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Academics

Sharing his good fortune

Steven D. Bell ’67 pledged $25 million for UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s new building, which will be named in his honor.

Steve Bell examines a model for a proposed new building.
Steve Bell examines a model for a proposed new building, which will allow the business school to increase its undergraduate enrollment by 50%, creating an indelible impact on the state of North Carolina. Steve and Jackie Bell gave the single largest gift ever from an individual to the Kenan-Flagler Business school at UNC-Chapel Hill. (Photos by Jeyhoun Allebaugh/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Last May, Steven D. Bell ’67, in collaboration with his wife, Jackie Bell, pledged $11 million in support of a new building for UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, calling the gift his greatest investment ever in both people and real estate.

Determined to do even more, the chairman of Bell Partners and UNC Kenan-Flagler alumnus has now increased that initial pledge to $25 million.

“Earlier this year, I decided to think big and make a significant financial commitment to help double the size of the Undergraduate Business Program so more students study business at Carolina,” said Bell. “After further examination about how I want to share my success and time, I concluded there is nothing I could do that would benefit our state more than supporting UNC Kenan-Flagler.”

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz announced the Bell gift during his installation ceremony on Oct. 11. Guskiewicz also announced a second $25 million pledge by an anonymous donor to support the new building that will make it possible to increase enrollment in the Undergraduate Business Program by at least 50% and attract more top students from around the globe to attend its graduate programs.

“These two incredible gifts will allow us to expand our Undergraduate Business Program, giving us the opportunity to teach more students and spur economic growth in our state. To honor his lifetime of service and commitment to our students, we will name the new building at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in Steve Bell’s honor,” said Guskiewicz.

The $25 million gifts by two donors are the largest gifts made by individuals to UNC Kenan-Flagler and count toward the Campaign for Carolina, the University’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in history, launched in October 2017 with a goal to raise $4.25 billion by December 2022.

These gifts also go a long way toward securing $75 million in matching funds from the state.

On July 21, 2020, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill signed by Gov. Roy Cooper to provide $75 million in funding to expand and enhance the business school’s campus. To receive those public funds, UNC Kenan-Flagler must raise $75 million in private funding by June 30, 2022. Including these two gifts, UNC Kenan-Flagler has raised $58 million in private funding for the new building.

“This is truly a transformational moment for UNC Kenan-Flagler, for Carolina and for our state. It’s also a transformational moment for young people we don’t even know yet — some of whom haven’t even been born — because when they get to Chapel Hill, there will be places for them at UNC Kenan-Flagler thanks to this gift from Steve and Jackie Bell,” said Doug Shackelford ’80, dean of UNC Kenan-Flagler and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation. “And because more students will be able to study business, more graduates will be able to build better lives for their families, make their communities stronger, start new companies, provide good jobs and develop new products and services that improve all of our lives.”

Since the business school relocated from Carroll Hall to the McColl Building in 1997, the growth of degree programs has outpaced the structure. Today, UNC Kenan-Flagler has approximately 1,000 undergraduate business students and 400 Master of Accounting, 1,600 MBA and 70 doctoral students. Beyond increasing the size of the Undergraduate Business Program and attracting more graduate students, Shackleford said the new building will:

  • Add 140,000 gross square footage,
  • Double the availability of teaching space and have 16 classrooms,
  • Increase student life and community interaction space by 48%,
  • Meet LEED Gold standards as its baseline for sustainability, and
  • Provide outdoor greenspace.

The naming of the building is an important legacy, and Bell understands the importance of the new building to the state and the urgency of raising private funds, said Shackleford.

“Steve’s support is stellar — as a leader, as a donor and as an advocate for UNC Kenan-Flagler. He has deeply embraced our mission to prepare our students to be the next generation of leaders and views our continued success as critical to North Carolina’s economic and social success.”

“Investing in the success of UNC Kenan-Flagler is an investment in making North Carolina even stronger,” Bell agreed. “Graduates become better employees, employers, entrepreneurs and contributors to our state. Having one of the best business schools in the U.S. right here in Chapel Hill is a precious resource for our state and region.”

Read more about this historic gift to UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.