Honoring a Mentor

Bill Starling stands in front of the Kenan-Flagler Business SchoolEveryone needs a Cal Atwood in their life. Bill Starling ’75 certainly did.

When Starling met him, Atwood was in his early 50s. Atwood also happened to be the director of MBA admissions for UNC’s Business School, where Starling was enrolled as an undergraduate.

But Starling really got to know Atwood at The POETS Corner, a former French restaurant near where Granville Towers now stands. Starling bartended to pay for school and Atwood often visited.

Atwood saw potential in Starling, who had shared a desire to get an MBA. With Atwood’s urging, Starling left North Carolina for the first time in his life. Thanks to Atwood, Starling met at The POETS Corner with the director of MBA admissions at the University of Southern California, where he subsequently received an MBA scholarship.

Starling has always been a steadfast supporter of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, and when he thought about new ways to help students, he thought about his own relationship with Atwood, who died at 94 in 2018.

The result is a $10 million gift from Starling and his wife, Dana, to establish and promote even more meaningful and deeper connections between UNC Kenan-Flagler students, faculty, staff and leadership.

“There was nobody more beloved than Cal. Had it not been for him, I never would’ve been anywhere close to being able to give back financially,” said Starling. “It wasn’t that he gave me money. What he did was set me on the path to success.”

In addition to their generous gift to UNC Kenan-Flagler, the Starlings committed $25 million to the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, establishing the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute.

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