Nancy and Doug Abbey
New gift endows speaker series promoting constructive public discourse
$8 million gift to fund Abbey Speaker Series in the UNC Program for Public Discourse.
A major gift from Nancy ’74, and Doug Abbey will foster meaningful public discourse about the most pressing issues of the day. Their $8 million investment established the Abbey Speaker Series in the Program for Public Discourse in the College of Arts & Sciences.
The first two Abbey Speaker Series events were virtual panel discussions, open to the public, on “Defining Racial Justice in the 21st Century: Competing Perspectives and Shared Goals,” and “The Future of Conservatism.”
Four times each year, the Abbey Speaker Series will bring noteworthy scholars to campus to share their perspectives about timely issues while fostering dialogue with others who think differently about the topic.
“We embrace the notion that one comes to a more sophisticated, thoughtful, reasoned and successful resolution to a complex issue if there is more diversity of thought brought to bear on the issue,” Nancy said. “Imagine if every student experienced a welcoming atmosphere in which to express their educated opinion on a subject, where dialogue, debate and listening are valued.”
“This gift from the Abbeys recognizes a deep commitment to supporting a healthy culture of discourse and reasoning inside and outside the classroom,” said Terry Rhodes, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “We are deeply grateful to the Abbeys for the resounding vote of confidence in the Program for Public Discourse and its commitment to establishing the speaker series as a permanent fixture on campus.”
In addition to the speaker series, the Program for Public Discourse offers curricular and other extracurricular opportunities for students to practice and investigate public discourse in a cooperative, experiential learning environment. The program also offers faculty consultations and classroom workshops to instruct faculty on how to teach these deliberative skills, encourage civic engagement and use structured advocacy, rhetoric and dialogue in the classroom.
The Abbeys’ gift creates another opportunity for the University to fortify its commitment to promoting democracy, which is one of eight strategic initiatives in the University’s strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. The Program for Public Discourse is one of the College’s major strategic priorities, and the program’s work is one of the University’s means for accomplishing the worthwhile objective of working constructively across differences in society, starting with promoting respect and listening.
“Doug and I believe in public education, and that there is no better place than Carolina to model this behavior and develop a Program for Public Discourse that has the potential to impact global decision- making for the better,” added Nancy.
About the Abbeys
Nancy, a member of the Chancellor’s Philanthropic Council and the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council, and Doug Abbey, a former Parent’s Advisory Board member, are longtime champions of Carolina. Prior to their most recent gift, they have provided support for faculty, vital unrestricted and emergency support for students, innovative teaching and student support services.
After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, Nancy earned an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. She serves on the Board of the Nantucket Historic Association and on the Advisory Board of Nest, a nonprofit organization building a new handworker economy to increase global workforce inclusivity. She also served as a board member at the Grabhorn Institute, an organization committed to preserving and perpetuating the use of the last integrated type foundry, bookbinding and letterpress printing facility in the United States.
Doug holds a B.A. from Amherst College and a master’s in city planning from UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. He co-founded AMB Property Corporation (merged with Prologis: NYSE) in 1983, now the largest global industrial REIT, and IHP Capital Partners, formed in 1992, a provider of equity to the single-family homebuilding industry. He is a leader in a number of nonprofit organizations related to affordable housing and land use issues.
The Abbeys have three children, Robert, Katherine and Graham ’15.