An Upstate university got a record-setting donation to its athletics program that will renovate the school’s sports arena, sure to put a major shine on its home-court advantage.
Ravenel B. Curry III, a 1963 graduate of Furman and founder and chief investment officer of Eagle Capital Management in New York, pledged $10 million to Furman University for renovations to Timmons Arena, the school said.
The gift from the businessman and philanthropist is the largest in Furman Athletics history and will be the cornerstone of a $40 million project, officials said.
The project, funded primarily by donations, will make Timmons, the home to the Paladins’ men’s and women’s basketball programs, a premiere venue among mid-major universities in the nation, according to a release from the school.
Curry called it “a wonderful opportunity to invest in our student-athletes and the overall Furman student experience,” and hopes the renovations will improve the school’s competitiveness off the court for talent.
The first phase of renovations began in September 2021 with coaches’ offices, locker rooms and film rooms.
The next phases of the renovations will include the addition of donor suites; improved student seating; enhanced food, beverage and merchandise concession areas; upgrades to the entrance and exterior; and changes to the court and seating area.
Vice President of Athletics Jason Donnelly said more than half of the project’s $40 million price tag has been reached.
The completion date will depend on raising the balance of the rest of the money, Donnelly said.
Donnelly said Furman has partnered with Ken Betsch of Betsch and Associates for architectural design and with Harper General Contractors for construction management.
“This very generous pledge by Ravenel Curry will help us take basketball to the next level,” Furman University President Elizabeth Davis said. She added: “It will greatly enrich experiences for our students and our fans in the Greenville area. When renovations are complete, Timmons Arena will be a college basketball showplace.”
The renovations will immediately help recruit and retain top talent.
Donnelly said the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and coaching staff have been integral to providing creative direction and design for the spaces.
“Their input and expertise have been critical as we have considered recruiting, retention, player development, competitiveness and gender equity for the renovation,” he said.
As teams become more competitive nationally, they can expect more national exposure, which will help raise the profile of Furman in general.
Curry’s gift, and others that will fund the project, also represents Furman Athletics’ shift to being funded by sports revenue and philanthropy, Donnelly said.
Curry, a native of Greenwood, South Carolina, launched Eagle with his late wife, Beth Rivers Curry, in 1988. The company is now a $25 billion investment firm. He and his wife, Jane Moss, continue to support causes through the Beth and Ravenel Curry Foundation. His $10 million gift makes Curry one of the university’s largest living donors and the largest single donor to Furman Athletics.
In 2004, a $1 million gift from their foundation greatly enhanced the Chinese studies program, including study away in China, which remains one of the most popular study-away programs at Furman.
In August, $10 million was donated to the school from Maryland Congressman David Trone, who is a 1977 Furman graduate and also started Total Wine & More.
The school said $8.5 million of Trone’s donation will be dedicated to student mental health services, and $1.5 million will support Furman’s Hillel, the Jewish Student Association.
The gift made by Trone, also a member of the school’s Board of Trustees, added him to the list of the university’s largest living donors.