David Congdon

December 17, 2018

When UNCW approached David Congdon ’78 about establishing a new school within the Cameron School of Business, Congdon said the idea sent “shivers up his spine.”

“I always wanted to do something for UNCW, but I didn’t know what,” said Congdon, executive chairman of the board at Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. “The idea of a school that was right in my bailiwick of supply chain, analytics and information technology, to have my name on a program and my name on a building, is pretty near and dear to me.”

Congdon and his wife, Helen, have made a $10 million gift commitment to the university, the largest in its history. The gift will be used to establish the “David S. Congdon School of Supply Chain, Business Analytics and Information Systems.” The Computer Information Systems Building will be rededicated as David S. Congdon Hall.

“I am hopeful that members of my management team and I can help craft this program into one of the leading supply chain programs in the country,” he said.

Congdon wouldn’t have been able to offer such a generous gift if it weren’t for the support of his wife and Old Dominion Freight Line as well as God’s grace that guides him.

“I didn’t do it by myself. We didn’t achieve the success of Old Dominion by ourselves,” he continued. “It takes the whole team; the whole Dominion family deserves the glory and the credit for this gift.”

Congdon noted that the desire to give back goes back to his parents Earl and Kitty Congdon. “My parents have really ingrained in me, my two sisters and the next generations of the family the importance of philanthropy,” he said. “It’s a family culture.”

Congdon would have never dreamed he would be in the position he is in today. Shortly after graduating from UNCW with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he attended the NC Truck Driver Training School in Raleigh, and over the past 46 years, he has worked in various positions at Old Dominion Freight Line from dockworker, truck driver, mechanic to various executive positions. In 2008, he was named CEO of the company, which was founded by his grandparents in in 1934.

“It has been highly important to my life and career not to be afraid to start at the bottom and work your way up,” he said. “You’ll be respected for it in years to come.”

Today, the company employs 23,000 people nationwide. His success sometimes comes as a surprise. He didn’t apply himself when he was a student at UNCW, Congdon said.

“I think back on the day of graduation. My parents came, and we were sitting there, and my mother said, ‘You think they are going to call your name?’ I said, ‘I checked and my name was on the list,’” he said with a laugh.

“To me, a college degree is a learner’s permit to go out in the world and try to make your mark and build your career around your field of study,” he continued.

He also learned important lessons from his father, Earl Congdon, who has been the entrepreneurial spirit behind Old Dominion Freight Inc.

“He has been a real mentor to me. And if anyone was my hero in life, it would have to be my father,” Congdon added. “I really appreciate the opportunities he gave me.”

Congdon sees the establishment of the school as an opportunity for him to pass on his knowledge to future generations of Seahawks, as well as the start of a new and exciting chapter in his life.

“I would love to have conversations with students, answer their questions, be helpful and share my knowledge and my experiences,” he said. “I am looking forward to it. I think it is going to be fun.”

--Venita Jenkins