JONESBORO – In honor of their entire family, Randall and Jeanette Pope recently established the Pope Family A-State Fund Endowment, bringing the lifetime giving commitment to over $1 million, most of which benefits students at Arkansas State University through scholarships.
The Pope Family Fund will create scholarships for students studying in agricultural business or early childhood education, degree programs close to the hearts of Randall, an agricultural business graduate of A-State, and Jeanette, who was an education major.
“We have been incredibly fortunate with the opportunities that have been presented to us over the last several years,” the Popes said. “Our Arkansas State experience was an important part of recognizing and accepting those opportunities. For that, we owe A-State more than we can ever repay.”
They recently met with newly appointed A-State Chancellor Todd Shields.
“Randall and Jeanette are 100 percent products of the land, and their story of family and achievement is remarkable,” Shields said. “Listening to them and learning how Arkansas State made such an impact on their lives was profound, but the way they want to make sure the next generation of students from here in Northeast Arkansas will have the chance come to A-State is just awe inspiring. It was an honor for me to just say thank you to the Popes and the entire family.”
“On behalf of every student, faculty or staff member in the College of Agriculture, I want to express my profound appreciation for what Randall and Jeanette have done for Arkansas State,” Dr. Mickey Latour, dean of agriculture, said. “To use the old philanthropy saying, the Popes have not only given treasure, but they have also devoted considerable time and talent to the College of Agriculture as well.”
One of the immediate impacts of their recent gift is starting the College of Agriculture’s new Agricultural Academy for undergraduate students.
“The Agriculture Academy is characterized by a high degree of hands-on learning,” Latour said. “This will help fund experiential learning opportunities like internships, conference travel, undergraduate research projects, specialized certifications, and life skills training and awareness. These all are a part of our college’s ‘Beyond the Classroom’ strategic theme, and the Pope family’s support is launching this first major initiative.”
Randall Pope has served A-State in numerous capacities as a volunteer. A member of the Arkansas State University System Foundation Board from 2002 until 2012, he was the board president from 2008 until 2012. He was the inaugural chairman of the ASU Real Estate Foundation which was formed in 2012. He has also been a member of the College of Agriculture’s Advisory Board since 2011, and is on its executive board today.
“We are very excited about the recent changes in the College of Agriculture and its focus on experiential learning and entrepreneurship,” the Popes also said. “The new Agricultural Academy will add another dimension to the A-State learning experience by giving students an opportunity to learn life skills not generally taught in college. We are very happy to support this new effort.”
The Popes were raised on family farms in Northeast Arkansas, Randall near Bono and Jeanette near Dowdy. Shortly after the couple married in 1969, Randall served for two years in Vietnam. Both attended A-State in the early 1970s.
Randall’s early career in real estate management with The Prudential Insurance Company of America took the couple across the nation with assignments from Arkansas to North Carolina and from Florida to California. In March 1990 the Popes returned to New Jersey and Randall was named senior vice president of The Prudential. He rose to managing director and senior portfolio manager for all of the Fortune 500 company’s real estate debt and equity investments, a portfolio of over $30 billion in 1994.
In March 1995, the Popes moved to Champaign, Ill., to become principal owner and partner in The Westchester Group, a national farmland investment management company. He returned to Jonesboro in the early 2000s, and in 2010 sold 85% of Westchester to TIAA. A new Westchester organization continued on to manage $6 billion in farmland investments located in six countries around the globe.
Since transitioning to retirement, the Popes have found new full-time work as grandparents to six grandchildren.