Legacy: Making a difference for the leaders of tomorrow

When he arrived at UCA as a first-generation college student, Gary Bunn ’88 wasn’t sure what to expect. Having grown up in the small town of Crossett, Arkansas, without any sort of connection to college life, he was admittedly overwhelmed when he first set foot on campus.

Gary Bunn

“I was intimidated,” Bunn said. “I won’t even say ‘a little’ intimidated. I was a lot intimidated. I didn’t have any idea of what it meant to be a college student.”

After moving into his room in Arkansas Hall, Bunn remembers thinking “what do I do next” with a mixture of curiosity and uncertainty. Then, his answer was to simply jump in with both feet: He got involved in a variety of campus activities and student organizations, which helped make his transition to college life easier.

Now, he encourages current Bears to keep that same question in mind during their time on campus.

“One of the things about my experience as a student that I still share with others is just being willing to ask that simple question of ‘what do I do next,’” Bunn said. “It’s OK to ask questions, especially if you’re unsure about something. You aren’t expected to know everything. When I was a student here, I found that people were always willing to help and I think that’s still the case now.”

A shining example

Having been a part of the College of Education faculty and staff for 16 years, Bunn is a shining example of the fact that there is plenty of help to be found at UCA. His willingness to go the extra mile for students is not lost on Vicki Groves-Scott, dean of UCA’s College of Education.

“Gary is this wonderfully kind and dedicated person whose heart really is in teaching,” Groves-Scott said. “He works so closely with our aspiring teachers and has a great connection with them. What he does for students has such a tremendous impact on the college and makes our programs better. He really makes a difference for our students.”

In his current position as Director of the Office of Candidate Services, Bunn guides CoE students through all phases of their journey to become highly qualified educators. He assists students with everything from admission into the teacher education program to gaining practical classroom experience as student-teachers. He also helps students throughout the entire process of earning their teaching license. Sometimes he simply provides a listening ear and advice for students who might need help solving a problem. It’s a role that he likens to being “sort of the school counselor for the College of Education.”

He also serves as the faculty/staff advisor for UCA’s chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, the same chapter he helped start when he was an undergraduate.

Much larger impact

While he’s happy to continue helping students in the here and now, Bunn has also thought a lot about how to help in the future. After all, it’s just another form of the “what do I do next” question.

His goal is to be able to give back to UCA in a way that helps students who are aspiring educators and students who are willing to take on leadership positions. While working through his estate plans, he realized that he could make a much larger impact with a planned gift, which is a charitable donation that allows a donor to plan a gift now that will be realized in the future.

Bunn decided to name the UCA Foundation as the beneficiary of a trust that will be funded partly by his retirement accounts. Setting up the planned gift this way allows Bunn to still take regular lifetime withdrawals from the accounts after he retires. He retains the flexibility to make adjustments to his plan should his needs change in the future. The gift also made Bunn a member of the Doyne Legacy Society, which recognizes donors who have made a planned gift to UCA.

“As educators, we may not necessarily make a lot year to year but we generally have very good retirement plans,” Bunn said. “I’ve been able to grow my retirement fund to where, if I do things right, I should be able to live off the interest proceeds. But the principal will still be left after I’m gone. I can’t think of a better use for that money than to support the university that set me on the path to where I am today.”

When he passes away, the gift will help fund two scholarships: the Gary O. Bunn Educator Leadership Scholarship and the Gary O. Bunn Fraternity Leadership Scholarship. The first will provide scholarship support for undergraduate students in the teacher education program while the second will do the same for undergrads in fraternity leadership positions.

For Groves-Scott, that willingness to help others is part of what makes Bunn’s gift special.

“Gary’s gift is significant in that it will support students, which is something that he’s so passionate about,” Groves-Scott said. “Teaching is his life’s work. And his planned gift will create a legacy that will continue to impact students for generations to come.”

Paying it back and paying it forward

As much as Bunn has enjoyed being part of campus life once again, it’s clear that his past – both as a student and as an educator – plays an important role in defining the values that are important to him. And those values, in turn, are a driving force behind his future gift to UCA. Bunn hopes his legacy will benefit the students of tomorrow who demonstrate principles like excellence, dedication and service to others.

“In some ways, this gift is my way of both paying it back and paying it forward,” Bunn said. “Paying it back because UCA not only provided me with a great education but also played a big part in shaping the person that I am. And paying it forward because UCA will always have students who are ready to give and grow and contribute to society. Hopefully my gift will make a difference to future UCA students at a time when they are preparing to make a difference themselves.”

Put simply, he wants to empower the future generations of educators and leaders who will say to themselves: “I want to make the world a better place. What do I do next?”

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