Arkansas: UofA Receives $10Mln Gift for Price-Risk Analysis, Outreach

Mid-season rice field. ©Debra L Ferguson

A $10 million donation to the University of Arkansas System from the Fryar Family Charitable Foundation will be used to create and support a center that will provide analysis and education on issues of price risk management in agriculture, finance and energy.

Risk management is the science of anticipating and analyzing the potential for adverse financial events and minimizing the impact of those events. It’s essential for success in markets characterized by substantial price risks, such as agricultural commodities.

The donation was announced Thursday by Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System. The gift comes from a foundation established by Ed and Michelle Fryar of Rogers, both alumni of the University of Arkansas. Ed Fryar, Ph.D., appointed in March 2019 as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas, has a bachelor’s degree in economics and Michelle Fryar holds a bachelor’s in psychology, both from the University of Arkansas.

Ed, with a master of science in agricultural economics, and Michelle, with a master of science in rural sociology, both received their master’s degrees in, what was formerly the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the University of Arkansas. Ed returned to serve 13 years as an Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness faculty member.

“Our family roots run deep in Arkansas and the University of Arkansas,” Ed Fryar said. “This endowment is an opportunity to repay the University for all that it has given us. Price risk management plays an important role in the success or failure of many farms and companies. We hope that our support of research, teaching and extension programs in this area will have a national impact on academia, industry, farming and the career paths of students for many years.”

“We are honored to contribute to Campaign Arkansas and to the department where Ed and I were graduate students,” Michelle Fryar said. “The University of Arkansas has been a central part of our family from the beginning and we feel it is important to support the University and the state of Arkansas.”

Endowment for center, professorship

The funds will go to establish the Fryar Family Charitable Foundation Endowment in Price Risk Management. This endowment will create and support the Fryar Price Risk Management Center of Excellence, establish the Fryar Endowed Professorship in Applied Price Risk Management and support research, teaching and extension outreach.

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“The uncertainties we face every day make this project so timely,” said Bobbitt.

“This gift lays the groundwork for the University of Arkansas System to become a global leader for risk management research, education and outreach. We envision building this center on our already successful model that draws on industry expertise to inspire teaching and research on timely applied risk management topics.”

Benefits for professionals, students

The primary research focus for the center will be behavioral and traditional economic theories in the context of commodity risk management. The center will also look toward improving application of risk management theory in agriculture, finance and energy and develop best practices for formal education degree programs and outreach to risk management professionals, producers, government officials and policymakers.

“The generosity of Ed, Michelle and the Fryar family will transform the capacity of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness into national leadership in the scholarship of price risk management in the areas of research, teaching and extension,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture, for the UA System.

“In the research area, this gift will enable both the application and expansion of behavioral and traditional rational expectations theories to the field of price risk management. The teaching component will prepare the next generation of managers and analysts for productive careers in the agriculture and other industries.

“The extension emphasis will facilitate the delivery and education of this research-based information and decision tools to the practitioners in the field.”

The money will be co-managed by the Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Science and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“We are glad and grateful to the Fryars for giving back to their alma mater on top of the contributions they’ve already made,” said Deacue Fields, dean of the Bumpers College.

“This center will be a game-changer for Bumpers College and for agriculture nationally. We see the center’s primary teaching focus will be to develop and offer a comprehensive program that educates students and industry about price risk management strategies in grain, financial, energy and livestock markets; areas that underpin our economy as a whole.”




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