Learning from our neighbor School
The Gillings School is next door to the Eshelman School of Pharmacy. They’re our neighbors. Dean Bob Blouin is a colleague and a friend. I’ve learned a lot from him, and I was so thrilled for him when it was announced that 1972 alumnus and successful entrepreneur Fred Eshelman was giving the School $100M to create the Eshelman Institute for Innovation.
There’s nothing like a day when a lot of people come together to celebrate a gift. Transformations happen because of these philanthropic gifts. As important as grants are, and we always want more, grants typically fund a particular line of research, with products that are highly significant but incremental. That’s how science and research progress. But an infusion of millions — such as our $50M or Pharmacy’s $100M — well, that can change a place pretty dramatically.
“Pharmacy school faculty members consistently and successfully join forces with colleagues from the School of Medicine, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and the College of Arts and Sciences,” Chancellor Folt said, at a reception announcing the gift. “… The Eshelman Institute for Innovation will accelerate these interdisciplinary partnerships and drive critical problem-solving across the University.”
Bob Blouin has increased the visibility and raised the reputation of the School during his tenure. The School’s federal research funding has increased over the last several years, largely as a result of Bob’s leveraging Dr. Eshelman’s more-than-$30M gift in 2008 through important partnerships, such as with the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and University Cancer Research Fund. He brought in a new cadre of faculty members with amazing talent in drug discovery. They acquired patents and grants, made discoveries and developed start-up companies.
Our $50M gift from Dennis Gillings and Joan Gillings helped us to see ourselves differently, building on our base of cutting-edge research and entrepreneurial spirit to support a greater appetite and risk for innovation—not for its own sake, but to make a lasting difference in the world. We’ve spun out companies and findings, strengthened the School and made discoveries that matter. We’re partnering now with a number of organizations around the world, such as Cambridge University (U.K.), the Institut Pasteur (France) and MIT (U.S.), as well as with various domestic and global companies. We’re thinking big on topics such as global aging and technology, climate and human health, a healthier North Carolina and other big world problems.
Bob Blouin had the courage to align his School’s organizational structure with his goal of leading the School to be the best. He and Eshelman share a fervent focus on pre-eminence; excellence drives all they do. That focus keeps one from settling, which may make us comfortable and happy today, but doesn’t build strength in the long run. We owe it to ourselves, the people of this state and the world not to shrink from the quest for excellence and pre-eminence. Congratulations to our neighbors, and thanks to Fred Eshelman!