Frank Barefield Jr., president of Abbey Residential and chairman of Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama, has donated $10 million to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
It is the largest single gift to UAB by a graduate in the university’s history, a legacy destined to reduce crime and spur economic growth in Birmingham.
Barefield is committing $5 million to name the UAB J. Frank Barefield Jr. Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Arts and Sciences and $5 million to endow the UAB J. Frank Barefield Jr. Entrepreneurship Program in to name the Collat School of Business.
The gift will designate endowment positions to hire and retain top-flight faculty, including the J. Frank Barefield Jr. Endowed Chair in Criminal Justice and the J. Frank Barefield Jr. Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship.
“I thought it was time to help others: I got my MBA from UAB and I’m very grateful for the benefits this degree has brought me,” Barefield said. “It’s a real sense of accomplishment to get an education and use what you’ve learned to give back to your alma mater. Our economy and our standard of living depend on business – both existing businesses and the creation of new businesses that provide opportunities for everyone to work and enable their families to live better and more rewarding lives. The more people can donate to educational institutions that expand the new business horizon, the better.”
Barefield’s gift will combine multidisciplinary expertise in criminal justice and entrepreneurship to improve the lives of Birmingham residents with the goal of making the city safer for future innovation, entrepreneurship and business growth.
“UAB is deeply grateful for this transformational gift from one of our most accomplished and visionary alumni,” said UAB President Ray Watts. “Frank Barefield is widely respected for his remarkable achievements as an entrepreneur and business leader, and for his strong public safety advocate, so it is fitting that both our Department of Justice and our entrepreneurship program will bear his name. This generous gift will bring tremendous strides in recruiting and retaining top faculty and students, accelerating research and development of new programs, creating additional jobs and start-ups, and fostering a safer and more prosperous Birmingham.”
Barefield received his bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Alabama. He served four years in the Air Force and was honorably discharged as a captain. He began his career in investment banking with two banks in Birmingham, where he earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. While continuing to work in banking, he completed the study requirements and received his MBA from UAB. Barefield worked for Arthur Young & Co. for five years, where he earned the CPA designation and provided auditing and consulting services to clients in the healthcare, retail, manufacturing and real estate sectors.
After working in the multi-family real estate business, Barefield founded in 1984 with his partner Dr. Marnix Heersink, after whom the UAB Heersink School of Medicine is named, the predecessor of Abbey Residential. Over the past 38 years, Barefield and Heersink have grown Abbey Residential to $2.5 billion in wealth.
As a business owner, Barefield sees how crime harms people and the economy. Over the years, he’s had many conversations with former Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber and Hoover Police Commissioner Nick Derzis about the futility of crime in the community and how he could help reduce crime and getting criminals off the streets. Barefield joined the Board of Directors of Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama and has served as Crime Stoppers’ Chairman for the past 10 years. During his tenure, Tips helped law enforcement arrest 1,651 felonies and solve 3,717 felony cases.
Bridging the gap between criminal justice and entrepreneurship
With his gift, Barefield is committed to providing UAB with resources that will improve specific areas of both criminal justice and entrepreneurship.
In terms of criminal justice, his $5 million investment will help the department predict an individual’s risk factors for crime, collaborate with law enforcement on crime prevention strategies, and conduct neighborhood interventions to combat cycles of violence, as well as prepare students for them careers in forensic science.
“There is probably no greater adversary to the business than the numerous crimes perpetuated by individuals in the public eye who seek to take something from those who deserve it — be it someone’s life or property,” Barefield said. “Business only thrives when honest people get the rewards they deserve. Law enforcement is an integral part of growing a business and people need to realize that law enforcement is the responsibility of everyone, not just the police. It’s one of the reasons Crime Stoppers does so much to reduce crime by rewarding anonymous tipsters who just have to ‘make a call and make a difference’.”
For the College of Arts and Sciences, his donation will help the Department of Criminal Justice continue to grow and make a difference in Birmingham and beyond.
“The generous investment that Mr. Barefield has made in the criminal justice system is significant,” said Kecia Thomas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The department is interdisciplinary in nature and reflects research contributions from the social sciences, natural sciences and computer science. However, the core value that drives the department is equity. This amazing gift will give the department the opportunity to expand its reach as it seeks to identify and dismantle the elements and systems that create crime, as well as perfecting techniques and strategies to solve crimes as they occur. I look forward to the graduates of the program who will provide community and justice-focused leadership to our society.”
By continuing to support the ever-expanding Entrepreneurship program at Collat School of Business, Barefield’s gift will help ensure that the program and the city serve as catalysts for continued growth, while providing Birmingham residents with a world-class education and new ventures in Growth sectors initiate job creation.
“This generous gift from one of our very own MBA graduates will allow us to continue to grow a popular entrepreneurship major into a world-class program,” said Eric Jack, Wells Fargo Endowed Chair in Business Administration and Dean of the Collat School of Business. “The impact on our students and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Birmingham will be huge in the years to come. We are grateful for Mr. Barefield’s generosity, vision and loyalty to UAB and the Collat School of Business.”
Barefield has advice for the next generation of students pursuing a career in entrepreneurship:
“I want to encourage anyone who thinks they want to be an entrepreneur to step out and take that risk,” Barefield said. “Take the time to research what you want to do and see if it can be done and give it a try. I would like students to have more access to the characteristics of different professions that will help them decide which business area they are most passionate about and aspire to the most. Learning and listening to diverse entrepreneurs and professionals with a wide range of specialties and backgrounds is also critical to that success.”
This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.