walton Charitable Support Foundation as part of the university’s Campaign for the Twenty-First Century—the same campaign that saw the creation of the Honors College.

UA students venture abroad in the 60s; Libby Finch with son Curtis;

As part of the university’s current Campaign Arkansas, the Finches have literally redoubled their commitment to study abroad with a second gift of $250,000. This gift will create a new Finch Award, whose income will be matched by the Campaign’s Advance Arkansas initiative. With a focus on Arkansans, especially first-generation college students and those who would not otherwise be able to study abroad, the new award will underwrite study in Europe and the United Kingdom, with a preference for students studying there for a semester or a year.

To date, the Finch Awards have supported twenty-nine honors students who studied at programs throughout the United Kingdom and at the University’s Rome Center. Twelve studied abroad for a full year, eight for a semester, and nine for a summer term. All of these students either completed their degree at the U of A or are on track to do so.

Several students have attested to the difference that the Finch Award made in their professional lives. Will Strickland (B.S.B.A accounting, magna cum laude,’14) received a Finch Award to study at the London School of Economics. This experience prepared him for his job with Walmart: “The opportunity through the Honors College provided me the foundation to better relate to different environments, cultures, people, and world views. This has been extremely important as my job has taken me from Northwest Arkansas to San Francisco to Tokyo. Without the generosity of the Libby Finch Award, I would not have the same professional opportunities as I do today.” Other Finch Award winners have pursued graduate studies at Harvard Medical School, the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London.