Foundation challenges School of Government
As the mortar dried on the School of Government's new brick entrance,
the Knapp Foundation of St. Michaels, Md. issued a $1 million challenge
to help raise remaining funds for the renovation and expansion of
the Joseph Palmer Knapp Building. The foundation will contribute the
money if it is matched dollar for dollar by other new donations in
the two years leading up to June 2003.
The challenge grant echoes a similar measure of 50 years ago, when
the foundation put up $500,000 for the original construction of the
building. The N.C. General Assembly matched that donation, and the
Institute of Government named its new home in honor of the foundation's
"Mr. Knapp believed it was important to educate people who work
in government," said Ruth Capranica, vice president of the foundation
and great-granddaughter of Joseph Palmer Knapp. "We want to see
that perpetuated and the school's facilities updated to make better
use of modern technology."
The new grant will represent the largest private contribution in the
school's history. The Knapp name will remain on the building and be
added to the school's library. The new two-story library will double
the present floor space, add study rooms and expand computer and telecommunications
capabilities. A rare book room will house copies of legislative bills
dating back to 1949.
Representatives of the foundation toured the construction site, including
the library skeleton, last spring. "It was nice to see them able
to incorporate the old structure," Capranica said. "The
architect did a wonderful job."
The Knapp challenge will assist the school in raising funds to complete
the $24 million renovation and expansion of its building. The N.C.
General Assembly and University have allocated nearly $20 million
for construction. The additional $4 million sought from public and
private sources will go toward completing, furnishing and equipping
At the time of the Knapp challenge, $700,000 had been raised in cash
and pledges. This included about $400,000 from county and municipal
governments, whose goal is to raise $900,000 to establish the North
Carolina Local Government Wing of the school. In addition, hundreds
of individuals, businesses, and professional organizations have contributed
to the campaign. Among them are the Association of County Commissioners,
the League of Municipalities, the Association of Registers of Deeds,
the Association of County Clerks to the Boards of County Commissioners,
the Tax Collectors Association, the Association of Assessing Officers
and the Local Government Employees Federal Credit Union.
Construction on the project began in 1998. The expansion phase is
scheduled to be completed in 2002, when the renovation of the existing
building will begin.
When completed, the school's square footage will nearly double, from
65,000 to 126,000. This will enable faculty and staff to grow over
time from the current 100 to 140. More important will be new and improved
teaching facilities. In 2000-2001, more than 13,000 public officials
attended school courses. In the expanded facilities, 21 classrooms
will accommodate more than twice as many people for conferences and
seminars. Classrooms and other spaces will include capabilities for
videoconferences, multimedia presentations, and Internet connections.
Additional computer centers will serve graduate students and local
government clients. Dining and parking facilities also are being expanded.
Joseph Palmer Knapp's association with the Institute of Government
developed through a mixture of serendipity, intellectual curiosity
and benevolence. He was a native New Yorker who had amassed wealth
through a series of publishing ventures, including Collier's magazine
and This Week, the first nationwide Sunday newspaper supplement.
Also an avid sportsman, he traveled to Currituck County in 1916 in
search of good hunting. There he established a hunting lodge that
became a second home where he often entertained business associates
over the next 30 years. During that time, he took local interests
as his own, lending his money and leadership to a number of environmental
projects, helping farm families develop new sources of income and
modernizing local schools. He grew interested in the operations of
local government and, when he heard of the early work the Institute
of Government, he wrote to the founder, Albert Coates, to learn more.
Years later, Coates wrote of Knapp:
"He saw that money wasted in honest inefficiency was as great
a burden to taxpayers as money lost in conscious fraud; saw the need
for systematic training of public officials for the public services
before going into office and thereafter in continued training on the
job. If lawyers needed schooling for advising human beings, and ministers
needed schooling for guiding the human spirit, and doctors needed
schooling for working with the human body, why not schooling for officials
working with the body politic?"
Knapp died before he and Coates could meet, but in 1952, his widow,
Margaret Rutledge Knapp, renewed the family interest at a time the
Institute of Government was struggling to fulfill its mission in cramped
quarters on Franklin Street. The Knapp Foundation issued its $500,000
challenge grant, and in 1956 the Institute moved into the Joseph Palmer
Knapp Building at the corner of South Road and Country Club Road.
The Knapp family never lost touch with Chapel Hill. In recent years,
it donated money for laboratories in UNC's Lineberger Cancer Center
and for the cancer center's Joseph Palmer Knapp Library.
Plans for the school's continued growth also struck a chord. "We
decided as a board we wanted to be involved," Capranica said.
"We wanted to see the continuation of what was established by
Mr. Coates. Mr. and Mrs. Knapp believed in it in the 1950s, and the
descendants still do."
-Garnet Bass '74