UALR benefits from Cindy Conger’s love of the arts
January 9-15, 2017
By Jay Edwards
Raised in the midst of a musical family in Littleton, Colorado, Cindy Conger says she developed an early love and passion for singing and theater. And so, when she left home for college in Texas, her dream was to someday be on Broadway.
It was during those college years, at Trinity University in San Antonio that she was asked to be a house manager for one of the theaters, which she took on. It was that experience that made her realize she liked the business aspects of the theater quite a lot.
Realizing that she probably wasn’t going to have a career on stage, she began planning for one behind the scenes.
“I had gotten married and taken some time off from school,” Conger said, “and when I was ready to return, a friend told me I should look into accounting as a major, because they were, as my friend put it, ‘letting women sit for the CPA exam now.’”
That was 1968 and times have certainly changed, with more women than men now becoming CPA’s.
“I thought that if I wanted a field where I could always find a job, accounting made the most sense for me,” she says.
She and her husband were then living in Michigan and she decided to enroll at Michigan State. “I changed my major to accounting and started all over again,” she says.
Three years later they moved to Little Rock for her husband’s job and she enrolled at UALR.
“I started at UALR and had a year and a half left to finish my undergrad,” she says. “When I finished I was 33, and felt like if I ever wanted to be in management I needed an MBA.”
She worked as a corporate accountant for two years while earning her MBA, and it was during that time a professor suggested she look into financial planning as a career.
“He told me he thought it would be a good fit because I didn’t fit the mold of a typical accountant,” she says.
She was hired by an insurance agency to start a financial planning department, and in 1985, she and a partner opened their own firm as registered investment advisers. Twenty years later she started Conger Wealth Management, a three-person, fee-only wealth management firm offering financial planning, tax preparation and asset management.
“When I lived in Michigan, I taught Lamaze classes, and from that learned I liked helping people and doing something that I felt made a difference in people’s lives. That’s why this career is such a great fit for me.”
She still has her first client, who started with her back in 1985.
But her passion and love for the arts has never waned.
“The arts have always been dear to my heart,” she says.
“When I was on the foundation fund board I offered to have a cocktail party in my home to reveal a new painting I had bought by Barry Lindley. Bob Denman said I should announce I was going to do a visual arts scholarship, in my name, and that would be the fundraiser we would do that night, with donations going to the visual arts scholarship.”
That was her first gift to UALR.
“Since that time, Deborah Baldwin got me involved in the Friends of the Arts Auxiliary Board.”
Conger’s father, Bob Ashton, was a multiple Grammy-nominated composer; he also had a publishing company and a record company. “I was looking for a place to keep his music and other works,” she says.
“Deborah said she would archive all of it. I told her if she would do that I would give $30,000 and my stepmother would give $20,000 at her death.”
“Now, being on the Friends of the Arts, I learned that, along with the new visual arts building, scheduled to open in the latter part of 2017, they needed $3,000,000 for the scholarship fund. Being on the board I felt it was necessary to make a lead gift and I agreed to give $25,000 over the next five years.”
UALR serves about 1,000 students each year who are enrolled in visual arts classes. This semester, 180 students have designated visual arts as their major, and there are 16 full-time faculty members devoted to visual arts programs.