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Generous gesture marks largest donation in Carter County history

When Milligan officials announced the establishment of the William B. Greene, Jr. School of Business & Technology Photo by Brandon Hicksand the gift that made it possible, the press release from the school’s public relations department described the amount given by Greene only as “generous.”
The fact that the local businessman’s gift to the school – $5 million – an amount he says is the largest amount ever donated in Carter County and the second largest gift ever given in East Tennessee – wasn’t mentioned.
Greene said details of the contribution weren’t provided during the April 25 announcement because, at the time, he was reluctant to reveal the exact amount. However, he said, he has had a change of heart, deciding that by making that information public, it might encourage others to be benevolent.
“Those who have, have a responsibility to help when they can,” Greene said. “I’m one of the more fortunate people in the world.”
“I love Carter County and the people here,” he added. “Anything I can do to help, I’m going to do. After all, they’re the ones who gave me my chance.”
Greene’s contribution “is just a little higher” than the previous single largest contribution made to Milligan, according to the college’s president Dr. Bill Greer.
“I suspect the largest contributions to have been made in Carter County have been made to Milligan,” he said. “We have such a national scope, so we draw from a large area.”
And friends of the college have been generous, according to Greer.
“Milligan received nearly that much from a Virginia family for residence halls two years ago this summer,” he said. “Prior to that, brothers John and Joe Gregory of King Pharmaceuticals made a significant contribution that made possible the renovation of Derthick Hall, as well as the creation of Mary Sword Commons and the Gregory Center, our theatre.
“We also received a major gift from Richard and Leslie Gilliam, who made both the residence village and the wellness center possible.”
Yet another donor, who remains anonymous, donated a home and 10 acres overlooking Johnson City to be used as the president’s home and a hospitality center for Milligan. The home has hosted about 600 people for events since January, according to Greer.
“I am amazed and overwhelmed at the generosity of our friends,” he said. “It is humbling and I am in awe of that kind of support.
In addition to these large gifts, Greer said he expects Milligan to raise well over $5 million from the 2,500 to 3,000 donors who give every year.
“All of those gifts make the student experience at Milligan possible. As a private college, we don’t receive any state or tax subsidy money. We are driven by gifts, which help us keep tuition low.”
The college attracts students to Carter County from 40 states and 20 countries and this year’s enrollment – over 1,200 students – sets a new record.
Greene is also a product of Milligan College, having completed his graduate work by taking American Institute of Banking courses there, taught by Dr. Eugene Price.
It was during his time at the college that Greene said he realized Milligan “was one of the best kept secrets in East Tennessee.”
For the past 50 years, Greene has called Carter County home. He became the president and CEO of Carter County Bank in Elizabethton at the age of 24, making him the youngest CEO of a financial institution in the United States. In 1974, he co-founded Bank of Tennessee in Kingsport. He is a member of the Tennessee Banking Hall of Fame.
Greene’s gift came in tandem with the reorganization of academic programs at Milligan, something that Greer says will help Milligan be more efficient and “nimble” in response to the changing market.
“This gift endorses that new structure,” Greer said. “It is a major endorsement of our vision for Milligan.”
The contribution will provide resources for that school to continue its mission long into the future, Greer added.
“This is a legacy gift – one that is given by someone who believes in what we do,” Greer said of Greene’s contribution. “It’s a way for him to leave a legacy to Carter County and this region – to a place that he loves. I’m just honored he would want to do that through Milligan. It’s a powerful way for an individual to say ‘I believe in what you do and I want it to continue.’”
Greene said part of his motivation to help Milligan also comes from his desire to help restore the tarnished reputation of American business.
“I want to finance the ability for bright, well-rounded students to know what it means to help Main Street – not Wall Street,” he said. “It’s up to us to pull business out of its nosedive.”
“I’m just like any other guy on the street, trying to do the right thing,” Greene added. “When you put money into education, you are paying to improve that particular spoke in the wheel.”
Greene said he believes the donation will be “a game changing event for Milligan.” Designed to help both undergraduates and graduate students who are pursuing business degrees “ratchet it up a notch,” he said the funding can provide the opportunity to not only learn the mechanics of being successful in business, but to focus on the importance of ethics and morality in the business world.
The contribution is to be used for the full development of the school and to ensure it reaches its full potential, Greene said. That will include the ability to offer highly competitive salaries to staff and faculty for the school, as well as providing for all its strategic and tactical needs.
The funds will also provide for the establishment of a computer information system, as well as a computer science and engineering program – programs currently unavailable at Milligan.
Ten years from now, Greene says he hopes to see the school recognized as one of the premiere business programs in the state and that its MBA program will have a “high reputation.”
“Milligan College – in Carter County – is one of the most financially solid Christian liberal arts colleges in America,” Greene said. “Who wouldn’t be proud of that? And, it’s on our doorstep. It behooves those of us who can, to make it even better.”