PEMBROKE — The largest gift in the history of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will propel the university closer to breaking ground on a state-of-the-art facility to house its School of Business.
A landmark $7 million gift from UNCP Board of Trustee member Jim Thomas and his wife, Sally, will transform the campus and have a lasting impact on generations of executives and entrepreneurs.
Sally Thomas has simultaneously gifted $110,000 to the university’s CARE Resource Center — an on-campus resource for students in need of food, clothing and housing assistance.
Pembroke native Jim Thomas is a prominent Los Angeles real estate developer, and founder of the Thomas Family Foundation. A one-time owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, he was chairman of the board of Parkway Properties, which merged with Thomas Properties Group, until its recent sale.
The gift will go toward the construction of a $36 million facility which will feature a number of innovative spaces designed to foster 21st century problem-solving.
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings was elated to announce the historic gift.
“Jim Thomas is credited with transforming the skyline of downtown Los Angeles as a world-renowned real estate developer,” Cummings said. “Now, his and Sally’s historic gift to the UNCP School of Business, sets the stage for a transformation of his hometown of Pembroke and the surrounding region.
“On behalf of everyone at UNCP, especially our students, I express our heartfelt appreciation to this remarkable couple for their leadership in this vital project.”
The pledge agreement comprises both current and deferred gifts totaling $7 million. A deferred gift of $3 million for the establishment of a fund to support the maintenance of the building and promote the work of the School of Business will come from the Thomases’ estate. The balance of $4 million is a challenge gift. To receive the latter gift, the university is required to raise an additional $4 million in funding to match the gift.
“We will be asking foundations, corporations, businesses and individuals to help us make this project a reality for our students. I can think of no better way to invest in our region than making an impact on education and training available to generations of students,” said Cummings.
This gift, and the required match, will be added to the $23 million UNCP received from the Connect NC Bond and the $2 million in Golden LEAF funds, moving UNCP closer to the $36 million needed for construction.
The ultimate goal of the $7 million gift, according to Thomas, is to improve the lives of the citizens of Robeson County.
“This gift is a continuation of what I have tried to do with the entrepreneurship center and the endowed professorship which is to help the people in the community, to give them a better life by becoming entrepreneurs and increasing their wealth and well-being,” Thomas said.
“The new business school is also a continuation, in a sense, with the plan to build a modern business center that will be very attractive to students encouraging them to go into business and learn about business,” he said.
“Resources will be available, as well, to non-business majors who want to understand more about business and finance, and how to manage their money or work toward a career.
“It is my hope that these combined efforts will help the community continue to grow, changing the economic makeup of the region.”
The new facility will include a career center, a fully-equipped auditorium, a video conference room, computer lab, trading room, collaborative lounges and study spaces, and a multi-media resource room.
UNCP student Kayla Fesperman said a new School of Business will have a profound impact on business majors like herself.
“This new building will provide an enhanced environment for me to learn and grow. This new building puts cutting-edge resources at our fingertips, giving us an edge in our career,” she said.