Campaign: BB&T makes $1 million gift to College of Business

John A. Allison IV (left), chairman and chief executive officer of BB&T, and John W. Bardo, chancellor of Western Carolina University, sign a gift agreement establishing a new distinguished professorship in WCU’s College of Business.

John A. Allison IV (left), chairman and chief executive officer of BB&T, and John W. Bardo, chancellor of Western Carolina University, sign a gift agreement establishing a new distinguished professorship in WCU’s College of Business.

A $1 million gift from the BB&T Foundation announced Monday, Nov. 17, will enable the Western Carolina University College of Business to develop a program that will focus on the study of leadership, ethics and capitalism.

The gift includes funds to create a new distinguished professorship in capitalism and a pool of grant money for student and faculty research.

“We are very excited and honored to join the distinguished group of institutions that have received support from the BB&T Foundation,” said Ronald A. Johnson, dean of the WCU College of Business. “This gift will enhance the educational experience of the college’s undergraduate and graduate students, the intellectual development and experience of our faculty, and thought leadership within our region.”

The BB&T Distinguished Professorship in Capitalism will be endowed at the $1 million level through gifts totaling $500,000 from the philanthropic arm of the BB&T Corp., one of the nation’s largest financial services companies. Western Carolina will seek $500,000 in state matching funds through a program initiated by the General Assembly to encourage private support of public institutions of higher education.

Additional gifts totaling $500,000 from the BB&T Foundation, payable over five years beginning in 2010, will allow WCU to provide four annual awards of at least $500 each to support student research and creative work in the area of leadership, ethics and capitalism, and to create an award program for faculty members engaged in scholarly work focused on those same issues.

“The student projects that these contributions will help fund need not be traditional research papers,” Johnson said. “They could be plays or other creative endeavors that deal with business ethics.”

The intent of the contributions is to encourage a thorough discussion of the moral foundations of capitalism in a manner that enables students to be informed about all points of view, including the philosophy of objectivism as portrayed by Ayn Rand in her classic novel “Atlas Shrugged” and in her essays, said John A. Allison IV, chairman and chief executive officer of BB&T.

The agreement calls for the possible creation of undergraduate and graduate courses on the moral and ethical foundation of capitalism, through established faculty governance procedures for new courses and curricula. It also recommends, but does not require, faculty members teaching those courses to consider assigning portions of “Atlas Shrugged” and other writings from pro- and anti-capitalist perspectives.

After signing the gift agreement with WCU Chancellor John Bardo, Allison discussed keys to success in business and in life during a presentation titled “Principled Leadership” attended by business students and faculty members.