Steve Cumbie (BA ’70, MBA ’73) invests in excellence by providing future College deans with unrestricted support.
A recent $5 million bequest to the UNC College of Arts & Sciences will provide the dean with critical resources to seize emerging opportunities while continuing to fulfill the College’s ambitious teaching, research and public service missions.
The gift, from Stephen M. “Steve” Cumbie ’70, ’73 (MBA), CEO and principal of NVCommercial Incorporated, NVRetail and Metro Realty Group, will establish a dean’s excellence fund once realized.
“Steve Cumbie’s bequest builds on his legacy of philanthropy at Carolina and shows his commitment to our University’s critical mission,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “Providing our leaders with unrestricted funding allows them to flexibly respond to emerging priorities, making our University better equipped for whatever the future may hold. Steve’s investment makes this possible, and we are grateful for his support.”
With an eye toward the future, this gift could support innovations in the College’s undergraduate curriculum, or enhance high-impact interdisciplinary research endeavors that apply theoretical knowledge to solve real-world problems — such as energy efficiency, economic disparities, urban sprawl or religious intolerance. It could also provide more undergraduate students with global experiences or help recruit eminent professors who are sought after by the world’s top-ranked universities — further distinguishing Carolina as a global leader in teaching, learning and discovery.
“The beauty of this generous gift is that it will allow my successors to act quickly and nimbly in response to immediate priorities,” Dean Terry Rhodes said. “This type of discretion in directing funds is incredibly helpful and truly creates the margin of excellence for which the College is known, especially during uncertain financial times. I am grateful for Steve’s thoughtfulness and foresight.”
Cumbie and his wife, Druscilla French, ’71, ’78 (M.A.), have made significant contributions spanning multiple areas of the University. Their support of the College of Arts & Sciences includes the Arts and Sciences Fund, the Center for the Study of the American South and the physical science complex. They also established the Druscilla French Graduate Student Excellence Fund, which supports multiple graduate students from various disciplines in the College each year, and the Druscilla French Distinguished Professorship in Women’s Studies.
“I am eternally grateful for my time at Carolina, when I found the direction and preparation to go out, work hard and have a great career in real estate,” said Cumbie. “I will do whatever I can to further its mission and success.”
Cumbie, who served as a director of the Arts and Sciences Foundation Board of Directors from 2006 to 2012, earned his bachelor’s degree with a double major in chemistry and psychology from the College. One year after he completed his undergraduate degree, he enrolled in the MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, which led him to a career in real estate. Today, Cumbie’s companies are engaged in commercial real estate investment, development and services and have projects of more than $500 million in the Washington, D.C., and Denver metro areas.
The College of Arts & Sciences is home to 19,000 students and 72 departments and programs, working toward its mission to educate and encourage students and faculty to contribute meaningfully to North Carolina, the nation and the world.
Each student at Carolina begins his or her academic journey in the College; therefore, philanthropy such as this will reverberate throughout the entire University.
A longtime supporter of his alma mater, Cumbie has provided invaluable, substantial support to the University over the years. His latest gift counts toward the University’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in history, For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina, launched in October 2017. As of June 1, 2020, the University has raised $3.25 billion, 76 percent of its goal to reach $4.25 billion by December 2022.
Cumbie’s $5 million bequest to the College is part of a larger $8 million bequest that includes $3 million to UNC Kenan-Flagler.