Emeritus faculty member gives $2.5 million, department renamed Turner School of Accountancy

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Professor Emeritus Thomas C. Turner, who helped establish the Department of Accounting at the University, is donating $2.5 million to UNC Charlotte.

The department is being renamed the Turner School of Accountancy in his honor. Turner's gift will provide scholarship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate accounting students within the Belk College of Business who possess high moral character, academic promise and demonstrated financial need. The impact of this gift is immeasurable and fits in line with Turner's passion, which was teaching and mentoring students during his years of leadership, said Steven Ott, dean of the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte.   

From four accounting graduates in the class of 1967 to nearly 5,000 accounting graduates during the past 50 years, Turner helped develop the Accounting Department into a premiere program, one that continues today as part of the Belk College of Business, Ott said.

“Thomas Turner was instrumental in founding a culture in the department. He hired dedicated professors that were especially good at teaching. But he also connected the Accounting Department with industry, creating deep connections with accounting firms. Those two things still permeate the department today and throughout the entire college,” said Ott.

Chancellor Philip L. Dubois said Turner exemplifies service, dedication and commitment.

“The faculty and alumni say he emphasized the individual needs of students, many of whom were returning to school after service in the military, others who worked factory jobs at night to come to school in the morning and single mothers needing to earn a better living,” Dubois said. “Thomas Turner’s gift is a continuation of his legacy at UNC Charlotte.”

Turner was the first chair of the UNC Charlotte Accounting Department. When he arrived at UNC Charlotte in fall 1966, he assembled a team of professors who shared his commitment to teaching excellence and service to students – many of whom are still teaching today and have brought the programs to excellence, said Hughlene Burton, director of the Turner School of Accountancy.

She said, “He set the vision, he led the team through the nascent years of the department, and he taught students who would go on to lead top accounting firms and top companies.”  

Outside of the classroom, Turner served for many years as the chancellor-appointed Faculty Athletic Representative to the NCAA and was a guiding force in the University joining the Sun Belt Conference in 1976. A year later, the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team made the NCAA Final Four.

Turner retired from UNC Charlotte in 1991 but has remained active in the University. In 2014, more than 150 alumni and friends contributed almost $240,000 to create an endowed scholarship to support undergraduate accounting students, provide funds for the Thomas C. Turner Excellence in Teaching Award and support the major renovation of the Department of Accounting conference room named in Turner's honor.

Prior to his faculty career, Turner volunteered for service in the Korean War and earned a Purple Heart for bravery on the battlefield.

Turner’s emphasis on teaching – demonstrated by the fact that five faculty members hired by Turner received the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence – were major factors in developing the reputation of the school. Turner received the Bank of America Award in 1972. The Thomas C. Turner Distinguished Teaching Award, given each year in the school since 1994, bears his name.

During the past 50 years, the Turner School of Accountancy has earned many accolades. Alumni of the school are partners in all of the major accounting firms in the region, leading law firms and in many other CPA firms. The school receives broad philanthropic support from all of the major accounting firms and Fortune 500 companies. Accounting firms and large companies in this region recruit interns and graduates from the school. Faculty members have won numerous university, state and national awards, and they work closely with local firms to provide extensive professional development. Faculty members are recognized as national experts in taxation and accounting regulations.

Turner’s gift is included in EXPONENTIAL: The Campaign for UNC Charlotte, announced in September 2016. EXPONENTIAL: The Campaign for UNC Charlotte is the largest campaign in UNC Charlotte’s history and will change the future of the University. The theme “EXPONENTIAL” reinforces the accelerating force that UNC Charlotte has on the lives of its students, on its educational and economic partners and on the region and beyond.  Over recent decades, UNC Charlotte has rapidly expanded enrollments, faculty and programs, while remaining true to Bonnie Cone’s vision — that UNC Charlotte will be a place of access and opportunity for every deserving student.

The Belk College of Business and the Turner School of Accountancy have launched a fundraising campaign to match Thomas Turner’s gift of $2.5 million for the school. For more information about making a gift to the Turner School of Accountancy, contact Doug Mauney at mmaune14@uncc.edu or Portia Brown at portia.brown@uncc.edu.

Photo: Gene Johnson and Thomas Turner review a photo of the University’s original accounting faculty members.