BB&T Makes $500,000 Gift To Fund Barton’s New Center For Free Enterprise Education

BB&T Gift to BartonWILSON, N.C. – Barton College is the recipient of a $500,000 gift from the BB&T Charitable Foundation to permanently establish the BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Education on campus. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BB&T Corporation John A. Allison, a former trustee of Barton College, personally made the announcement at BB&T in Wilson on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 11.

In his remarks to an audience of Barton students, faculty, staff, and trustees, as well as BB&T executives, Allison said, “We are very proud of our association with Barton College. It is a fine institution, and we’ve had a number of your graduates who have played important roles here at BB&T. Years ago, I served on Barton’s Board of Trustees, and that was a great learning experience for me. We particularly appreciate the fact that Barton plays an important role here in Wilson. We’re also very pleased about your program on free markets. One of our themes is that economic freedom leads to economic success for society. We try to sponsor programs throughout our footprint, and we’re glad to have such a program at Barton. We’re very excited about this relationship.”

The new BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Education will be an important addition to the College’s expanding School of Business and will support the program’s mission to prepare future leaders for responsible positions in the global business environment of the 21st Century. The Center further supports the College’s vision to create a unique undergraduate experience centered on a passionate belief in a community of active learners.

“Barton College is profoundly grateful to the BB&T Charitable Foundation for the $500,000 gift establishing a permanent BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Education on our campus,” shared Dr. Norval C. Kneten, president of Barton College. “We are also grateful for the confidence BB&T has expressed in Barton’s historic commitment to academic excellence and in our School of Business. The new BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Education will provide an academic cornerstone for enhancing the Barton Experience for our students. The Center will be an integral part of Barton’s efforts to prepare future leaders for Eastern North Carolina and beyond. Thank you BB&T and thank you, John Allison.”

The director of the BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Education will be Dr. John J. Bethune, the Dorothy and K.D. Kennedy Chair in Business in the School of Business at Barton College. He is a Salvatori Fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a policy advisor for the Heartland Institute, a member of the North Carolina Economic Policy Board, a winner of the Distinguished Research Award in the allied Academies’ Economics and Economic Education Division, the author of numerous publications, and the recipient of several teaching awards.

Among the numerous opportunities the foundation’s gift will provide for the new Center will be the establishment of the BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Lecture Series, bringing nationally prominent leaders in free enterprise economics to the region for a public lecture each year. This lecture series will be a prestigious addition to an already distinctive public lecture schedule sponsored annually by Barton College.

Initiatives for the BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Education will include several community-related components, allowing Barton to share the benefits of the foundation’s gift with area partners in education. Barton’s campus chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), led by Dr. Bethune, will have the opportunity to promote a variety of programs in economic education. In addition to Barton students entering their programs into the regional competition of the national association, they also will provide forums on current events related to economics and the free enterprise system for both the campus community and the general public. And, particular efforts will be focused on promoting the attendance of high school students at these events. SIFE members will have the opportunity to visit high school classrooms to deliver a variety of presentations, and they will lead discussions regarding the free enterprise system. While high school advanced placement (AP) economics classes will provide the ideal venue for these SIFE opportunities, other business-related classes will be considered as well.

The new Center also will support a collaborative effort with the College’s Office of Student Affairs as they encourage students interested in free enterprise to be engaged in the College’s developing leadership program and, in conjunction with new course offerings, the Center will sponsor a student-led debate on the moral dimensions of capitalism that will be open to the public.

Equally exciting from a regional standpoint will be the Center’s proactive engagement with other Free Enterprise college programs across the state and beyond, especially BB&T programs, to promote joint activities and develop methods of collaboration.

In addition, the BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Education will oversee the development and implementation of a new course in the School of Business, offered through the American Western Culture section of the College’s general education core. This new course, focusing on the moral and ethical foundations of capitalism, will incorporate “Atlas Shrugged” as one of the principal texts of the course. Each year, junior-level business majors will receive a copy of “Atlas Shrugged” and, as an added component, the Business Policy senior year capstone course will include as topics of discussion the issues and ideas presented in this text.

As the announcement came to a close, Russell L. Stephenson, Jr., chair of the Barton College Board of Trustees, shared, “I would just add that, as I was coming into town today, I couldn’t help but notice the four words in front of one of your bank branches that read, ‘still strong, still lending.’ That says a lot about the way you’ve managed this bank…you’ve stayed the course; you’ve served your customers and your market in a responsible way. It really exemplifies the very best in free enterprise. On behalf of the Board of Trustees I want to thank you for this very important gift.”

Stephenson also read a message from fellow Board member Gregg DeMar, managing director, Communications Sector for the IBM Corporation, who leads a Business Programs Trustee Task Force focusing on the identification of academic programs that meet the current and future needs of business and industry. On behalf of the Task Force, DeMar shared through his message, “This gift will provide a tremendous foundation on which to build enhancements to the curriculum of the business school and for supporting programs to bolster the business education experience at Barton. We look forward to supporting the effective incorporation of the objectives of the gift into Barton’s business programs initiatives.”


Questions? Please contact Kathy Daughety, director of public relations at Barton College, at 252-399-6529 or email: