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FSU to create institute of ethics and leadership

By Stephanie Meador, posted 1 month ago
Photo courtesy of FSU

Fayetteville State University recently received a transformative gift to create an institute of ethics and leadership in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

William J. Gillis, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, committed $750,000 to CHSS this past December to honor a “simple act of kindness in troubled times” exchanged in 1945 between his father, Duncan Alexander “Zan” Gillis, and William Jones, a former FSU business manager.

On October 17, 1945, Zan Gillis and William Jones were conducting business at Branch Banking and Trust Company in Fayetteville when Gillis returned to his car to find a money box on the running board that Jones had inadvertently misplaced. Gillis immediately returned the money box to the bank, declining the reward that was offered. Jones wrote a simple yet profound thank you letter to Gillis, which survives them both.

“For some years I have wanted to pay a token of honor, respect and gratitude to the memory and life of my parents,” Will Gillis said in a press release. “I remembered a letter [sent] to my father from Mr. William Jones, the business manager of Fayetteville State Teachers’ College [FSU predecessor] at the time, thanking him for a simple act of kindness he had shown him, and it stuck with me. I have always held FSU in very high regard both for its past achievements and potential for a great future. Through the Gillis-Jones Institute, I hope to help nurture and encourage that same kind of humanity, honesty and civility that my father and Mr. Jones exchanged more than 75 years ago.”

“Fayetteville State University is honored by this touching and generous gift from Mr. Will Gillis establishing the Gillis-Jones Institute of Ethics and Leadership in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and paying tribute to his late father, Duncan Alexander ‘Zan’ Gillis, and William Jones, for whom our very own FSU student center is named,” shared FSU Chancellor Darrell T. Allison. “This institute will honor the legacies of both men in perpetuity and exemplify their commitment to making a positive impact on our community. Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Moreover, ethics is not a selective principle but a way of life. Cementing these two core principles within our overall academic core curriculum at Fayetteville State University will indeed make a positive impact for generations to come. This gift is a discrete example of how a simple act of kindness can have a lasting effect, and we are grateful for the Gillis family’s generous and heartfelt investment in the future of FSU.”

Gillis’s gift will create the Gillis-Jones Institute of Ethics and Leadership and support learning activities including:

  • University-developed ethics and leadership courses
  • An annual speaker series featuring prominent military, social/community, health, business and political leaders
  • An annual ethics and leadership conference

“The Gillis-Jones Institute for Ethics and Leadership will make a significant contribution to Fayetteville State University's ability to prepare our students for ethical leadership and service that will make a difference in the lives of others,” said Marcus S. Cox, M.B.A., Ph.D., professor of history and dean of FSU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, in a press release.

Provost, Dr. Monica Leach, has asked Dr. Marcus Cox to serve as the founding director of the Gillis-Jones Institute. Cox confirmed that they also plan to hire a Program Manager to manage the daily operation of the Institute as we begin planning events, and he and Provost Leach will make an assessment of the ethics and leadership courses that are already being taught by FSU faculty in the coming weeks, then they will be able to determine if there is a need to hire additional professors.

“We hope to host our first event of the Gillis-Jones Institute for Ethics and Leadership during the Fall 2023 semester. Details are forthcoming,” remarked Cox.


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