N.J. family donates $10M for new business school building at Wake Forest
Reposted from NJBiz.com | By Melinda Caliendo
There are nearly 550 miles of road to get from Summit to the campus of Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, N.C., but a New Jersey family will have a constant presence at its business school no matter the distance.
Mary and Mike Farrell gave a donation of $10 million to the Wake Forest Schools of Business in October, and on April 8 will attend the groundbreaking for Farrell Hall, the new home of the business school.
Mike Farrell, founder, chairman, president and CEO of Annaly Capital Management Inc., sits on the board of visitors for the Wake Forest Schools of Business. The couple’s son, Michael Edward Farrell, graduated from Wake Forest last year.
“Mary and I are pretty involved in education in New Jersey and in the Northeast. Typically, we have done things more behind the scenes,” Mike Farrell said. “We try to identify institutions and programs we think are about educating the whole child.”
The Farrells were impressed with the university when their son began attending the school.
“There was a consistent message of the child is first, the education is first, and that emerged over time,” Farrell said. “The more we looked at administration, including President Nathan Hatch, they walked the walk and talked the talk.”
The new building will be built in the Georgian style of the rest of the campus, built in the 1950s on the land of tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, which was an important piece to the donation for the Farrells.
“My dad was a British soldier, and he immigrated here and became a construction worker. It’s important to have the building named after him,” Farrell said, adding that his father would be especially impressed with the brickwork.
The new building will measure 120,000 square feet, including a 400-seat auditorium and an 8,200-square-foot “living room” designed to enhance face-to-face communication in the school.
“We wanted it to be a cool place where people will gather, and it will be more like the old way of teaching, like Socrates, where people will gather and talk,” Farrell said, saying he hopes undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, administration and alumni will use the building to interact more in person, rather than through technology.
The Farrells began considering a donation to the school in 2009, before a new building was proposed, but made the decision when the new building was announced to give a large donation in their names, in order to encourage other alumni to give generously to the project. According to Wake Forest, the majority of the $53 million needed for Farrell Hall already has been raised.
Expectations for a new business school building can be high at universities and colleges, but the excitement around new construction can be felt no matter the location of the school.
Closer to home, the Rutgers University Business School, in Newark, opened a new building off Washington Park in 2009, and has already helped generate buzz about the school’s programs. Spokesman Daniel Stoll said the excitement for the new building was visible just in open house attendance.
Stoll said the school holds open houses each October: In 2008, 115 guests attended; after the opening of the $83 million renovated space, 266 attendees came in 2009, and despite coinciding with Halloween in 2010, 210 guests attended the open house at the school.
Stoll also said he’s seen a positive change in the students in basic daily interaction.
“Students rave about (the building) — the expanded lounge space, the better food,” Stoll said. “It helps everyone feel good about where they’re going. They feel like the franchise is picking up, and alumni feel connected to a space, which they never had before.”
Stoll said successful alumni have returned to the school in Newark to lecture and donate at a more consistent rate than they had before the move. The proximity to the Broad Street train station and light rail service has been a plus for the school as well, which is seeing a dramatic increase in part-time, commuting MBA candidates.
Farrell Hall will incorporate graduate and undergraduate business schools, and their administrations, in the same building for the first time.
“We hope the in four-year experience (at Wake Forest) people become lifetime learners, and be drawn to the facility,” Farrell said.