Eric Sklut’s love for Carolina began at an early age, when he told his parents after a trip to Chapel Hill at age 13 that UNC was where he was going to college. Five years later, during the summer before his first year, Sklut got another taste of the Carolina legacy when he witnessed the 1976 gold medal-winning Olympic basketball team on campus with Coach Dean Smith.
His love for Carolina has continued through the years, as a proud 1980 alumnus and father of two UNC graduates, and through his family’s involvement with the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies.
A passion for advertising and entrepreneurship
After starting out as a chemistry major at UNC, Sklut switched to business administration, which sparked a passion for advertising and entrepreneurship. Outside of the classroom, he was involved with Zeta Beta Tau, founded nationally as the first Jewish fraternity, serving as social chair and hosting popular bands on campus.
Following graduation, Sklut started his career in advertising. He quickly transitioned to the executive search industry where he enjoyed 20 years of success before ultimately pursuing his passion in the automotive industry. Using what he learned from UNC and his extensive professional experience, he created a seemingly simple but nonetheless useful product—BumperPlugs. This endeavor led him to his current position at Perfection Automotive, a company he started that produces painted plastics and trims for high-line automotive makes such as Porsche, Ferrari and Mercedes.
The Center celebrates its 15-year anniversary
Nearly 20 years ago, while living in Charlotte and actively participating in the Jewish community, Sklut was approached by Hal Levinson and Jonathan Hess, both leaders in the field of Jewish studies at Carolina, about the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies. With the Center still in its infancy, they hoped to elicit Sklut’s expertise and philanthropic network for the newly created advisory board.
“It was a natural path for me as the Center was embarking on something amazing,” Sklut said. “They asked me to join the board, and I have never looked back.”
Sklut joined the Center’s advisory board in 2004, later becoming vice chair under Levinson before agreeing to serve as chair in 2016.
A major focus for the board is a $9.35 million goal in the Campaign for Carolina, which aligns with the Center’s 15-year anniversary in 2018. The Center has already raised $4.1 million toward the ambitious effort, with Sklut as an instrumental leader in helping to create momentum around this important endeavor.
“The Center has been on a really strong trajectory for the last 15 years, and we feel confident that we have the right vision in place for what the Center does as well as the programs and opportunities it can offer,” Sklut said.
A bold and strategic commitment
To kickstart this effort, Sklut and his wife, Lori, committed $500,000 through the Levine-Sklut Family Foundation to establish three new funds.
Using knowledge from years of experience on the board, the Skluts identified three priorities for their generous commitment to help propel the Center forward as a globally recognized leader of Jewish thought.
The Graduate Student Support Fund will allow the Center to attract highly promising graduate students with grant funding, enriching the quality of undergraduate instruction and the College’s ability to recruit superlative faculty.
The Undergraduate Experiential Learning Fund will provide eager students with opportunities to venture outside of the classroom through study abroad, academic internships and faculty-mentored research.
Finally, students will play an active role in the Center’s growth while gaining valuable internship experience through the Student Interns Support Fund.
The Sklut family was already invested in the Center through the Levine-Sklut Distinguished Professorship, which they established in 2007 with Lori’s parents, Leon and Sandra Levine. The professorship supports a distinguished teacher-scholar specializing in Jewish studies.
Sklut was inspired by the Levine-Sklut Family Foundation’s mission to support education as well as charitable causes in the Jewish community. He hopes to inspire others on the board and those involved with the Center to consider what they can do to give back.
“Seeing participation from the board and our alumni is rewarding and really shows how committed these groups are. We all want to push boundaries and get creative, bringing new ideas and visions to the Center and our discussions for the future,” he said.
A strong trajectory
The future for the Center and the field of Jewish studies at Carolina is bright, thanks to a dedicated board, involved faculty and staff, and loyal donors, like the Sklut family, supporting efforts that will lay the foundation for the next 15 years and beyond.
As for current students exploring Carolina and the Center, Sklut said, “You’ve got to experience things outside the norm, and that means you’ve got to step up to raise your hand and challenge yourself.”
Sklut has done just that throughout his professional and philanthropic endeavors.
By Erin Kelley ’13