Lyon College plans to use Heifer International HQ for veterinary, dental schools

OneHealth, an education consulting firm, has bought the Little Rock campus of Heifer International to house the state’s first schools of dentistry and veterinary medicine.

Lyon College, a Batesville-based institution, announced Thursday it plans to work with OneHealth to house the schools in the downtown Little Rock facility. Melissa Taverner, Lyon College’s president, said they plan to open the Lyon College Institute of Health Sciences in the next three years. She says having the school in Heifer’s headquarters made sense due to the similarities of the organizations.

“It’s a logical extension of Heifer’s foundational missions to enhance and to promote education, as well as human and animal welfare worldwide,” Taverner said. “These two professional schools do just that by putting professionals in the community that’ll benefit from their care and guidance.”

Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde, a Democrat, said having veterinary and dentistry schools will be beneficial for the state.

“What a huge opportunity this is for these individuals who are usually in Texas or Memphis for dental school,” Hyde said.

Neither the consultant OneHealth or Heifer would discuss the selling price. Merritt Dake, partner of OneHealth, said the firm is still figuring out how it will finance the purchase. He said they are looking at philanthropic donations and other financing methods.

Hilary Haddigan, chief of mission effectiveness for Heifer, says the nonprofit will remain in Little Rock and has signed a long-term lease. She says selling part of the building will be beneficial.

“We are unlocking funding that we used to build this campus for programs that’ll deliver long-term solutions and change for communities,” Haddigan said.

Heifer, which provides food, shelter and education to tackle poverty around the world, will continue to operate on the top two floors of the Little Rock facility, which is near the Clinton Presidential Library in downtown Little Rock.

When asked if this deal was part of cost-cutting measures, Haddigan said the nonprofit is in a good place financially.

“We’ve got a very generous donor base. As we’ve gone through COVID, our marketing team has done a fantastic job of pivoting our work and are in a strong position financially,” Haddigan told reporters.

According to Heifer’s financial statements from the past three years, the nonprofit has seen an increase in donations in the past two years. Heifer collected about $127 million last year, which is a 23% increase from 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heifer’s Little Rock headquarters has approximately 94,000 square feet of office space. The nonprofit’s main building will host other tenants including the Clinton Foundation.

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