Mission Minded Methodist


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Dr. Debra Fiser’s life has been one of mission. A native of Newport who grew up in West Memphis, Dr. Fiser began her life of service when she became a pediatric critical care physician. After graduating from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and post-graduate training at the University of Kentucky and the University of Florida, she returned to Arkansas and worked for UAMS at Arkansas Children’s Hospital as an assistant professor. It was at Arkansas Children’s Hospital where she learned her way around research and grants. 
In 1995, Dr. Fiser was appointed chair of its department of pediatrics and then dean of the UAMS College of Medicine in 2006.


A member of St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Dr. Fiser says she was introduced to the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas by invitation from Jim Argue. “Our pastor asked a few members to attend a seminar the foundation was holding, and I learned about what they do and how they do it,” she says. “I was so intrigued by how, with their partnership with Wespath, they invest funds and meet and usually beat the market.”

The Methodist Foundation for Arkansas, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2023, has more than $190 million invested with Wespath Institutional Investments, a division of the not-for-profit Wespath Benefits and Investments, an agency of the United Methodist Church. As the largest reporting faith-based investor in the United States, Wespath provides a diversified, multi-manager investment approach achieving competitive long-term performance while remaining in alignment with the social principles of the United Methodist Church. “After the seminar, Jim Argue asked if I would join the board at the foundation, and when I did, I was added to the human resources committee,” Dr. Fiser explains. “I kept dropping hints about joining the grants committee. Well, I was not only asked to join but to chair it.”

That was a decade ago, and Dr. Fiser continues to uphold the foundation’s mission of being exemplary stewards of funds invested in Arkansas’s Methodist institutions and missions. The Methodist Foundation for Arkansas now awards more grant dollars than any other Methodist foundation in the country.  “We provide scholarships for seminary students and other pastoral education,” she says. “We support Philander Smith University, Hendrix College and the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church and other Methodist institutions. Our mission priority areas also include such things as addressing food insecurity, homelessness and illiteracy. One thing I am particularly proud of the foundation for is granting funds for churches to install live streams for their services
during COVID-19.”

Dr. Fiser says as the foundation looks toward its next 60 years, her hope is more Methodist churches in Arkansas will take advantage of what the foundation can provide them. “The foundation has a lot of opportunity Methodist congregations can use for their churches and missions,” she said. “We remain committed to socially responsible endeavors, and we want to help more Methodist institutions and missions grow in our future.”



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