The legacy of a former Fort Smith city administrator who died unexpectedly last year was celebrated at an event June 7 that presented estate gifts to the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville totaling $750,000.
A $250,000 gift to benefit the UAFS political science department will create opportunities for UAFS students and the university and will enhance the relationship between UAFS and the community.
Additionally, $500,000 will establish the Raymond W. Gosack Masters of Public Administration Endowment at the U of A. The endowment will provide ongoing support for the program, which aims to provide a broad, flexible foundation to prepare students for careers in public service for the government, non-governmental organizations and the nonprofit business sector. The MPA program is housed in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
Numerous speakers at the gift presentation eulogized Gosack, an alumnus of the U of A who began working with the city of Fort Smith in 1985 before moving to Illinois and working other positions in municipal government. He returned to Fort Smith in 1999 to serve as deputy administrator for 12 years and was named city administrator in 2011, a position he held until his retirement in 2015.
His death in October 2016 shocked the Fort Smith community.
“I think many of us felt like all the air left the room when we heard that Ray Gosack had died,” said Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor. “Although he retired from his job as city administrator in 2015, we were used to seeing him around town still, and it was hard to think about him as anything but healthy and happy … It seemed like nothing but clear sailing ahead of him as far as the eye could see. And then he was gone.”
“Ray was known as a fiscally responsible public servant, and we know now he practiced that virtue at home as well,” Beran continued. “He created a nest egg that will now further public service and create opportunity for students studying the traditional liberal arts that gave him his opportunity.”
Beran added that Gosack’s gift has already helped one student at UAFS, one that Beran said he thinks Gosack “would’ve admired.” Keimi Driscoll, a 25 year-old non-traditional student who is studying political science and international business, is currently serving an internship in Washington, D.C., thanks to funds from the estate.
“Students like Keimi Driscoll will keep Ray’s light shining, and we are grateful to be part of their journey,” Beran said.
Dr. Mary Lackie, vice chancellor for university advancement, expressed gratitude for the gift and the impact it will make on students.
“Through his gifts to these two universities, Ray’s life of public service comes full circle as it helps today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders transform their lives and the lives of their communities,” Lackie said.
Mark Power, vice chancellor for university advancement at the U of A, said the university was “deeply humbled” by the gift and pointed to donations like Gosack’s that have helped “take the university to a whole new level.”
“That giving has helped us better serve our state through the creation of need- and merit-based scholarships, strengthen programs, upgrade and expand facilities, and be more competitive for recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty,” Power said. “We are deeply indebted to [Ray] and alumni like him who cherished the education they received at the university and wish to pay it forward.”
Though Dr. Todd Shields, dean of the Fulbright College, never had a chance to meet Gosack, he admired him after hearing of his work for Fort Smith and Arkansas.
“I really can’t think of any other way to perpetuate and continue Ray’s legacy of the epitome of servant leadership except for an endowment in his name at the University of Arkansas, and we will use that gift to help students and faculty in public administration - students who are going into the same kind of career that Ray was in,” Shields said. “That kind of career is not something that just benefits the individual. It benefits every single individual they work with, and every single thing that they do.”