Stone Center opens new innovation lab to honor UNC graduate


Joseph Jordan, director of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center, welcomes family, friends, and colleagues of the late Curtis Sutton to visit the new Innovation lab that was done in Sutton's honor.

The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History unveiled the new space on Friday.

At UNC, Sutton’s academic pursuits were matched by his passion for performance. He traveled across the country as a member of both the men’s glee club and the speech team.

While he pursued careers in both medicine and singing, Sutton ultimately received his medical degree in 1986 from the UNC School of Medicine.

In 2013, the Stone Center, with the help of Sutton’s friends, family and colleagues, launched plans to name and renovate the former computer lab space. The goal was to produce a creative technology space that would embody and encompass themes from the life of the Tar Heel and North Carolina native.

“When the decision was made to launch the Curtis Sutton Innovation Lab, the thought at that time was that we would spur creativity around technology, science, arts and humanities,” said Bernard Bell, UNC’s entrepreneur-in-residence and a friend of Sutton.

“So I think there is a broad brush for us to be able to paint with on what I hope to be a very large palette.”

After leaving UNC, Sutton followed his passion for neurology, completing a fellowship at the University of Virginia and joining the department of radiology at Tulane.

The grand opening of the Curtis Sutton Innovation Laboratory celebrated Sutton’s accomplishments with reflections by friends and family members, all of whom expressed their desire for the space to embody his creativity and passion for learning.

The innovation lab was designed with the objective of providing a space where culture and technology collide. Joseph Jordan, director of the Stone Center, said it will create opportunities for students and community members to engage in innovation and leadership.

Bell said he wants students studying entrepreneurship to utilize the lab.

“We hope that the Curtis Sutton Innovation Lab will be a beautiful collaboration between entrepreneurship and the Stone Center,” Bell said.

Junior Charity Lackey, who attended the grand opening, said the innovation lab strengthens the cultural model of the Stone Center and will ultimately give students a space to cultivate their own ideas and confidence.

The room will serve as home to several Stone Center programs and will be opened to the entire campus to promote cooperation and partnerships, Provost Jim Dean said.

“The technology in the room I think would satisfy the scientist in Dr. Sutton, and I think its focus on the cultural and the arts, innovation and entrepreneurship would please his artistic side,” he said.

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