UVA Darden Honors Batten Family on 30th Anniversary of Transformative Gift, Unveils Vision for New Global Innovation Nexus
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business hosted a celebration on the 30th anniversary of Frank Batten Sr.’s transformative gift that created the Batten Center, now known as the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology, and looked ahead to additional transformation on Darden Grounds in the near future.
In 1991, Frank Batten Sr., on behalf of the Batten Foundation, committed $2.5 million in a matching pledge to establish a center (formed in 1993) for entrepreneurial leadership at the Darden School. In 1999, he made a gift of $60 million that transformed the Batten Center into the Batten Institute as we know it today, which seeks to challenge every Darden student to fulfill their entrepreneurial potential through transformational learning experiences and groundbreaking research and to spur innovation and technology at Darden. At the time, it was the largest gift to the Darden School, the largest gift to the University of Virginia and the largest gift to any business school in the world.
Darden Dean Scott Beardsley opened the event by welcoming Jane and Dorothy Batten (MBA ’90), Frank Batten Sr.’s wife and daughter, respectively, to the celebration and acknowledging Frank Batten Jr. (MBA ’84), though he was unable to join the event. “Jane, Dorothy and Frank Jr. have done much to honor and further Frank Sr.’s legacy and to create their own impact on the University of Virginia and the Darden School,” he said. Beardsley also praised the faculty who built the Batten Institute’s reputation.
For 30 years, the Batten Institute has been instrumental in shaping the Darden School and the University of Virginia through its work in innovation, venture capital, technology and leadership, and by playing a significant role in bolstering Darden’s capabilities in these areas. The Batten family has been key to Darden’s success in countless areas, including attracting outstanding students via the Batten Scholars and Batten Media Fellows programs; securing and retaining the best faculty; supporting budding entrepreneurs through initiatives like the i.Lab Incubator; supporting thought leadership; providing opportunities for every Darden MBA student to have a global learning experience via the Batten Foundation Darden Worldwide Scholarship program; collaborating with other UVA schools; and distinguishing Darden among its peers in a multitude of areas.
“On behalf of the Darden community, I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to you, Jane and Dorothy, Frank Jr. and the entire Batten family for your unwavering support and dedication. The legacy of Frank Sr. lives on, and we are so grateful to you and your family’s continued legacy, which inspires us every day,” Beardsley said.
At the end, attendees could hear Frank Batten Sr.’s striking and prescient vision and voice in a video recording of him speaking in 1999, when he gave the gift that established the Batten Institute.
Darden Professor and former Executive Director of the Batten Institute Jeanne Liedtka stepped up to the podium next to speak on the Batten legacy at Darden. She described the initiation of the growth leader project, which focused on studying leaders in mature organizations who do an extraordinary job leading innovation. This led to the publication of The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader.
She spoke of Darden’s ambitious plans to not only cultivate the best students but also make a signification impact on scholarship and the world of practicing managers. “It’s really the Batten Institute that is the core of those contributions that we make.”
The current Executive Director of the Batten Institute, Omar Garriott, followed Liedtka to comment on the future of the Batten Institute. “I’m honored to be in this room, which represents mere ripples of the tidal wave of the Batten gifts,” he said.
Garriott expressed gratitude to the community that has shaped the Batten Institute. “I stand on the shoulders of these titans, and I can never be what they were. I can only hope to be a good steward with a proactive — at times provocative — vision that best positions Batten and Darden in the new economy.”
He outlined three focus areas moving forward: Advancing breakthrough ideas, promoting innovation in and outside of the classroom and transforming ideas into value, all falling under a community-first philosophy.
First Year Darden student, Batten Scholar and founder of zero-waste apparel manufacturing startup Petrichor Curie Chang (Class of 2024) spoke about her experience with the Batten Institute. When she first explored coming to Darden and speaking to alumni, she asked herself, “What kind of school leaves such happy and, frankly, satisfied alumni?” After speaking with Batten Institute staff members, she said, “It was one of the first times I felt that I could be successful in my pursuit of my own definition of success.”
Beardsley concluded the celebration by announcing the upcoming Batten Global Innovation Nexus, which will place the Batten Institute at the heart of Darden academic buildings in Charlottesville and create vibrant entrepreneurial and technology-forward spaces available to the entire Darden and University of Virginia community.
The central corridor of Darden is envisioned to be enlarged and reimagined in the Darden master plan developed by Robert A.M. Stern, the architectural firm that designed the original buildings on Darden Grounds. The central spaces, extending from the PepsiCo Forum on two levels, will connect with the Classroom Building and the Abbott Center, and serve as the central nexus for student success, academic innovation, entrepreneurship and technology at Darden.
The new spaces will connect areas of Darden and provide students with easy access to student-centered services, Darden Media, the recently relocated iLab, and spaces for collaboration, learning and dining. The collection of updated spaces over three floors comprising the “Batten Global Innovation Nexus” will physically and intellectually bring the School and the Batten Institute’s mission together and make all of the Darden Grounds more accessible.
“In these spaces,” said Beardsley, “The pioneering spirit of Frank Batten Sr. will live on.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia