Fayetteville, N.C. (February 8, 2023) — Fayetteville State University (FSU) recently received a transformative gift to create an institute of ethics and leadership in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS).
William J. Gillis, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, committed $750,000 to CHSS in December 2022 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. “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.”
“We are immensely grateful for the vision and leadership of William Gillis. His father, Zan Gillis, and fellow Bronco William Jones set an example of how we all should treat one another regardless of the circumstances,” said FSU Chancellor Darrell T. Allison, J.D. “It is upon these very basic but all-important qualities — kindness and morality — that we will build in establishing the Gillis-Jones Institute here at FSU. These are high principles for life and work, and they will be cemented into our core curriculum for our University as we teach future generations.”
Gillis’s gift will create the Gillis-Jones Institute of Ethics and Leadership and support learning activities including:
• University-developed ethics and leadership courses that will be integrated into the core curriculum.
• An annual speaker series featuring prominent military, social/community, health, business and political leaders who will address the importance of ethical behavior and leadership qualities.
• An annual ethics and leadership conference convened to explore ethical and leadership best practices.
“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. “Through specialized academic course offerings, a guest speaker series and an annual symposium including the nation's best military, healthcare, business and policy leaders, our students will learn best practices as well as study why ethical behavior and servant leadership are vital to our nation and democracy at this crucial time in American history.”