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Investing in excellence

Steve Cumbie Speaking At Podium

Stephen M. “Steve” Cumbie (BA ’70, MBA ’73) has made an $8 million bequest to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to provide critical resources to both UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and the College of Arts & Sciences.

His $3 million bequest to UNC Kenan-Flagler will be directed to dean’s discretionary funding.

Cumbie is CEO and principal of NVCommercial Incorporated, NVRetail and Metro Realty Group. The companies are engaged in commercial real estate investment, development and services companies, and have projects of more than $500 million in the Washington, D.C. and Denver metro areas.

“I am eternally grateful for my time at UNC Kenan-Flagler, when I found the direction and preparation to go out, work hard and have a great career in real estate,” says Cumbie. “I will do whatever I can to further its mission and success.”

Cumbie enrolled in the MBA program just a year after he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UNC-Chapel Hill with a double major in chemistry and psychology.

He says UNC Kenan-Flagler led him to the area of his life for which he was suited. “When I came to Kenan-Flagler, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career. I realized I wanted be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know how to get there. The Business School gave me the background to understand business and the direct contact to my first job at a real estate development company.”

Cumbie came back to Chapel Hill to serve as executive director of the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies from 2008 to 2010. He also co-taught the Real Estate Development Process class with Dave Hartzell, the Steven D. Bell and Leonard W. Wood Distinguished Professor in Real Estate and professor of finance. He stayed in Chapel Hill two days a week for three years while managing his businesses based in Tysons Corner, Virginia. He brought real-world business application into the classroom, and oversaw the School’s student-managed equity fund, which provides hands-on learning experiences in selecting and managing investments and returns.

His support for the real estate program includes philanthropy, too. Cumbie and Druscilla French (BA ’71, MA ’78), his wife, established the Stephen M. Cumbie MBA Fellowship for Real Estate Students in 2013 to advance the School’s real estate MBA program by providing a “full ride” fellowship to highly qualified prospective students.

Cumbie – who received the Business School Leadership Award for exceptional achievement in a career field, personal endeavor or service to UNC Kenan-Flagler in 2017 – remains very engaged in the UNC Kenan-Flagler community. He gave the keynote address at the 2019 graduation of 333 working professionals from the evening, weekend and online MBA programs, and serves on the board of directors of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Private Equity Fund and the Kenan-Flagler Business School Foundation Board.

“Steve Cumbie is a true leader – as a real estate professional and as a philanthropist supporting higher education,” said Doug Shackelford (BSBA ’80), dean and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation. “His tremendous vision for and a deep commitment to making Carolina even better, now and for future generations, are remarkable. He’s also an incredibly nice person who embodies what is special about UNC Kenan-Flagler. We are proud of his success and grateful that he continues to help us develop the next generation of industry leaders by sharing his time, expertise and gifts.”’

Unrestricted support

Cumbie’s bequest to the dean’s discretionary funding could be used to support fellowships and scholarships for students, curriculum innovation and faculty retention.

“A gift to the Dean’s Discretionary Fund is a way to support the leadership of the School, knowing that it gives Doug Shackelford and his successors the ability to address the most important priorities and greatest needs,” says Cumbie.

He also designated $5 million from his bequest to establish a dean’s excellence fund at the College of Art & Sciences.

“Steve Cumbie’s bequest builds on his legacy of philanthropy at Carolina and shows his commitment to our University’s critical mission,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “Providing our leaders with unrestricted funding allows them to flexibly respond to emerging priorities, making our University better equipped for whatever the future may hold. Steve’s investment makes this possible, and we are grateful for his support.”

Cumbie has provided invaluable, substantial support to UNC over the years. His latest gift counts toward the University’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in history, For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina, launched in October 2017. As of June 1, 2020, the University has raised $3.25 billion, 76% of its goal to reach $4.25 billion by December 2022.

 Cumbie and French have made significant contributions spanning multiple areas of UNC. Their support of the College of Arts & Sciences includes the Arts and Sciences Fund, the Center for the Study of the American South and the physical science complex. They also established the Druscilla French Graduate Student Excellence Fund, which supports multiple graduate students from various disciplines at the College each year, and the Druscilla French Distinguished Professorship in Women’s Studies. Cumbie was a member of the Arts and Sciences Foundation from 2006 to 2012.

Read Cumbie’s keynote address here.