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The Daily Tar Heel

Kenan-Flagler Business School receives $11 million donation for new building

The Kenan-Flagler Business School walkway as pictured on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019 during the launch of their new orientation program.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article ran with a headline that stated the donation received by Kenan-Flagler Business School was the largest single gift in the school's history. The donation is the largest single gift from an individual in the school's history. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

The University announced Tuesday that the Kenan-Flagler Business School will receive an $11 million donation — the largest single gift from an individual in the school’s history — to support construction of a new building in the hopes of growing their undergraduate business program by at least 50 percent. 

The donation comes from Steve Bell, a Carolina alumnus and founder of an apartment investment and management company in Greensboro. He said investing in Kenan-Flagler will help the state’s economy in the long term. 

“There are few things that I could do that would have a greater influence on our state than to help getting this business school expanded,” Bell said. 

Roughly 800 students apply to the undergraduate business program each year, and acceptance typically hovers around 50 percent. According to University Communications, the program is currently at maximum capacity due to space constraints. 

Doug Shackelford, dean of the business school, said that investing in a new building will allow the school’s undergraduate program to grow without affecting its prestige. 

“The depth of the quality of the applications to the business school is extraordinary,” he said. “What’s really motivating us is the fact that we have so many students who come to Carolina — and as you know it's a great university, it’s difficult to get in to begin with — and many that come here want to study business, and unfortunately we just don't have enough seats.” 

Max Sarafin, a junior in the business school, said he’s not worried about the school’s increased admission affecting its reputation. 

“Kenan-Flagler is already plenty competitive,” Sarafin said. “Not only do you have to get into UNC, but you have to compete against other UNC students to get accepted. The applications are all similar; these are all high-achieving students applying.”

Bell said his personal connection to the school, along with his admiration for Kenan-Flagler's real estate programs, motivated him to donate. 

According to University Communications, Kenan-Flagler also received a $1 million donation in 2017 from the state legislature and $10 million in private funding from another donor. Shackelford said although the school still needs significantly more funding to begin construction on the new building, Bell’s donation could likely be a catalyst for others. 

“A gift of this size and a gift from a person of his prominence is a very strong signal to other people who may or may not be able to give at that level,” he said. 

Bell said that even though the country is in crisis due to the COVID-19 outbreak, donors should invest in the business school to help the state’s economy for years to come. 

“This will be over at some point,” Bell said. “This is a great time to be planning long term for the future.”


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