Biblers Leave a Legacy While Inspiring Others
James and Laurie Bibler understood that true legacy is about much more than any gift…it’s about the ripple effect.
Take a rock tossed into Lake Dardanelle. The outward ripples can be felt for many feet past where that rock landed in the water.
Much like the rock created ripples in the water that are experienced far beyond the initial impact, James and Laurie Bibler created a ripple effect that will impact generations of students at Arkansas Tech University.
In November 2020, Arkansas Tech announced the Biblers had pledged six million dollars to Arkansas Tech University. That gift was the largest personal pledge the university has ever received.
The gift will support the James and Laurie Bibler Scholarship fund and the University’s Greatest Need fund.
“It gives us great pleasure to be able to offer scholarships to young adults who have a desire to further their education but do not have the means to do so,” said Laurie. “James and I realize that education is so important to young adults. If they are not given the opportunity for post-secondary study, they risk being left behind. We don’t want that to happen. We want them to succeed and achieve their goals.”
James Bibler passed away in January of 2021, but his legacy will live on through the scholarships awarded to future students.
The Biblers hope their philanthropy will do more than just help ATU students. Through their service as honorary co-chairs of the first comprehensive campaign in university history, their goal is to help others realize their own legacy and consider supporting Arkansas Tech financially, now and in the future.
“If we can provide a college education for even just one person and that person goes out and succeeds to their fullest, think about the impact that they will make,” said Laurie. “It is important to give back from what we have been given. We hope that others are inspired to include Arkansas Tech in their estate plans.”
As state funding continues to be stretched, private dollars are more important in higher education than ever before, and gifts to Arkansas Tech University help the university educate and empower students to achieve their dreams and in turn transform their communities.
“Equipping students for their future is the core commitment of Arkansas Tech University. It’s why we exist. Our commitment to this is evidenced by the fact that we’re number one in the state for upward social mobility, and we have been for the past seven years,” said Jason Geiken, vice president for advancement. “However, for us to continue that effort, more private dollars will be needed to support our students.”
The legacy of the Bibler family will be felt for generations to come at Arkansas Tech. The funds donated will provide opportunities to help students achieve solutions to problems that don’t yet exist.
But for James and Laurie Bibler, one of the most exciting aspects of their legacy is leading the charge of ATU alumni and friends who are stepping up and supporting the university to ensure that it continues to thrive and serve Arkansas students.
“Arkansas Tech is a vital part of Pope County. I live in this wonderful community, and we need to support Arkansas Tech,” said Laurie. “My desire to help Arkansas Tech has grown through the years.”
Their legacy runs much deeper than two people. The Bibler family legacy is about encouraging others to join in giving back in a meaningful way that moves Arkansas Tech forward. An inspiring legacy for lives well lived.
Who are the Biblers?
Mr. Bibler was the third generation in his family to work at Bibler Brothers Lumber in Russellville. After high school, he attended Arkansas Tech for two years studying business administration before joining the family business.
Through hard work, he rose through the ranks and became president of the company in 1967. The family sold the company in 1973, and in 1986 he formed James Bibler Enterprises and purchased all of the stock in Bibler Brothers Inc. After leading a transformational modernization of the company and its equipment, he sold 90% of the company to Freeman Brothers, Inc., in 1998.
Mr. Bibler has been inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame. He is also a past president of the Southern Forest Products Association. He is a past chairman of the Arkansas Forestry Commission, having been appointed to that board by Gov. David Pryor and re-appointed by Gov. Bill Clinton. He served as vice-chairman of the public timber division of the National Forest Products Association. Additionally, he was named Timber Processing’s Man of the Year. Finally, he served as chairman of the Ouachita Timber Purchasers Group and as a member of the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau Board of Directors.
In addition to his expertise in the agriculture and timber industry, Mr. Bibler had a passion for hunting. After his retirement, he made multiple trips across the continents of Africa and Asia in pursuit of big game. For him, the trips offered the ability to enjoy his hunting hobby but also provided a way to learn more about the natives he’d interact with during the trips. His hunting pursuits were proudly displayed in his 6,000-square-foot trophy house in Russellville, where animals adorned the walls.
A better community was important to Mr. Bibler. Through his philanthropic activities, Mr. Bibler supported Arkansas Tech on numerous occasions, and he played a key role in helping the ATU accounting program achieve accreditation during his service on the Business Advisory Board. Additionally, he received the highest honor possible at Arkansas Tech for his service, membership into the Hall of Distinction in 2011.
However, his philanthropic efforts didn’t end with ATU. Mr. Bibler also supported the United Methodist Church and served as president of the Jaycees and the Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the airport commission.
Laurie and James Bibler married in 1984 and supported one another for more than 30 years. James described Laurie as the one who enriched his life, believed in him and inspired him to reach higher. He referred to her as the family rock through the strongest of storms.
A native of North Little Rock, Laurie studied at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville after high school. There, she earned a two-year degree and went to work at First American National Bank, where she rose to the rank of administrative assistant/officer of the executive department and secretary of the board of directors.
Laurie’s prowess in business also provided multiple opportunities for leadership in the family company and in the community. She served as vice president, secretary, and chief financial officer of the company. She also later enrolled in Arkansas Tech’s real-estate licensing program.
Serving the community is important to Mrs. Bibler, and she has served as a longtime member of the Arkansas Tech University Foundation Board. Currently, she serves as the secretary of the ATU Foundation Board. Additionally, Laurie was a member of the Russellville Chamber of Commerce and served as secretary on the Chamber Board. She also served on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club in Russellville and is a lifetime member of the Russellville Junior Auxiliary.
-By Carrie Harris Phillips
for the Tech Action, Fall 2021