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Loyd, 54, celebrated her first anniversary as executive director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, atop Petit Jean Mountain, in February.
“I was in first grade when he was first elected, and I remember my parents being very supportive of him and excited and always an advocate for him,” Loyd said. “Beyond that, I don’t remember much, but I have become a student of him.”
The University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in 2005 with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. According to a press release, “by integrating the resources and expertise of a statewide university system with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.”
Loyd, who grew up in Fort Smith, joined the Institute after 17 years at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, the last 12 as vice chancellor for university advancement. As part of her new job, she has traveled to New York to meet with many Rockefeller-related organizations there.
“I learned while I was there that Winthrop’s story really has not been told, so I came home with a burning desire to lead the effort to make sure we get a definitive historical biography written, beyond getting the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute focused and with an important brand and fulfilling our important mission to honor his legacy.
“There have been 200 books written about the Rockefeller family, and just one about Winthrop Rockefeller.”
Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller of New York, the founder of Standard Oil Company, moved to Arkansas in the 1950s and was elected the first Republican governor of the state since Reconstruction. His two terms (1967-71) helped transform the state following the Orval Faubus administration.
It’s been a winding path, but Loyd is loving her dream job.
“I never saw myself as being anything other than a dental hygienist,” she said. “It does feel like a dream.”
Loyd met the man she would marry, Greg Loyd of Lake Village, when both were studying at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She was in dental hygiene school; he was a medical student. After earning their degrees, they spent three years in Tulsa for his residency before he had private practices in Malvern and, later, Greenwood. She worked as a dental hygienist while their children were young. Daughter Susan McDonald is now a dentist who lives in Bryant; she and her husband, Jason, have the Loyds’ only grandchild, Annie, 2. Their sons are Scott, who lives in Tulsa, and Bryan, who will finish his master’s degree in accounting at the University of Arkansas in May.
After Bryan started school, Loyd said, she grew restless.
“Dental hygiene wasn’t fulfilling for me,” she said.
By then the family was in Greenwood, and she had the opportunity to help start a dental hygiene school at what was then Westark Community College. That would eventually lead to her earning her master of education degree in higher education leadership from the University of Arkansas.
“I’d never even taught a class,” she said of her arrival at Westark. “I essentially wrote the curriculum and hired a director and took the program through the Department of Higher Education Coordinating Committee and the curriculum committee on campus and got the program off the ground, with lots of help along the way. I just led the process.
“And from that experience, the president of Westark, Joel Stubblefield, recognized some leadership potential there and encouraged me, as did my mentor Carolyn Moore, to go to grad school. So I’m writing the curriculum and taking a class on writing curriculum at the same time.”
Moore, then Westark’s interim division chair over health careers, was also vice president for advancement. After Loyd earned her master’s, Moore asked her if she wanted to teach dental hygiene or be director of the program.
“I said, ‘I came here to get out of dental hygiene,’ so they offered me a job as a development officer, and Carolyn said, ‘I’ll teach you everything I know so you can take my place,’“ Loyd remembered. “I’d never had a mentor like that before. That’s when I realized the value of mentoring, and since then I have tried to make that a daily practice, to identify young leaders and mentor them.”
After two years, Moore left for a job as vice president of advancement for Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith.
“I had a choice,” Loyd said. “I could sit there and wait to see who my new boss was going to be, or I could do something, so I wrote a 10-year plan for advancement, what I thought would be the future based on my two years there. Then I made an appointment with the president. He liked it and gave me a chance.”
Within a few months, she was named vice chancellor for advancement, ultimately responsible for such areas as development, alumni, marketing and communications and public relations, overseeing a staff of 28. During her 12-year tenure, she guided volunteers, development officers, university leaders and the chancellor to raise gifts and pledges totaling $57 million.
“Right at that time, we had just become a university,” she said of her appointment, referring to Westark’s transition to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. “I had the unbelievable, unique opportunity to sit on the senior team that built that university, and also at the same time had the chance to build a university foundation from a community college, so we started an alumni program and published the first alumni magazine. We started everything.”
Loyd also was the executive director of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Foundation Inc., serving the foundation’s 35-member board of directors in strategic and financial planning, coordination of communications efforts and organization of board functions. In a 10-year span, she transformed the Westark Community College Foundation, with $20 million in assets, into a comprehensive university foundation with an endowment of more than $60 million and assets of more than $75 million.
“All of those experiences are what prepared me to do this work,” she said.
Stubblefield died in 2005 and was succeeded as chancellor by Paul Beran, who became Loyd’s new mentor.
“He came up to my office and said, ‘I would like for everyone on my senior staff to have their doctorate, and I would like you to be on my senior staff,’“ Loyd remembered. “Two days later I was enrolled in the University of Missouri.
“I was running a $50 million capital campaign, had three kids at home, working on my doctorate, and I lived to tell about it.”
She finished her doctor of education degree in educational leadership and policy analysis in 2010.
“I have the best husband ever,” she said. “He is the one who sacrificed, and he and my children are the reason I was so determined to finish that dissertation. They did without me and took up the slack. I owed it to them to finish.”
A few years later, the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute position opened.
“I had been at UAFS for 17 years, and we took it to a different level,” Loyd said. “After finishing the capital campaign $7 million over goal, I said, ‘I either need to reinvent myself or go try one more thing. I was really restless.”
The one more thing arrived when Greg Loyd found the opening on the Institute’s website while looking up directions to pick up his wife from a conference there.
“He sent me an e-mail titled, ‘Your new job,’” Loyd said. “Four months later, I was employed here.”
WRI officials had already gone through one round of applications. She called at the last minute and got her materials submitted before the deadline.
“It was meant to be,” she said.
Successes of her first year start, she said, with building good, strong relationships with the WRI board, Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust and the UA System.
“I went from having one boss to having quite a few,” she said. “The relationships just weren’t that strong. When I came here, the UA System didn’t really realize why we were a part of them and what our mission was.
“The other thing I feel really good about is we are on the cusp of completing a strategic plan. The board did not want to bring in a consultant; they wanted to do the work just with me, and we worked through it together, and the outcome is they know it’s their work and they’re going to help see that we reach our goals.”
Board members are pleased with what Loyd has already brought to the Institute.
“Marta has truly hit the ground running in her first year as executive director,” Barry McKuin said. “She is a genuine and hard-working person who helps bring out the best in everyone she encounters. We are very fortunate to have her leading WRI.”
Added board chair Dr. Milo Shult: “In addition to her professional expertise, Marta has brought a strong dedication and high energy to WRI as evidenced by her excellent achievements during her first year. She is providing the positive leadership needed to carry the Institute into the future.”
The strategic planning process identified five program areas the WRI will stress going forward, which will also help focus branding: agriculture, arts and humanities, civic engagement, economic engagement and health.
“Moving forward, all of our programs initiated at the Institute and in collaboration with the UA System and other universities, either nationwide or international, will all be tied to one of our program areas,” Loyd said. “And the other thing I feel good about is the cohesiveness of the staff and their dedication. I feel that it’s important for them to learn and understand everything about the strategic plan and their role in it. They had a lot of input, and I think they appreciate it.”
Of course, there are ongoing challenges similar to those many organizations face.
“We need a good, strong business plan that will make us fiscally sustainable,” Loyd said. “But our biggest challenge is really the branding and marketing. People need to know who we are and what we stand for, and that has been very unclear.
“To do the work we know we can do and should be doing, and always keep in mind making sure everything we do honors the legacy of Winthrop Rockefeller, and that we can somehow make the people in the state of Arkansas and beyond understand our mission — that’s a huge challenge.”
Looking back, she agreed, her path to the top of Petit Jean Mountain had not really been as circuitous as it might seem.
“You can see how every stage in your life has prepared you for this,” she said. “Not that I know the answers every day, but I know how to find them, and I don’t mind asking for help. I’m still looking for mentors.
“This institute has amazing, amazing potential to be so important to the state.”
The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute offers a variety off workshops, seminars, public lectures, conferences and special events. For more information, call 501.727.5435 or visit LiveTheLegacy.org.
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