Steven Ott, whose leadership helped transform UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business into a leading research business school, passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at age 65.
Ott’s tenure as dean, from 2011-19, was a time of growing student enrollment, expansion of academic programs and research, and growing engagement with alumni and corporate partners.
"It is difficult to measure the true breadth of Steve Ott’s impact on UNC Charlotte," said Joan F. Lorden, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. "In addition to Steve’s visionary contributions to the development of signature University programs that have expanded to become regional and statewide discipline leaders, he leaves a remarkable legacy for the students of Belk College. He will be missed as a leader, colleague and friend."
Childress Klein Center for Real Estate Founder
Ott joined the Belk College faculty in 1999 as the Crosland Distinguished Professor of Real Estate. He founded what would become the Childress Klein Center for Real Estate in 2005.
Under his leadership, he secured more than $10 million from real estate supporters to fund scholarships, research and programs for the center. This included the largest single gift in the center’s history, $2.5 million from Childress Klein to name the center in 2015.
The center has ranked as one of the 20 most active research institutions in real estate in the country.
"It was through Steve’s leadership and tireless efforts that a fledgling real estate program was turned into the great success that it is today," said Fred Klein, senior managing partner and founder of Childress Klein and a member of the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees. "Steve’s good work has and will continue to benefit countless students and the real estate industry in our region for years to come."
Ott was appointed the college’s sixth dean in January 2011.
Under his leadership, total enrollment at the college increased by 29%. The college also introduced a portfolio of new graduate programs, including the Master of Science in Real Estate and the first AACSB accredited Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) in the Carolinas.
Highly credentialed and qualified, Ott also was an excellent relationship-building leader, said Jennifer Troyer, who succeeded Ott as dean in 2020.
“For Steve, it was always about everyone else. He pushed the college forward by serving the college,” Troyer said. “He was always interested in what was best for others. Steve made difficult decisions carefully and thoughtfully, always trying to do what was best for our students, staff and faculty.”
During his tenure as dean, the college received seven gifts of $1 million or more, expanding scholarships, faculty research, teaching support and resources for students.
In 2016, Professor Emeritus Thomas C. Turner, who helped establish the Department of Accounting, donated $2.5 million to UNC Charlotte. The department becames the Turner School of Accountancy in his honor.
In 2018, the college expanded support for undergraduate students through a $2.5 million gift from alumnus Robert Niblock ‘84, which established the Niblock Student Center.
Ott also was instrumental in the founding of UNC Charlotte’s interdisciplinary School of Data Science, helping to secure the college’s largest gift, a $5 million donation from the Belk family in 2013, to launch the Belk Scholars Program and to support faculty research and teaching.
During his tenure, the college expanded its outreach to alumni and the business community by establishing the Alumni Council and through a revamp of the Board of Advisors that created a series of working subcommittees. He also worked to increase networking opportunities for students by creating the Women in Business Initiative and the CEO Speaker Series.
Troyer said one thing she will remember most about Ott is his sense of humor and his great laugh.
A native of Wisconsin, Ott received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is survived by his wife, Connie, and daughters Ella and Ramie. You can share your messages to the Ott family and memories through the family's memorial page.
The college is planning an on-campus event to honor Dean Ott when it is safe to do so.
If you are so moved, the Ott family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his memory to the Steven Ott Scholarship Fund at UNC Charlotte.
Green and Gold Drive Business
The Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte has been driving business for more than 50 years. Established in 1970, the college offers outstanding business education programs at the undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and executive levels. The Belk College is one of the Carolinas’ largest business schools, with more than 4,600 students, over 100 full-time faculty, and more than 33,000 alumni. Accredited by AACSB International, the college is committed to building strong partnerships in the greater Charlotte region and beyond as North Carolina's urban research business school. Learn more about how the Belk College is driving business at belkcollege.charlotte.edu, and on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.