News and analysis
February 06, 2012

No. 14: Porter B. Byrum

Wake Forest University

Porter B. Byrum

Amount donated in 2011: $81.8-million

Biggest beneficiary: Wake Forest University

Other key beneficiaries: Queens University of Charlotte and Wingate University

Donor’s background: Mr. Byrum is a lawyer and businessman in Charlotte, N.C.

Mr. Byrum, 91, gave approximately $40-million to Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, N.C., for scholarships and other university programs. He earned a law degree from the university in 1942, and his father and three of his brothers also attended Wake Forest.

Mr. Byrum also gave $20.9-million apiece to Queens University of Charlotte and to Wingate University, both in North Carolina. Officials at Queens University said the money will go toward endowment (raising the institution’s endowment to roughly $75-million), financial aid, and other programs. Wingate officials said they are using the money to endow scholarships and support university projects.

All three of the donations came from the $84-million sale of a Charlotte shopping center. Mr. Byrum had owned since 1967. He donated the property last year to the three universities so the institutions could sell the shopping center and use the proceeds. (Mr. Byrum originally planned to leave the shopping center to the three universities when he died but decided he wanted to see the universities prosper from his donation.)

He did not place any conditions on how the money should be used but told officials at all three universities that he wanted at least some of it to go toward financial aid.

“He’s very concerned about kids with financial restrictions,” said Jerry E. McGee, Wingate’s president. “He wants to make sure they don’t get discouraged or lose hope.”

Mr. Byrum has served on Wingate’s Board of Trustees for the last three years and has known Mr. McGee since 2002, when the businessman called and invited the university president to lunch. The reason? Mr. Byrum had heard good things about Wingate from a friend and decided he wanted to learn more about the university and its students.

He got to know officials and students at Queens University through proximity: The campus is near the shopping center and administrators, professors, and students have frequented the retail center’s shops and eateries for decades.

—Maria Di Mento

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2011