Orange County

UNC secures $18M donation for entrepreneurship minor

Chancellor Carol Folt (from left) talks to Dorothy Shuford Lanier and Stephen Shuford who have given an $18 million gift to UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts & Sciences.
Chancellor Carol Folt (from left) talks to Dorothy Shuford Lanier and Stephen Shuford who have given an $18 million gift to UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts & Sciences. The Herald-Sun

UNC-Chapel Hill has received an $18 million gift that allows its College of Arts & Sciences to expand its undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship by offering more internships and hiring more faculty.

The gift is the largest single one-time donation from a living person or family to that college, which houses the bulk of UNC’s traditional academic programs in the social sciences, humanities and basic science.

Coming from the Shufords, a family of Hickory natives, the donation “is a game-changer” for the college, said Kevin Guskiewicz, its dean.

The money will fund the hiring of three entrepreneurs-in-residence and up to four faculty fellows. It will also underwrite up to 70 student internships, a lecture series on innovation and entrepreneurship and an endowment to pay the program’s executive director and internship director positions.

College officials in turn will back the hiring of three more full-time professors, an entrepreneur-in-residence and an administrative staffer. In announcing the donation Tuesday afternoon, Chancellor Carol Folt said UNC officials eventually want to raise $35 million for the program.

Already, though, “this doubles the size of the current program,” she said. “There are a lot of students unable right now to do this who are just thirsting for the opportunity.”

The undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship has been around since 2004. More than 800 have used it to supplement their degrees, and it now has more than 250 students enrolled.

Participants take a couple of courses in economics, a “track course” on the industry that interests them, an internship outside the university and ultimately a practicum that gives them room and advice to pursue their own business idea.

A $3.5 million grant in the early 2000s from the Kauffman Foundation provided seed money for the program, which has received high-level backing from UNC’s three most recent chancellors. One of them, chemist and former chancellor Holden Thorp, personally helped develop its track course for the sciences, Guskiewicz said.

The Kauffman grant prodded the university to base the program in the College of Arts & Sciences, not in the Kenan-Flagler Business School, to see to it that the minor’s available to most of the student body. All UNC undergraduates go through the college during their first two years on campus, and about three-fourths eventually graduate with a degree from one of its departments.

In expanding the entrepreneurship minor, the goal is to is to give “every single one of our” students a chance to prepare themselves to “create new fields, new ways of working [and] to imagine themselves into places they’ve never been,” Folt said.

UNC officials said the Shuford family has sent five generations of students to the Chapel Hill institution, starting with class of 1900 graduate Abel Alexander Shuford Jr.

His great-grandchildren, Jim and Stephen Shuford, now of Charlotte, and Dorothy Shuford Lanier, now of Bedford, New York, made the gift. All three are UNC grads. Jim Shuford, CEO of STM Industries, received an English degree in 1988 and an MBA in 1992. Stephen Shuford, CEO of Shurtape Technologies, got an MBA in 1997. Lanier earned her bachelor’s in journalism and mass communication in 1993.

The Shuford family’s roots are in the textile business. In the 1990s, their privately held companies began focusing more and more on making and selling tape — everything from packing tape to duct tape to gaffer’s tape. Shurtape Technologies now has manufacturing or distribution operations in eight countries.

“If you’re the least bit handy around the house or dabble in the arts and crafts, there’s a good chance you have a roll of at least one of their products in your toolbox,” Guskiewicz said.

The donation capped about two years of discussions between UNC officials and the Shufords. Jim Shuford said the spark was his memory, and his sister’s, of graduating without necessarily having all the business skills they’d “needed to hit the ground running,” and the belief that UNC needs to give students ways to acquire them without specifically having to get a business degree.

Along with announcing the gift, Guskiewicz told the people attending Tuesday’s ceremony that what’ll now be called the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship is getting a new executive director.

Bernard Bell, a Washington, D.C., media consultant, is taking over for incumbent director Charles Merritt in July. Bell is already one of the minor’s “entrepreneurs in residence” and will become the first executive director funded by the Shuford donation. The choice follows a national search. Merritt, a venture capital investor, is returning to that work, Guskiewicz said.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg