Small town dream, big global impact

Duke Buchan

Carolina students taking Spanish can thank Duke Buchan III ’85 and his early obsession with the World Book Encyclopedia for innovative learning experiences that make the language more relevant than ever.

Buchan is the highly successful founder and CEO of Hunter Global Investors L.P.,
a money management firm based in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he lives with his
 wife Hannah and their three young children. He has served on the Arts and Sciences Foundation Board of Directors since 2008 and was recently named to the University’s Campaign Planning Cabinet.

In 2011, he established The Buchan Excellence Fund in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. The fund is the largest single endowment at Carolina dedicated to support faculty, graduate students and undergraduates working in Spanish languages, literature and culture.

“We are confident that our support will help take UNC students, professors and the institution itself to a higher level,” Buchan said. “Our family is honored to give something back to the University that has given us so much.”

As a child in rural Vance County, N.C., Buchan devoured the photos and words in
his World Book Encyclopedia, fascinated with places beyond the tobacco fields near his home. That quest for knowledge, coupled with dinner table discussions centered around Carolina basketball greats Charlie Scott or Billy Cunningham, set Buchan’s academic path in motion.

Buchan Fund fosters Spanish fluency among UNC students and cultural exchange among those even younger

Bill Maisch, senior lecturer of Spanish in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, used a grant from the Buchan Excellence Fund in his Spring 2012 class, Spanish 255.

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“Growing up in a small town less than 60 miles from Chapel Hill, Carolina was all I knew,” Buchan said. “Most importantly, our family knew that UNC offered one of the best college educations in the country at an unbeatable cost.”

After his high school Spanish teachers, both Cuban natives, encouraged him to spend a summer in Valencia, Spain, Buchan was “hooked on seeing the world.”

At Carolina he continued his Spanish studies and added economics as a second major because of his interest in business and entrepreneurship. He enrolled in the University’s year abroad program in Seville, Spain, for what he describes as the most transformative year of his life.

“The study of the Spanish language, literature and cultures provided me a passport to a world outside the U.S. and instilled in me a global perspective,” Buchan said. “My first job out of Carolina was in Miami where I used Spanish on a daily basis.”

Buchan, a serial entrepreneur who earned his M.B.A. at Harvard Business School in 1991, saw the need to change and adapt as he watched his home state’s traditional industries — tobacco, textiles and furniture — decline over time.


“The study of the Spanish language, literature and cultures provided me a passport to a world outside the U.S. and instilled in me a global perspective.”


In its first year, The Buchan Fund directly addressed the growing influence of Spanish language and culture and the change it is bringing to communities and the world.

Professor Darcy Lear oversees the minor in Spanish for the Professions, a program that has jumped in enrollment from 280 students in 2004 to more than 700 in 2012. Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, and continues to grow in popularity.

“Experiences outside the classroom are vital to student training, and we accomplish this through community service- learning,” said Lear. The Buchan Fund has made possible a partnership with an area organization that focuses on local Latino micro-entrepreneurs.

“In the fall of 2011, 24 students prepared marketing programs for Acción Emprendedora USA and documented local entrepreneurs’ stories on its website (www. From this experience, students are practicing their language and interpersonal skills while learning about the reality of many low-income Hispanic entrepreneurs who live and work in the same community as they do,” she added.

During the spring of 2012, the Buchan Fund supported graduate teaching fellow Britt Newman, project director for “21st Century Pen Pals.” The program facilitated Internet video communication between three bilingual elementary school classes in Chapel Hill and three classes in Seville, Spain.

Newman worked with six undergraduates who helped the school children plan and prepare short bilingual videos in which they introduced each other
to their favorite toys, likes and dislikes, their schools, families, cultures and daily lives. More schools will be added this academic year.

“We hope that our gift to the department will inspire more students to study the Spanish language and culture,” Buchan said. “Those students will, in turn, use that knowledge to make an impact in their communities.”

By Del Helton

Editor’s note: This piece first appeared in the fall 2012 issue of College Arts & Sciences magazine.