Sustainability at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Receives Transformative $11 Million Estate Gift

The Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler School of Business received an estate gift valued at $11 million from the late Charles S. Ackerman ’55.

The center provides education, research, outreach and best practices to accelerate progress in social and environmental sustainability using profitable business solutions.

It will be renamed in his honor: Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability.

The donation supports the center’s space in the new building that expands and enhances the UNC Kenan-Flagler campus. The new building will meet LEED Gold standards as a benchmark for sustainability with the goal of achieving LEED Platinum. The opening is scheduled for September 2022, with the opening planned for the fall of 2024. The donation will also support:

  • masters of business administration scholarships
  • Expanded Offerings in the Undergraduate Business Program
  • Increased research capacity by supporting Ph.D. students as sustainability fellows
  • Center operations and additional staff members.

“For more than 20 years, our center has empowered students, faculty and business leaders to identify, create and deliver innovative and profitable business solutions while improving social equity and environmental integrity,” said Doug Shackelford, dean of UNC Kenan-Flagler. “This is an exceptional and transformational gift that will have a tremendous impact on the lives of our students and the organizations in which they work.”

Ackerman, who had a very successful career in real estate, wanted to advance what future business leaders learn and how leaders approach environmental issues.

“Charlie Ackerman was a visionary businessman and real estate legend,” says Shackelford. “He was also a visionary in appreciating the impact that our Center for Sustainable Enterprise could contribute to the School’s mission of developing leaders who make the world a better place and how his support could advance the important work of the center” .

A native of New York, Ackerman moved to Atlanta in the 1950s after serving in the US Army. There he founded Ackerman & Co., one of the largest full-service commercial real estate firms in the Southeast. He is credited with shaping Buckhead’s skyline beginning in 1973 with the development of Tower Place. During his lifetime, he developed more than 6 million square feet of residential, commercial and office projects in Atlanta and nationally.

sustainability pioneer

“UNC Kenan-Flagler pioneered a comprehensive sustainability curriculum in business schools in 1999, and today we are known for our innovative curriculum, relevant research and professional development,” says Tracy Triggs-Matthews, associate director of the center.

“When Mr. Ackerman visited the School in 2011, we shared the full scope of our work, from teaching to after-school programs, research and stakeholder outreach, and how our graduates leave UNC Kenan-Flagler prepared for implement what they have learned to change the world. and how our research can impact business practice,” says Triggs-Matthews.

“Sustainability is a strategic pillar at UNC Kenan-Flagler and we address it broadly and deeply,” says Olga Hawn, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and head of the center’s faculty. “Understanding the drivers of sustainability strategy and the different ways it is implemented are imperative for organizations around the world. Through our research and education, we connect theory and practice and develop the understanding and awareness of all stakeholders.”

The center’s approach is based on finding opportunities where there are shared interests, says Jeff Mittelstadt ’07 (MBA), professor of the practice of strategy and entrepreneurship and executive director of the center. “Sustainability is found in every industry and is applied across all functions. Challenging ourselves to simultaneously improve social impact, environmental integrity and profitability leads to innovations that we make through collaboration.”

Similarly, sustainability is intertwined throughout the UNC School of Business and campus, from strategy to finance to supply chain and beyond.

UNC Kenan-Flagler offers sustainability courses in its undergraduate business, MBA, and Ph.D. programs. programs

“First of all, we are here for our students,” says Mittelstadt. “Because we have been serving them for so long, we have an amazing network of alumni working in almost every function in every industry: energy, impact investing, blended finance and supply chain. They are entrepreneurs, analysts and environmental, social and governance consultants. They work in global multinational corporations such as Burt’s Bees, Nike and Apple for chemical, textile and food production companies and start-ups.”

UNC Kenan-Flagler announced Ackerman’s gift at the 2022 UNC Sustainability Awards on April 28 at the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

The center also announced the business winner of the 2022 UNC Sustainability Award and the Distinguished Alumni Award in Sustainability, and celebrated the 2022 full-time MBA students who will graduate with a Concentration in Sustainable Business.

This gift counts towards the Campaign for Carolina. The most ambitious fundraising campaign in the University’s history, the Campaign for Carolina, launched in October 2017 with a goal of raising $4.25 billion by December 31, 2022.

Read more about the center here and watch a video marking the center’s 20th anniversary.

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