Graceland receives $2 million gift

A $2 million gift to Graceland University will benefit the school's computer science department. The gift comes from entrepreneurial brothers, Robert and Leland Ackerley, and will establish the Ackerley Computer Science and Technology Scholars Program. The Ackerleys own and operate Smith and Associates, an independent worldwide distributor of electronic components and semiconductors. The brothers live in Houston, Texas, where their business's headquarters are located, but operate in the global marketplace.

To be set up in an endowment, 45 percent of the gift will be used for student scholarships; 27 percent will be used for the constant upgrade of computing facilities and equipment; and 28 percent will be dedicated for faculty support and professional development.

An estimated $30,000 will be given in scholarships every year, Graceland officials say. The computer equipment in the school's lab will be replaced or updated at least every three years. The gift has enabled Graceland to attract James Jones, Ph.D., who will be the director of the new scholars program. Jones, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Iowa, has 15 years of college teaching experience and 15 years of government and private sector work, most recently at Icon Laboratories in Des Moines.

In making the significant gift, the Ackerleys said they want Graceland to become "a recognized center of computer science excellence." They have hired a number of Graceland graduates in recent years and say they have been so impressed by the quality of those graduates they want to assist Graceland in preparing its students.

Neither of the brothers is a Graceland graduate, but their roots to the Southern Iowa university go back to its beginnings. In 1893, their great-great-grandmother, Marietta Walker, donated the original 20 acres of land upon which Graceland's first building was constructed and opened for classes two years later. One of the university's women's residence halls carries the late Mrs. Walker's name and a street on the east side of the Graceland campus bears the Ackerley family name.

The recent gift is the second the brothers have given to Graceland. In 2000, they provided the funding for the 400-meter, all-weather track located in Graceland's Bruce Jenner Sports Complex. The track facility, which includes a storage building, is named in honor of the Ackerleys' father, the late Leland D. Ackerley.

Taken from the Graceland University news archives

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