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BB&T Bank Gives $500,000 to University of Kentucky For Capitalism Program

The Main Building of the University of Kentucky.
Creative Commons
The Main Building of the University of Kentucky.

Seven years after giving $1 million to the University of Louisville, BB&T Bank is donating more than double that amount to the University of Kentucky.

A $500,000 slice of the $2.5 million grant, first reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader, would create — and fund for four years — the new BB&T Program for the Study of Capitalism in UK’s Gatton College of Business and Economics. The other $2 million would go toward the $65 million renovation of the business school.

According to its statement of purpose, the UK capitalism program will help students “gain deep, accurate and objective understandings of capitalism/private enterprise vis-a-vis other systems of organizing the economy and society.” It will host speakers, a conference, public forums and a website. It will have its own board of advisers and fund research grants, travel and an $8,500-a-year graduate fellowship.

The program will resemble those bankrolled by BB&T at other universities. At UofL, for instance, the bank’s $1 million gift covers a course and lecture series steeped in the capitalistic beliefs of novelist Ayn Rand, a distinguished professorship in free enterprise, and copies of Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting touched on the UofL-BB&T relationship when it reported last December that two more supporters of free-market economic systems and Republican politics — industrialist Charles Koch and Papa John’s International CEO John Schnatter — were teaming up to fund the creation of a free-enterprise program at UofL. Their combined $6.3 million gift was announced in March.

UK business professor John Garen will become the BB&T professor for the study of capitalism and direct the program.

When the BB&T grant was first offered to UK in 2003, it called for students to receive copies of not only “Atlas Shrugged,” but another Rand novel, “The Fountainhead.” It also would have created the Ayn Rand Reading Room in the Student Services Building.

Rand’s philosophies have both fans and critics, but those provisions did not make it into the final Nov. 12, 2014, agreement between BB&T and UK. A “quiet study/library” area will instead be named after BB&T and will be housed in the Gatton College.

Reporter James McNair can be reached at jmcnair@kycir.org and (502) 814-6543.