John (BA ’77, MBA ’82) and Marree (BA ’77) Townsend of Greenwich, Connecticut, kicked off the Campaign for Carolina with a gift of more than $50 million to the University of North Carolina.
UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt announced the gift on Oct. 6, 2017, as part of the largest fundraising effort to date in the Southeast and second-largest among public institutions nationally with a goal of $4.25 billion.
“Carolina is a place that we both love, and this is definitely a shared enthusiasm between us,” John said on behalf of the couple. “We were privileged to go to the University, and we both got fabulous educations for which we are grateful. Carolina was one of the first organizations that we felt fortunate to be able to support, and it’s been such a rewarding place to continue to give to over the years. It’s wonderful to watch our contributions making a difference.”
Working closely with deans and campus leadership to identify their highest priorities, the Townsends chose to support areas where their gift would have the greatest impact.
Their commitment provides $10 million to UNC Kenan-Flagler; $25 million in works of art to the Ackland Art Museum; $10 million to the College of Arts & Sciences; a gift of more than one $1 million to Carolina Athletics; and a portion to be allocated at a later date. It comprises current and deferred funding and gifts-in-kind.
At UNC Kenan-Flagler, the Townsends’ gift will go toward the Innovative Directions campaign priority, funding various initiatives that will transform teaching and learning – using virtual reality, simulations, augmented reality, gamification and artificial intelligence.
“This transformative level of support from the Townsends will enable us to make great strides as we work toward our goal of becoming the best business school of the 21st century,” said Doug Shackelford (BSBA ’80), dean and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “The more we can maximize the use of technology to link intellectual experiences with emotional ones, the greater the impact on our students’ education – and their lives.”
A true Carolina family, John’s and Marree’s fathers are alumni as are their two daughters. John’s mother, Beverley Chalk Townsend, is a 1953 graduate and Phi Beta Kappa. The couple has long supported and volunteered for the University, and this gift is especially meaningful for them.
John Townsend retired as a senior advisor with Tiger Management Corp., an investment management business owned by Julian H. Robertson, Jr. (BSBA ’55), in 2015 after more than 30 years in investment management and banking.
A Campaign for Carolina Steering Committee co-chair, Townsend serves on the Chancellor’s Philanthropic Council, Ackland Art Museum National Advisory Board, UNC-Chapel Hill Endowment Fund Board, UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation Board and UNC-Chapel Hill Investment Fund Board. He previously served on the Board of Trustees, UNC Kenan-Flagler Board of Visitors and the 2013 Campaign Planning Cabinet.
Marree Townsend owns Marree Townsend Interiors in Greenwich. She serves on the Arts & Sciences Foundation Board of Directors, Campaign for Carolina Women’s Campaign Cabinet and Carolina Women’s Leadership Council.
“We are incredibly grateful to John and Marree for their generous and meaningful gift for the Campaign for Carolina that speaks directly to their passion for excellence, commitment to helping future generations of Tar Heels and their love for Carolina,” added Folt. “Their gift will help the arts play a fundamental role at Carolina, advance our core mission in Arts & Sciences and the Business School, and help us maintain outstanding athletic programs. Their belief in Carolina’s capacity to change lives and willingness to help in so many ways inspires us all and creates exciting momentum for the campaign.”