Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

Winthrop Rockefeller Institute of the University of Arkansas System (commonly called the Rockefeller Institute) is an educational institute and conference center. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization seeks to continue the legacy of the late Governor Winthrop Rockefeller by serving the people of Arkansas with ongoing learning opportunities and by providing a place for group meetings and conferences. The Rockefeller Institute is located on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton (Conway County), on 188 acres of the original grounds of Governor Rockefeller’s model cattle farm.

Winthrop Rockefeller died in 1973, and, that same year, the nonprofit Winrock International was established. In 2004, Winrock vacated the facilities on Petit Jean and relocated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Washington DC. The property reverted to the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. The trust leased the facilities to the University of Arkansas System and gave the UA System $53 million to fund the development of a master plan that addressed the areas of capital improvements, operations, and educational programs. The Rockefeller Institute was established in July 2005.

This plan included the adaptive reuse and remodeling of 30,000 square feet of space, including restoring barns built when Winthrop Rockefeller first developed the property as a cattle ranch. It also involved the construction of new lodging facilities and the addition of pedestrian access, landscaping, and demonstration gardens. To date, the capital improvement plan has included over $20 million in renovations and expansions, and, in January 2010, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas awarded the Rockefeller Institute the “Outstanding New Construction in a Historic Setting” award.

During Winthrop Rockefeller’s twenty years in Arkansas, he hosted hundreds of conferences and meetings at his innovative farm headquarters atop Petit Jean. In keeping with this history, the Rockefeller Institute aims to provide its guests with excellent customer service. The conference center currently hosts over 300 conferences, meetings, and retreats annually.

Educational program areas at Winthrop Rockefeller Institute reflect Governor Rockefeller’s diverse interests. Current program areas include agriculture and the environment, arts and humanities, economic development, and public affairs. Programs in the form of both public and invitation-only workshops, seminars, public lectures, conferences, and special events are designed to nurture ideas, policies, and activities to make life better for Arkansans.

In 2007, one of the eleven Arkansas Archeological Survey research stations relocated to Winthrop Rockefeller Institute from Arkansas Tech University. Referred to as the WRI Station, it maintains archaeological records and research collections for eleven counties in west-central Arkansas: Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Johnson, Logan, Perry, Pope, Scott, Stone, Van Buren, and Yell. The WRI Station is housed in the Teaching Barn, which was built as part of the Rockefeller Institute’s “Heritage Farmstead.” The quarters occupy parts of two floors. The first floor includes a lab and a curation space for artifact collections and site data. An office for the station archaeologist and a large multipurpose room for station assistants and administration are on the second floor.

Some of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute’s substantial educational programming efforts have involved ushering in the early stages of the Arkansas Agritourism Initiative, promoting sustainable agriculture and the local food movement through gardening and horticulture workshops, and sponsoring and hosting statewide nanotechnology conferences.

For additional information:
Austin, Farrah. “Relax on a Mountaintop.” Southern Living. August 2007, p. 27.

Dawson, Katherine. “Land, Legacy, Learning.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 6, 2010, pp. 1D, 6D.

Hilliard, Hilary. “Rockefeller Trust Gives UA System $53 Million, a Slice of Petit Jean.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. December 4, 2004, pp. 1, 11A.

Peacock, Leslie N. “Climbing the Mountain: Rockefeller Still Lifts Arkansas with UA Institute.” Arkansas Times. November 13, 2008, pp. 16–17.

Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. (accessed January 21, 2010).

Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Research Station. (accessed April 19, 2010).

Adena J. White
Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

Last Updated: 07/12/2010