UK Establishes Institute With Schnatter Gift, Supports New Gatton College Building

Posted: April 25, 2016

Underscoring the commitment to create an environment for academic excellence, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees Tuesday is considering one of the largest private gifts in UK history — $12 million to create a new research and teaching institute in the Gatton College of Business and Economicsand support the continued renovation and expansion of the Gatton College building.

“This incredible gift from John H. Schnatter, one of our Commonwealth’s leading entrepreneurs and businesspeople, directly addresses our most important priority — student success at all levels,” said UK President Eli Capilouto in announcing the gift to board members. "We place students first in everything that we do at the University of Kentucky. This gift addresses that priority by investing in academic excellence and the infrastructure that enhances learning."

The gift includes $8 million from the John H. Schnatter Family Foundation and $4 million from the Charles Koch Foundation. Schnatter, of Anchorage, Kentucky, is founder and CEO of Papa John’s International. The college plans to use the funds in two ways:

-- Naming the John H. Schnatter Atrium, a community study and gathering space central to the new Gatton College. The new Gatton building — a $65 million renovation and expansion supported entirely by philanthropy — is part of more than $1.8 billion in campus transformation projects begun in the last four years, more than 90 percent of which are being financed by the university through private giving, public-private partnerships, and institutional funds.

-- Establishing the John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise at Gatton. The institute will further engage the university community and the public in a serious and sustained examination of the impact of private enterprise and entrepreneurship on society.

"I am excited to support the University of Kentucky in its establishment of the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise at the Gatton College," Schnatter said. "The free-enterprise system is the greatest mechanism mankind has ever created to eliminate poverty, enhance prosperity, and enable the pursuit of happiness. Entrepreneurship is critical to unlocking the power of the free market system. We’re proud to support this effort to educate the next generation about free market principles and equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the know-how to launch successful businesses."

The institute will expand upon the work begun by the Gatton College’s BB&T Program for the Study of Capitalism, established and funded by BB&T in 2003.

John Garen, BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism and director of the BB&T Program for the Study of Capitalism and the Economy at the Gatton College, will serve as the institute’s first director. His research focuses on the economics of incentive systems, economic organization, the role of government in the economy, and labor and human resource economics.

“At this stage of economic history, it is worthwhile to take an academic approach to understanding the role that capitalism and free enterprise has played in the growth of human welfare, as well as examining its shortcomings,” Garen said. “The role of free enterprise is at the center of so many debates, so it’s critical for people to gain a deeper understanding of how it works so they can be thoughtful participants.”

In addition to enhancing existing faculty and student engagement, the institute will support hiring new faculty; faculty research; graduate student fellowships; undergraduate education; research; entrepreneurship programs; and speakers, conferences, and executive education programs to enable public discussion of free enterprise concepts and issues.

UK is among more than 300 universities nationwide supported by the Charles Koch Foundation, a charitable organization supporting scholars exploring the institutions that foster societal well-being.

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with John in supporting the scholars and students at UK,” said Brian Hooks, president of the Charles Koch Foundation. 

In the last four years, enrollment in the Gatton College of Business and Economics has grown rapidly from 2,700 students in 2012 to more than 3,200 this fall.  The college is focused on improving the undergraduate educational experience, including building opportunities for undergraduate inquiry and research, while also improving retention and graduation rates.

Support for the new Gatton College building, as well as the increase in faculty and research capacity through the institute, will allow substantial growth in engagement with both undergraduate and graduate students.

“The Board and President Capilouto have established an ambitious agenda to enhance undergraduate education as well as to expand our research and scholarship to focus on the most important challenges of the Commonwealth and across the world,” said Bill Britton, chair of the UK Board of Trustees Finance Committee. “Investments like this one by one of Kentucky's leading businesspeople help to focus and grow our efforts to truly make a difference for our students and our communities.”

"We are grateful to partner with a successful Kentucky entrepreneur like John Schnatter to expand our capacity to prepare even more principled business leaders for the Commonwealth and beyond, who are ready to contribute immediately to their organizations, and to compete in a dynamic global market,” said David W. Blackwell, Dean of the Gatton College of Business and Economics. “This support of our new building, combined with the new Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise, will also allow us to produce influential research and support economic growth that has a direct, tangible influence on the lives of Kentucky citizens and people around the world.”