Dallas-Fort Worth locals Kent and Diane Fannon have gifted the Business College at the University of Rhode Island $6 million toward the renovation and expansion of Ballentine Hall, the College’s main building, and a student success center. The Fannons acknowledge that they have formalized their gift at a time of economic uncertainty and social anxiety.
“This is certainly an interesting time,” said Kent Fannon, a semi-retired as a partner at executive search firm Chartwell Partners, “but we can’t wait to see how things will look two years from now. If you don’t make the commitment now, you can’t make up for lost time later.”
Fannon and his wife, Diane, first met at WRIU in their sophomore year. Along with his degree from URI, Kent holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. His career has spanned several industries, including airlines and healthcare, where the common thread has been significant structural change and transformation. Diane Fannon recently retired as principal at The Richards Group, where she capped off an award-winning career in brand marketing, rising from a copywriter to creative director to executive vice president across a series of highly regarded firms.
The couple has committed an additional $50,000 for the College of Business Annual Fund for current-use needs. In honor of the gift and upon completion of the renovation, the University will establish the Kent and Diane Fannon Center for Student Success. A key element of the gift is a $500,000 challenge for the Ballentine Hall project. The Fannons will match all new private contributions to the design portion of the renovation up to that amount. The University is in the planning phase of a multi-year project to add new teaching and learning spaces to the existing facility.
“This is a pivotal moment for the College of Business,” Kent said, “This renovation can bring in technological enhancements and make Ballentine an energetic, dynamic place where students congregate to see how the markets work and interact as they would in a business environment. We could not be more pleased to fuel this transformation.”
“This is the time to invest in the future,” Diane added. “We are so optimistic about the future of URI, about the students who are going to become innovators and discoverers, who are going to make a difference out there. This feels like the right time.”
The second aspect of the gift, the Kent and Diane Fannon Center for Student Success, aligns with the College of Business Dean Maling Ebrahimpour’s vision. The center will centrally house the latest technology for job interview training (augmented and virtual reality), host executives-in-residence, and welcome corporate partners who will be on-site working with students for experiential education and career training.
“The center for student success will give a unique opportunity to our students to be market-ready as well as world-ready, by providing all the necessary education and training to win jobs in a very competitive global market,” said Dean Ebrahimpour. “When we can supplement classroom learning with hands-on access to the advanced technology used in the business environment, students graduate career-ready on day one.”
This latest gift builds on years of generosity from the Fannons to URI. In addition to two endowed scholarships, one to assist a marketing major and one for entrepreneurial management, the couple established the Kent and Diane Fannon Endowed Career Fund in the College of Business to help students with career planning and related activities. They are also longstanding contributors to the URI Annual Fund and College of Business Annual Fund and are members of the Oliver Watson Society. Both serve on the College of Business Advisory Council and the University of Rhode Island Foundation & Alumni Engagement Board. Each has received the University of Rhode Island Distinguished Achievement Award.
“Diane and Kent have been deeply committed to URI and the College of Business for many years,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “They have demonstrated remarkable leadership, with a focus on ensuring that our students have what they need to graduate and get the most out of a URI education.”