Dennis and Joan Gillings commit $50 million

February 21, 2007
Largest single pledge in UNC history to accelerate innovation at School of Public Health

 
Photograph of Joan and Dennis Gillings

Photograph of Joan and Dennis Gillings

Dr. Dennis Gillings and his wife, Joan Gillings, have committed $50 million to the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Chancellor James Moeser announced today (Feb. 21). Gillings, chairman and chief executive officer of Quintiles Transnational Corp., is a former UNC biostatistics professor and a current member of the school’s Advisory Council.

Moeser also announced that the pledge — the largest single commitment the university has ever received — puts UNC over its $2 billion goal for the Carolina First Campaign. The drive, which will end Dec. 31, 2007, supports UNC’s vision of becoming the nation’s leading public university.

“This history-making commitment exemplifies what we aim to achieve with Carolina First,” Moeser said. “It will greatly extend the university’s ability to innovate public health solutions across North Carolina and around the world. UNC is committed to global education, and our School of Public Health is one of the best in the world,” Moeser said.

Photograph of Dean Barbara K. Rimer

Photograph of Dean Barbara K. Rimer

In recognition of the $50 million the School of Public Health will be renamed the “Dennis and Joan Gillings School of Global Public Health.”

“The Gillings gift will be transformative,” said School of Public Health Dean Barbara K. Rimer. “We at the school and the Gillingses share a commitment to solve public health problems in North Carolina and around the world. And we want these solutions to come faster and be more sustainable.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the gift, Rimer said, will be creation of competitively selected Innovation Laboratories. Faculty may be from the School of Public Health but also from other schools at UNC and from the private sector as well. The laboratories also will provide support for selected students as they conduct research.

Photograph of Gillings reception crowd

Photograph of Gillings reception crowd

“Innovation Laboratories will focus concentrated efforts on solving big public health problems whose solutions can make a difference in the public’s health,” Rimer said. “For example, if we could devise better ways to deliver safe, accessible water to a large proportion of the billion or so people who lack safe water, it could make an immense impact not only on public health but on the global economy.”

“If we can refine methodologies that accelerate the speed with which clinical trials can be conducted and effective drugs approved, we can contribute to speeding pharmaceutical and other innovations to patients. These are the kinds of problems the Innovation Laboratories will address. This school always has solved problems, but now, we will be able to do this on a much larger scale, here in North Carolina and around the world.”

Photograph of Dennis and Joan Gillings

Photograph of Dennis and Joan Gillings

Dennis Gillings, a Commander of the British Empire, was a professor in the UNC School of Public Health’s biostatistics department from 1971 to 1988. While at the school, he and others applied the latest methodologies to analyze clinical trial data for pharmaceutical companies and others. He incorporated Quintiles in 1982. Quintiles Transnational, based in Research Triangle Park, is now the world’s leading pharmaceutical services company, with annual revenues of $2 billion.

“Our pledge to the School of Public Health reflects our admiration for the School and its accomplishments, and our desire to give it the resources needed to develop and deliver health innovations faster to the people of North Carolina and the world,” Dr. Gillings said. “Joan and I, having personally been involved with the school for more than 30 years, are delighted to make this gift. With it, we believe the School of Public Health can lead the way in 21st century public health advances.”

The Gillingses have donated generously to the School of Public Health in the past. Their support includes a $3 million gift to the UNC Department of Biostatistics. That gift, further supplemented by the state’s Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund, endowed the Dennis Gillings Professorship in Biostatistics, now held by Dr. Danyu Lin.

Born in London, Gillings received a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from the University of Exeter in 1966, a Diploma in Mathematical Statistics from Cambridge University in 1967 and a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Exeter, England, in 1972, after which he joined the UNC faculty. By 1981, Gillings had become a full professor in the UNC School of Public Health and was named director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Biometric Consulting Laboratory. He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University in May 2001.

Joan Gillings has had careers in public health, including at the Carolina School of Public Health, and commercial real estate. She sits on several boards of universities both here in the US and abroad, including the Vice Chair of the Board of Visitors of UNC – Wilmington. She also is recognized for her leadership in a number of volunteer organizations.

 
 

UNC School of Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, (919) 966-7467 or ramona_dubose@unc.edu.

UNC News Services contact: Becky Oskin, (919) 962-8596 or becky_oskin@unc.edu.

For additional news coverage about the Gillings gift, visit “The Gillings Gift in the news.”