Don and Billie Stallings (photo by Steve Exum)
Don and Billie Stallings (photo by Steve Exum)

Gift from Don and Billie Stallings will advance traumatic brain injury research at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Today the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced a transformational gift to support constructing a sports medicine complex that will enable further advances in its world-leading traumatic brain injury research.

The gift, from Don and Billie Stallings of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and Palm Beach, Florida, will fund the physical expansion of current University programs dedicated to sports medicine, sport-related traumatic brain injury and concussion research, and create the Stallings-Evans Sports Medicine Complex.

“The Stallings are among Carolina’s most generous supporters, and this gift builds on their remarkable legacy seen on our campus and in the lives of the people we serve,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said. “Our work in traumatic brain injury research and novel treatments has had a global impact because of the Stallings, and we are grateful for their commitment. Building on our culture of collaboration here at Carolina, this gift will enable us to continue that impact for years to come.”

The Stallings gift will support a 30,000 square foot addition to Fetzer Hall, a multi-purpose academic research and sport facility in the heart of the Carolina campus. The new Stallings-Evans complex will allow the Matthew Gfeller  Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, which Guskiewicz co-directs along with Associate Professor Jason Mihalik, and the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes to work side-by-side under one roof. It will create much-needed space for growing research in areas such as sports vision science, active rehabilitation and novel diagnostics. The new complex also gets Carolina closer to its aspirations for a new clinical program that addresses the treatment of patients dealing with symptoms related to chronic traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disease.

This gift will also allow for expansion of the existing sports medicine programming to allow more of the general student body to have access to these state-of-the-art services. This space will continue to be named for their late son, Eddie Evans.

The Stallings have long been champions of Carolina’s work in the fields of sports medicine and sport-related traumatic brain injuries. Their previous generosity provided space for the Matthew Gfeller Center, in the College of Arts & Science’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science, to take root and become a national leader for sport-related and military brain injury research and its dissemination.

Carolina’s clinical concussion research began with a four-member research team but has expanded to 30 members who train future sports medicine researchers in diagnosing and treating brain injuries across the age spectrum, from pediatric patients to college students to retirees. The team has also been engaged in an eight-year-long clinical research partnership with the United States Army Special Operations Command on how to best care for Special Operations Forces combat and combat support soldiers who have sustained traumatic brain injuries. This work is actively expanding to include other military populations.

“Don and Billie Stallings’ generous gift will provide critically needed space allowing our world-class faculty, staff, postdoctoral research associates, graduate students and undergraduate research fellows to continue innovating research into sport and military head trauma in a diverse and inclusive scientific environment,” said Jason Mihalik, associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science and co-director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center.

“The Stallings gift will provide our patients access to enhanced, cutting-edge care,” said Kevin Carneiro, medical director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes. “This new facility will provide a collaborative environment for both our clinical and research experts to work side-by-side to address current problems and cultivate innovative solutions for future needs.”

In 2010, Don and Billie Stallings made the lead gift that created the Stallings-Evans Sports Medicine Center, and the new complex also will be named for them and their late son, Eddie Evans. Don, a member of the Carolina class of 1960, was a three-year football letterman and later played for the Washington Redskins. He is Founder and CEO of Eagle Transport Corporation, Inc., and a past chairman of the Educational Foundation. He also has served two terms on the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees. Billie chairs the UNC School of Medicine’s cardiovascular medicine advisory board and has served on the UNC Health Foundation Board of Directors since 2014.

“We knew the center needed to expand, and we knew the University had a plan to do it, so we felt the time was right,” Don said.

Eddie Evans was born with a congenital heart defect, which led to his premature death at the age of 41. To this day, he is considered a pioneer in open heart surgery, as he braved four life-threatening surgeries.

“Sports medicine was very special to Eddie,” Billie said. “He wanted to be an athlete, but his heart condition wouldn’t allow it. He was a student athletic trainer for all sports at the Arendell Parrott Academy in Kinston, North Carolina, and always said he was going to excel in sports medicine and win a scholarship to UNC–Chapel Hill. This complex is the perfect tribute to him, because of the wonderful work it will do in his name on behalf of what he loved.”

In addition to supporting sports medicine programs, the Stallings have funded numerous other areas at Carolina. These include an adult congenital cardiovascular disease clinic in the School of Medicine, professorships in the Adams School of Dentistry and the College’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science, and undergraduate scholarships. In 2014, the couple each received the William Richardson Davie Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Board of Trustees.

“Carolina has been good to us,” Don said. “We love the place and want to give back to it.”

This latest gift from the Stallings supports For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina, the most ambitious university fundraising campaign in the Southeast and in University history. The campaign launched in October 2017 with a goal to raise $4.25 billion by Dec. 31, 2022.

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