UNCP’s Thomas School of Business building reaches construction milestone

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke celebrated a major milestone on July 23 during a topping out ceremony for the $38 million dollar James A. Thomas Hall which will house the Thomas School of Business.

The event, which was attended by major donors, university partners and elected officials, marks the placement of the last steel beam in the new facility currently in construction.

“This is an exciting day for UNC Pembroke and our School of Business,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “Five years ago, this was an idea–a dream. And now we see that dream becoming a reality because of those here today working toward a common vision. They believe in the promise, the power and the potential a UNCP education has to impact our region.”

Among the small crowd assembled were Jim and Sally Thomas. The James A. Thomas Hall and Thomas School of Business has been named with a generous $7 million gift by the couple–the largest in university history.

The Pembroke native, Los Angeles businessman and former UNCP trustee shared with those assembled how moved he was to hear about the lasting impact the new facility will have on future students and their careers. He noted the school’s potential to drive entrepreneurship and economic progress in Robeson County through the synergy between the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub in downtown Pembroke and the School of Business.

Anticipated for occupancy in fall 2021, the facility will face Prospect Road between Sampson and Dial Hall and will include 14 classrooms, a career services center, a 300-seat auditorium, an interactive market-style trading room, a video conference room, computer lab, small and large group discussion areas, food court and a multimedia resource room.

Dr. Barry O’Brien, dean of the School of Business, told of students’ excitement for the facility to open and his plans to show them the progress made over the summer when his very first classes resume on campus August 5.

“With access to leading technology and a collaborative learning environment, this building will be second to none,” O’Brien said. “Our students are going to get the experience here that prepares them to enter the global business marketplace and be career-ready.”

“During our very first class this semester we will bring them here to this construction so they can witness this historic moment of our university’s history.”

Representatives from the Golden LEAF Foundation were present at the ceremony. UNC Pembroke was awarded a $1.9 million grant from Golden LEAF to provide classroom technology for the future School of Business. The university was required to match the grant bringing the technology investment to nearly $4 million in total.

“I can’t express enough the gratitude toward Jim Thomas and all his contributions to this university,” said Bo Biggs, chairman of Golden LEAF Foundation. “The new School of Business is going to be absolutely unique to this area. I can’t think of another university expansion that will have a greater impact on rural communities. I thank Chancellor Cummings, Jim Thomas and all the business leaders for coming together and formulating a plan to meet this region’s needs.”

O’Brien and Cummings also shared the astounding growth of the School’s enrollment over the last several years. This fall, it is projected that The School of Business will account for approximately 25 percent of the university’s total student body. And, the online MBA program is one of the fastest growing in the South with nearly 800 enrolled for the fall.

The School, which is internationally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) earned by only five percent of business schools worldwide, credits much of its growth to high-quality academic programs that prepare students with skills needed to be successful in their careers. Success that will positively impact our region by creating business and economic growth.

Cummings concluded his remarks by saying, “We see UNCP as a driver for economic change and growth. The education that will be offered here is yet another way UNCP will drive our region forward.

“What better place to build a state-of-the-art School of Business than in Southeast North Carolina.”

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