Brian and Kathryn Ballard donate building to house entrepreneurship school

The new home of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship.
The new home of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship.

Brian Ballard, CEO of Ballard Partners, and Kathryn Ballard, a Florida State University alumna and member of the FSU Board of Trustees, are giving the university a building valued at $1.1 million in downtown Tallahassee that will serve as the home of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship and the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship and will be the physical centerpiece of Florida State’s “entrepreneurial university” initiative.

The three-story, 19,000-square-foot building is the former Guaranty National Bank, located at 111 S. Monroe St.

“This incredibly generous gift is a remarkable demonstration of Brian and Kathryn Ballards’ support for Florida State University,” said President John Thrasher. “It will enable us to quickly follow through on making the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship a reality.”

After first undergoing an interior and exterior renovation, the building will be ready for occupancy in summer of 2017. Its prime location will place Florida State faculty and students close to the state Capitol, downtown businesses and statewide associations and within a short walk to a new FSU College of Business building.

The Ballards’ gift follows a landmark $100 million gift to the university in December by Jan Moran and The Jim Moran Foundation. That gift was the largest in FSU’s history.

“The culmination of these two gifts will give rise to the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, the first interdisciplinary entrepreneurship school of its kind in the nation, allowing us to give our students a world-class education in entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Sally McRorie, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

While the school’s faculty — including its entrepreneurs-in-residence — will maintain offices in their current colleges and departments on Florida State’s main campus, the building donated by the Ballards will house the school’s staff and its founding director, Susan Fiorito.

Brian and Kathryn Ballard
Brian and Kathryn Ballard

“We are grateful and honored to receive these gifts that fund the school and the building, both of which will ensure a world-class education focusing on entrepreneurship for all interested FSU students,” said Fiorito, an FSU business professor and entrepreneur-in-residence who serves as president of the university’s Faculty Senate and is a university trustee. “We will strive to reflect in all that we do the goodwill and unselfishness that the Ballards have shown with their contributions.”

The Ballards’ gift will not only transform the way Florida State serves its students, but also the way it serves small businesses across the state, according to Randy Blass, executive director of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship.

“The decision to locate the Jim Moran Institute and the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship in one building in the heart of our state capital will greatly enhance our collective ability to bridge relationships between small businesses and our campus community,” Blass said.

When conversations began with the Ballards about the Monroe Street property, their vision was for Florida State to have a more visible academic presence downtown and to help activate the area, according to Tom Jennings, vice president for University Advancement.

“They left the decision completely to FSU to determine what the building’s best use could be,” Jennings said.

A group of university leaders and faculty members met several times to discuss potential uses for the building, and the university-wide entrepreneurship initiative emerged quickly as the highest priority.

“As discussions with Jan Moran progressed, the idea of locating the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship on Monroe Street became very exciting to everyone,” Jennings said. “The Ballards’ offer to give the building to FSU enabled the discussions about the School of Entrepreneurship to move more quickly.”

The Ballards’ desire was to create a gift that did more than simply offer funding, but one that contributed to the academic mission of the university. What they didn’t originally realize was that their gift would be one of the key factors in attracting the largest gift in FSU history, Jennings said.

“We are so excited and proud to support the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship,” said Kathryn Ballard, who has served as a trustee since 2013. “This will be a special place for FSU students, faculty and alumni for generations to come.”

“We are honored to be able to play an integral role in providing a home to Florida State’s newest school, which will revitalize a highly prominent corner in downtown Tallahassee,” Brian Ballard said.

The Ballards’ gift of real estate not only aligns with their philanthropic goals, but also creates strategic value for the university, according to Kevin Graham, executive director of the FSU Real Estate Foundation.

“Because of the Ballards’ incredible generosity, the university is able to establish its presence in a highly prominent location in the heart of Tallahassee,” Graham said. “The Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship will create the first impression many people have of the academic programming at FSU.” 

The Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship is scheduled to officially launch in August 2018.