Alumnus commits $2 million to College of Business

ECU alumnus commits $2 million to College of Business

Commitment will create a learning environment for entrepreneurial students with innovative ideas

East Carolina University’s College of Business has received a $2 million commitment from Van and Jennifer Isley of Raleigh that will provide opportunity for business, engineering, technology and arts students to have “creative collisions” that produce innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The extraordinary commitment from the Isleys not only sets a high bar for alumni giving, its impact will certainly be felt here on campus, in the region and around the state,” said Dr. Cecil Staton, ECU chancellor. “Our great young and diverse minds will have a place where they can work with one another in solving the problems of today and tomorrow.”

The dean of the College of Business said this commitment from the Isleys will strengthen the entrepreneurial culture at the university.

“The College of Business and the Miller School of Entrepreneurship are dedicated to generating the entrepreneurial mindset here at the university,” said Dr. Stan Eakins, dean of the College of Business. “With this generous commitment from the Isleys, ECU students will be able to work with each other, build out their ideas and develop a plan to bring those ideas to market.”

Bates building

Enhancing Opportunities

A 1985 College of Business accounting graduate, Van Isley said his entrepreneurial spirit started way before he arrived at ECU. A couple of coaches purchased a golf driving range and at the age of 14, “they threw me the keys and said run this thing for the summer.”

After a number of part-time jobs and being around entrepreneurs at an early age, he said, “I think that’s where the seeds were laid.”

Today, Isley is the CEO and founder of Professional Builders Supply, which he started after 18 years in both the financial and building supply arenas. He understands and appreciates the entrepreneurial energy employees can bring to a company, he said. They are usually risk takers who are willing to try new things.

Van and Jennifer Isley

Van and Jennifer Isley have committed $2 million to ECU and the College of Business to create space for student entrepreneurs and innovators to collaborate. (contributed photo)

Giving students the opportunity to collaborate and surround themselves with expertise from other disciplines will produce employees that will meet the growing demands of today’s business, he added.

“Personally, I’d hire a graduate with an entrepreneurial degree,” said Isley. “I like that mindset.”

On the concept that will be made possible by his commitment, Isley said, “There’s a lot of opportunity surrounding it. I’m just thrilled to be in a position to do this. ECU was a big part of the foundation that helped me get to where I am.”

Innovation in Higher Education

The creation of an innovation hub is emblematic of what is happening in the business community and higher education, said Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology.

The economy is moving from a knowledge-based approach to a maker’s economy. This approach is driven by students who are motivated to explore and who want to study engineering and technology, he said.

As an institution, Ploehn noted, we can follow the example that the donor’s entrepreneurial spirit is hoping to provide.

“We want to innovate in terms of how we approach higher education,” he said.

Part of the initiative will include 3-D printing machines used for manufacturing and other kinds of fabrication equipment for metals and plastics. Ploehn said he’s also eager to explore the role a virtual or augmented reality studio, which could be powered by high-end computing, can play in prototyping simulations.


Taken From ECU News Services