The bequest from the Charlotte attorney, businessman, and philanthropist, who died in March at the age of 96, includes more than $70 million to Wake Forest, Byrum's alma mater (JD '42), and more than $35 million each to Queens and Wingate. The gifts will fund scholarships at each of the three institutions, where Byrum's lifetime giving totaled more than $235 million, including a 2011 donation of a shopping center in Charlotte.
At Wake Forest, where Byrum's gifts now total more than $120 million, scholarships that bear his name have supported over three hundred and fifty students. Byrum also served as a member of the Law Board of Visitors; was given the Carroll Weathers Award, the law school's highest honor; and received the Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2011, the university named its new admissions building the Porter B. Byrum Welcome Center, and it plans to launch a Byrum Challenge to encourage other donors to create scholarships or contribute to existing endowments.
The largest gift in Queens University's history brings Byrum's total giving to that institution to $63 million. In 2015, the university's South Residence Hall was renamed the Porter B. Byrum Hall in recognition of his gifts. At Wingate University, where Byrum served on the board of trustees and where the School of Business is named in his honor, more than eight hundred scholarships have been awarded since 2012.
"Out of a life of gratitude overflows generosity, and there is no greater example of that than Porter Byrum," said Wake Forest president Nathan O. Hatch. "He never forgot the gift of a Wake Forest education he was offered, and in his gratitude, he made it possible for others to experience what he did. More than anything, Porter loved spotting potential — in an employee, a business deal, a piece of land, or a young person — and providing an opportunity for that potential to grow. His greatest joy was not in the recognition of what he had given, but rather, in watching what those who were given an opportunity would do with it."
(Photo credit: Wake Forest University)