In 1996, the Batten family of Norfolk, Virginia, and its Landmark Foundation, presented a generous gift to the Darden School, to be used for the establishment of a community of scholars and practitioners who would pursue leading-edge research and develop educational programs in entrepreneurship and innovation. This initial gift, provided by UVA alumnus Frank Batten, Sr., and his children Frank Batten, Jr., (MBA '84), and Dorothy Batten, (MBA '96), led to the formation of the Batten Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
In 2000, after a subsequent gift from Frank Batten, Sr., the former CEO and chairman of Landmark Communications and founder of the Weather Channel, the Batten Center became the Batten Institute. Charged with a mission to become a preeminent institution for thought leadership and educational preeminence, and to help create and disseminate knowledge in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation, the institute set about forging ties with a wide range of organizations and individuals in the national and international business community.
The early years of the Batten Institute were devoted to laying a foundation for the long term and to building momentum through a robust portfolio of programs, research projects and other knowledge-building activities. During these early years, the institute launched the Batten Fellows program, expanded its portfolio of research projects, launched the Darden Incubator, supported the development of numerous case studies and educational materials, hosted several conferences and many guest speakers, published books and a research-based newsletter (the Batten Briefings) and sponsored business plan competitions and other educational offerings for Darden students.
The defining of terms was an essential task early on. "Entrepreneurship," the Institute's major stakeholders decided, would mean not just the act of starting a new business venture, but would be expanded to include the sort of opportunity-seizing and action-oriented behavior that is essential for sustained growth in companies both large and small. "Innovation" would not be just of the sort reflected in new products and services, but would also include new business models and processes, and new ways of thinking about value creation.
As it moves past its start-up days, the Batten Institute continues to find new ways to engage as an intellectual venture capitalist with an ever-expanding community of scholars and business practitioners. The institute is also focusing on how the principles of entrepreneurship and innovation can be applied to some of society's most pressing problems. To that end, the institute has distilled its broader focus on entrepreneurship and innovation into four fields of inquiry: organic growth, emerging markets, sustainability and health care. True to the concepts at the core of its mission, the institute will in the coming years look for new ways to engage the best thinkers, foster the generation of new knowledge and contribute to the creation of business and social value.
Frank Batten Sr. Biography
Frank Batten, Sr. (1927–2009), was the chairman and CEO of Landmark Communications, Inc., a privately held media company based in Norfolk, Virginia, with newspaper, broadcast, telecommunications and Internet marketing holdings. Born in Norfolk, Frank Batten was raised by his uncle Samuel L. Slover, a successful advertising and newspaper entrepreneur. Batten attended the Culver Military Academy and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Before earning his MBA from Harvard in 1952, Batten worked as a reporter and advertising salesman. Batten's journey as an entrepreneur began at the age of 27, when he assumed leadership of his uncle's newspapers. He earned his spurs as publisher of The Virginian–Pilot and The Ledger-Star, where he championed racial equality, a position not often taken in the state of Virginia during the 1950s. In 1960, The Virginian–Pilot received a Pulitzer Prize for articles written in support of desegregation.
Batten expanded his uncle's business by acquiring additional newspapers as well as radio and television stations in Nashville and Las Vegas. Looking for growth opportunities, he bought his first cable franchise in 1964, when cable television was in its infancy. His company, TeleCable Corporation, built cable TV systems in 15 states, and in 1995, it merged with Tele–Communications, Inc. In 1967, Batten was appointed chairman and CEO of Landmark Communications, Inc., a company founded by his uncle. During the 1960s, he continued to add newspapers to his burgeoning media enterprise, acquiring The Greensboro Daily News, The Greensboro Record, The Roanoke Times and World-News. Over the years, Batten started and acquired many dailies, weeklies and community papers across the southern and western parts of the United States. From 1982 to 1987, he was also chairman of the Associated Press, and served on its board of directors for 12 years.
In the early 1980s, Batten began exploring opportunities to develop original programming for the cable industry. As a newspaper publisher, he had learned that many readers bought the newspaper to find out what the weather was going to be, and when a "Good Morning America" forecaster broached an idea about starting a 24-hour cable weather station, Batten jumped at the opportunity. In 1982, he launched the Weather Channel, which expanded internationally. Its companion website, Weather.com, became one of the top 15 sites on the web, receiving more than 36 million hits a month. In 2008, NBC Universal purchased the Weather Channel from Landmark. Frank Batten, Sr., stepped down as Chairman and CEO of Landmark Communications in 1998, when his son, Frank Batten, Jr., became board chairman.
An entrepreneurial thinker dedicated to supporting educational initiatives as well as serving the public good, Frank Batten, Sr., has served on the boards of various colleges in Virginia and the State Council of Higher Education. He gave generously to schools and institutions, including $32 million to the Harvard Business School, and various scholarships such as the Batten Scholarship at the Culver Academies. As one of the University of Virginia's most loyal supporters, Batten gave $60 million to the Darden School of Business, where he served as a trustee of its foundation, to create the Batten Institute, which promotes entrepreneurial leadership in business. In 2007, he made a gift of $100 million to the University, the largest in the University's history, to establish the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.