CHAPEL HILL — In the largest donation ever to UNC-Chapel Hill, pharmaceutical executive Fred Eshelman is giving $100 million to the School of Pharmacy that already bears his name.
“We must be relentless in our pursuit of pre-eminence — and I mean pre-eminence,” Eshelman said at a jubilant ceremony announcing the gift.
“We must help with the translation of ideas and research into products, into tools for our citizens,” he said. With the leadership on campus and at the UNC Board of Governors, he said, “I think we truly have the prescription for success.”
Eshelman, the founder of Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) and Furiex Pharmaceuticals, has already given $38 million, including $9 million for cancer research, to the school where he received his undergraduate degree in 1972. The pharmacy school was named for him in 2008.
“He uses his Carolina education to change the world,” said UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt, who added that the gift is the largest ever to UNC-Chapel Hill and the largest ever to a U.S. pharmacy school.
Folt said that when he signed the agreement making the gift, Eshelman declared: “I want to supercharge the faculty’s ideas and support their talent.”
“We’re gonna supercharge it, too!” Folt replied.
The gift will support the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, where University officials envision interdisciplinary collaboration with other schools to take on complex, challenging research.
“It’s going to be used to fuel the innovation, to help spur economic development across the state, and of course to create jobs,” said Folt.
The Eshelman School of Pharmacy already ranks second in the nation in receipt of research dollars. Folt said the school has generated 15 spinoff companies and 131 patents in just the past 10 years.
Robert Blouin, dean of the school, said that when he first met Eshelman in 2003, the executive advised: “Don’t be afraid to take risks. You will not achieve greatness unless you take a chance.”
Blouin said that the school must demonstrate leadership with the gift. “We must accelerate,” he said. “We must accelerate at the point of the idea generation, and we must accelerate all the way through to its fruition … which may be a cure for cancer.”
Eshelman, a former member of the University system’s Board of Governors who has supported conservative political causes, said that in a difficult era for state funding of universities, “The private sector must make the investments like never before.”
UNC President Thomas Ross said that Eshelman’s repeated gifts demonstrate his confidence in the University.
“That man believes in and trusts this university,” Ross said. “He knows that the University is the economic engine of our state.”