Foundation’s $1 million pledge gives project momentum

  Thursday, September 20, 2018 8:00 AM
  Giving Back, Milestones, News

Pittsburg, KS

Kelce College of Business


The Sunderland Foundation has pledged $1 million to the capital campaign underway to renovate and expand the building that houses the Kelce College of Business (KCOB) at Pittsburg State University, giving the project momentum toward completion. 

The Foundation was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as president of the Ash Grove Cement Company, an Overland Park, Kansas company that dates to 1882. It is now the nation’s fifth largest manufacturer of portland cement, with a network of terminals throughout the Midwest, Texas, and the Western U.S.its Southeast Kansas plant is located in Chanute. 

The Sunderland Foundation has a long history of giving in four primary areas: higher education, health care and hospitals, human services, and arts and culture.  

The KCOB renovation and expansion will cost approximately $18.5 million. It was kickstarted in 2015 with a $3 million pledge from PSU business alumni John and Susan Lowe.  

The Sunderland donation is a major milestone in the project’s progress, according to Kathleen Flannery, president and CEO the PSU Foundation and vice president for University Advancement. The campaign is now more than halfway to the goal. 

“The Sunderland Foundation previously gave $50,000 to the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, and in doing so saw what we are able to accomplish here at Pittsburg State to the benefit of our students and our community,” Flannery said. “They want to invest in our future.” 

Flannery said she’s hopeful that the university can break ground in 2020, which would require all gifts and pledges be in hand by that time. 

KCOB Dean Paul Grimes said the foundation’s contribution to the college will help fund a project that is vital to providing students with business education in a professional environment using state-of-the-art technology and teaching pedagogy.  

“The gift will impact many generations of future business Gorillas,” Grimes said. “It is special because the Sunderland Foundation has roots right here in Southeast Kansas and we greatly appreciate regional business leaders reinvesting in our shared future.” 

The college has outgrown its home of the past four decades. Originally constructed in 1950 to serve as a laboratory high school, the building was converted for the college’s use in the mid-1970s. Today, it is one of the most heavily utilized buildings on campus. 

“We have more than 1,000 business students enrolled each semester,” Grimes said. “These are our future business leaders and business workforce. They’ll be going out into businesses soon and we want them to have been educated in the very best environment possible.” 

Accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) places the KCOB in the top five percent of business schools in the world. The Kelce College’s MBA has received numerous accolades and rankings over the years, including this year’s No. 4 ranking by The Princeton Review as “Most Family Friendly.” 

But a recent space utilization study found that the college needs more spacious and flexible classrooms to accommodate modern teaching pedagogies, seminar rooms for advanced undergraduate and MBA courses — a big draw when it comes to enrollment — team rooms for collaboration and group projects, and offices for graduate assistants, student organization leaders, and visiting executives. 

Holly Kent, director of Development for the College of Business, said the KCOB is grateful for the Sunderland pledge in support of the renovation and expansion project. 

“The generosity of the Sunderland Foundation, in addition to so many of our other alumni and friends, ensures the Kelce College of Business will continue to educate outstanding leaders in the business world for generations to come,” she said. 
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