Florida State receives major gifts for studies in free enterprise, ethics

From left, David Rasmussen, Caryn Beck-Dudley, T.K. Wetherell, Paul Sullivan, Nan Hillis and Jim Daly. (Photo: Bill Lax/FSU Photo Lab)

Efforts by two colleges at Florida State University to expand their academic offerings have received a significant boost, thanks to a pair of major gifts from financial services company BB&T Corp. (www.bbt.com).

Joined by FSU President T.K. Wetherell and the deans of the College of Business and the College of Social Sciences, BB&T Tallahassee President Paul Sullivan and Nan Hillis, president of BB&T’s Orlando-based East Florida Region, announced that the company is presenting the university with two gifts totaling $3 million to establish several new programs. One will encourage a thorough discussion of the moral foundations of capitalism; another will examine the proper role of government in a free-market economy; and a third will help to train future teachers of economics.

FSU President T.K. Wetherell thanked Sullivan and Hillis for the generosity and foresight shown by BB&T in making the gifts.

"In these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that public universities find new ways to partner with the private sector to develop the sorts of academic programs that our society will need in the coming decades," he said. "We are very appreciative of the confidence that BB&T has placed in Florida State University to create programs to emphasize the moral and ethical dimensions of our free enterprise system."

With one of the BB&T gifts, the Department of Finance in the College of Business and the Department of Economics in the College of Social Sciences will establish a joint BB&T Program of Free Enterprise. Among other things, this $1.5 million gift will allow for the creation of two professorships — one in each department — to develop and promote a free-enterprise curriculum; will enable the development of a Web site that focuses on the program’s free-enterprise principles and highlights a new Speaker Series with the inclusion of podcasts from previous speeches; and will fund the establishment of a new economics course, "Morals and Ethics in Economic Systems."

In addition, the finance department will offer a new course, "Free Enterprise and Ethics." Included in that course will be a lecture series based on BB&T’s core values (www.bbt.com/about/corporategovernance) titled "Perspectives on Free Enterprise." Eventually this new course will become part of a new Certificate Program in Free Enterprise and Ethics.

The BB&T Program of Free Enterprise also will support four new doctoral fellowships and the undergraduate organization Students in Free Enterprise.

"Unfortunately, we find that many business graduates enter the workplace without a firm grasp of the moral principles underlying the free markets," Sullivan said. "This program will emphasize our shared interest in giving students a hands-on perspective on capitalism and free markets, a better understanding of our economy, and an enhanced ability to make meaningful contributions to the world."

"This gift will allow us to introduce our students to thorough discussions of the moral foundations of capitalism," said Caryn Beck-Dudley, dean of the College of Business. "It is an exciting development for the College of Business and a true demonstration of the importance of public-private partnerships. Contributions from corporations like BB&T help our state universities attract top students and faculty, particularly in the fields of finance and economics."

BB&T’s second $1.5 million gift will help the College of Social Sciences create a Program for the Study of Political Economy and Free Enterprise within the economics department, and to develop a Program for Excellence in Economic Education within FSU’s Gus A. Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education. These programs are intended to improve free-enterprise education and foster research on the proper role of government in a free-market economy. To that end, the gift will help fund new faculty positions, stimulate innovative educational programs for undergraduate students, and increase support for Ph.D. students.

The Charles G. Koch Foundation has agreed to match this BB&T gift, committing $1.5 million of its own to pay new faculty members for a period of six years.

"Thanks to BB&T and the Charles G. Koch Foundation’s generous support of the economics department and FSU, we are closer to our goal of being the nation’s premier program in the delivery of high-quality economics instruction for undergraduate students," said David W. Rasmussen, dean of the College of Social Sciences. "This gift will also support our efforts to train future teachers of economics. It will benefit students at FSU and young people throughout the nation for decades to come."