Tuesday, June 6, 2023

How a donation from old-school developers changed the gifts scene at UNCW

An advertisement in an October 1962 edition of the Wilmington Morning Star, showcasing the Greenview Ranches development. The assets of the development company were later donated to the UNCW Foundation. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County Public Library)

WILMINGTON — In 1986 the developers of Greenview Ranches, a subdivision located in modern-day Murrayville, were on the cusp of closing shop. Before the group dissolved at the end of that year, it donated its assets to the UNCW Foundation, a 501(c)(3) affiliated with the university that handles many of its private gifts.

The owners of New Hanover Development Company, incorporated in 1962, included Harold Greene and Dan Cameron. According to archive minutes of the January 1986 UNCW Board of Trustees meeting, the assets given to UNCW by the development company were for “constructing a first class track and field facility on the campus.” 

“The corporation assets include cash ($20,000) receivables ($225,000) and unsold land appraised at $323,000,” according to the minutes. 

The Harold Greene Track and Field Complex, constructed with the fruits of the gift, remains to this day within the portfolio of UNCW’s athletic facilities.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the UNCW Foundation has more flexibility in managing gifts from donors, including property, than the university itself, according to UNCW Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Eddie Stuart.

“There are quite a lot of organizations, mainly corporate foundations, that will not make a gift to anything other than a 501(c)(3) organization,” Stuart said “So the existence of the foundation enables us to take in gifts that otherwise we wouldn’t qualify for.”

When donors give property to the university directly, Stuart added, that land becomes the property of the state of North Carolina. Gifts to the foundation, though, stay tightly within UNCW’s orbit. 

“The foundation has become a much more proactive fundraising organization,” Stuart said. “We talk a lot more about fundraising strategy and how to open more doors for the university. Less about balance sheets and income statements and real estate transactions.”

The UNCW Foundation has been around since the early 1960s, when it was created for the purpose of raising money for Wilmington College, the university’s precursor. It’s run and staffed by UNCW personnel, but like other entities affiliated with the university, it’s managed to a lesser degree by state-level actors than UNCW itself. 

The gift from New Hanover Development Company, which spawned the Greene Track, was unprecedented, Stuart said. It opened the door to the realization that major property gifts, not just cash, could be used to further the university’s mission. The array of options became visible.

“There’s some interesting arrangements that have happened,” Stuart said. 

There are other affiliated entities, too, like UNCW Corporation and UNCW Corporation II, which deal largely in property acquisition. At times these entities have collaborated for the benefit of the university in ways that would be difficult for UNCW to stake out on its own. 

“For example, years ago the foundation purchased a piece of property across College Road: the cinema property, which now is used for parking,” Stuart said.

There were conversations about developing the lot, he added, to potentially create a conference center that could be privately run, but the idea didn’t materialize. 

“Eventually, the UNCW Endowment purchased that property from the foundation, to make the foundation whole, and now the university rents that property from the endowment to support our parking enterprise,” Stuart said. 

READ MORE: What will happen to the barren 40 acres across the street from UNCW?

There was the movement to build new upperclassmen-focused dorms on campus in the early 2000s, an initiative of former chancellor Rosemary DePaolo. 

The UNCW Corporation, a nonprofit limited liability company, took on the debt for the construction of Seahawk Crossing, Seahawk Landing and Seahawk Village over years of phasing. 

The apartment-style dorms originated from the idea that upperclassmen would desire campus living if there were options that felt more like an off-campus abode than a first-year dorm. It came to be called the “Wilmington model,” Stuart said. 

“The income from those properties passed through the development corporation, but at the end of a certain period of time, the property reverts back to the university,” Stuart said. “It enabled us to do something that didn’t cost the university anything, but it made a transformational difference in the feel of our campus.” 

In the case of Charles Allo, a UNCW psychology major in the 1970s, the foundation was named as the beneficiary of his estate, which included two houses in Kure Beach and other property, Stuart said. The sale of that land created the Charles V. Allo Scholarship for psychology majors. 

In cases where a donor wants their gift to be used institutionally, it makes sense for the university itself, rather than the foundation, to act as the recipient. The Broadfoot Preserve, near the mouth of Pages Creek in northern New Hanover County, is such an example, Stuart said. 

The university received the property in a donation and now uses it for research; it’s one of the few places in the county with a spring-fed pond, Stuart said. 

Elsewhere in the collection of affiliated entities, there’s the research foundation, which supports “innovation and technology transfer at the University”; the student aid association, a.k.a the Seahawk Club, the official fundraising arm of athletics; and the alumni association, which deals in cultivating relationships and donations among graduates. All these entities and their associated boards are part of a network that is intimately intertwined with the university’s mission and operations, but still distanced from the typical channels of university governance. Some affiliated university entities, for example, are not subject to N.C. Public Records or Open Meetings laws. 

“People have heard me joke before that sometimes it feels like we have more boards than Home Depot, and we do,” Stuart said. “They’re very specific in their purpose and they serve the university well. Some of them aren’t as frequently active as others, but they all have a very unique purpose.” 

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