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N.C. A&T College of Business and Economics to Be Named for Deese

10/22/2019 Academic Affairs, Alumni, College of Business and Economics

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Oct. 21, 2019) – In recognition of his numerous philanthropic contributions, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University will name its College of Business and Economics (CoBE) after Willie A. Deese.

This marks the first naming of a college at the university.

“We are incredibly grateful for the many ways Mr. Deese has invested his time, talent and treasure to continually enhance the excellence of our college,” said CoBE Dean Kevin L. James, Ph.D. “He is a tremendous example of character and success for our students, and we are privileged to have his name associated with our college.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics is tentatively planned for February 2020 when the university’s Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet.

Deese recently bestowed $5 million in endowed funds to CoBE designed to meet a variety of needs, from scholarships to department chairs, fellowships and specific program offerings.

“I consider (the naming) an honor, but it’s not something I sought,” Deese said, noting his gift “represents an enduring commitment to supporting the College of Business and Economics steeped in the support, commitment and dedication I saw its leaders demonstrate to my generation, allowing us to participate in corporate America in a meaningful way.

“Just as the door of opportunity was opened to us, I have a responsibility to make sure those doors remain open in a contemporary way,” he said.

Including his latest gift, Deese has donated close to $10 million toward the university. That includes funding in support of its current fundraising initiative, The Campaign for North Carolina A&T State University, an ambitious multi-year effort to raise at least $85 million to enhance academic programs, support facilities, strengthen scholarships and provide for faculty at the nation’s No. 1 public historically black university.

Naming the College of Business and Economics for Deese, who earned a B.S. from A&T in 1977 business administration, increases its level of prestige and, with it, the ability to retain and recruit top-notch talent in students and faculty. It also raises CoBE’s profile within academic and business realms.

He went on to receive his MBA from Western New England College in 1982 as he began a 40-year career as successful pharmaceutical executive, retiring as global president of manufacturing for Merck & Co. Inc. During his tenure at Merck, the pharmaceutical giant awarded the then College of Arts and Sciences $3 million in grants that he helped secure for the Center for Outreach in Alzheimer’s, Aging and Community Health (COAACH).

Deese, a native of Davidson, North Carolina, has a storied history of giving back to his alma mater. In November 2016 alone, he bestowed $150,000 for COAACH, $350,000 to expand the Willie A. Deese Endowed Scholarship fund, $200,000 to CoBE in current-use scholarship funds, $200,000 to establish an unrestricted endowed scholarship and $100,000 to support an endowed scholarship for a student athlete in the Aggies football program.

During the celebration announcing the capital campaign last year, N.C. A&T recognized Deese as both its co-chairman and its lead donor, having made two campaign gifts totaling $2 million.

“Willie’s generosity to our alma mater has inspired a new generation of alumni to give back to this great institution and impact the lives of tomorrow’s leaders,” Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. said. “He is the personification of Aggie Pride.”

Deese received an honorary doctorate in business from N.C. A&T and was one of the first three recipients of the Chancellor’s Legacy Award in April 2016. He served on the Board of Trustees, including a term as chairman, and remains an active member as chair of CoBE’s Executive Advisory Council.

The university’s Student Center Ballroom bears his name; the iconic clock tower at the center of campus is named for him and his wife, Carol Chalmers Deese; and the Fred and Janie Deese Auditorium on the first floor of Merrick Hall is dedicated to his parents.

“I feel that out of all the places I could have gone, by far N.C. A&T was the right and best choice for me,” said Deese. “And I want to make sure going forward that others who feel that way have every opportunity to fulfill their potential at the College of Business and Economics at N.C. A&T.”

“The impact of Mr. Deese’s most recent gift to the College of Business and Economics will be felt for many generations. It speaks volumes about his commitment to the university now and for the future,” said Kenneth Sigmon, vice chancellor for university advancement. “We hope his many contributions to N.C. A&T will inspire others to aspire to make a similar impact.”

The capital campaign dovetails with A&T Preeminence: Taking the Momentum to 2023, the strategic plan that reflects the early attainment of many goals from A&T Preeminence 2020, takes into account changing environmental factors and recognizes opportunities that lie within the university’s grasp.

Sigmon said naming opportunities abound for many N.C. A&T programs, facilities, parts of facilities, departments and other colleges. The university’s Division of University Advancement welcomes inquiries from all who are interested in participating in the capital campaign.