Alumnus Murry Gerber and his wife Cindy, of Pittsburgh, Pa., have given $6.3 million to the Authentically Augustana: A Call to Action campaign.
A little more than half the gift, $3.3 million, will support Augustana College’s new Center for Student Life; $3 million will go toward the college’s endowment, with a substantial portion set aside for scholarships for geology majors.
“This gift reflects a desire to recognize a special place that has been central to enhancing the lives of so many young people,” said Gerber, a member of the Class of 1975, a current member of the college’s Board of Trustees and campaign co-chair.
Preliminary work on the $20.4 million Center for Student Life has begun, and a groundbreaking event is slated for May. The project is scheduled for completion by August 2013.
The Center for Student Life will be connected to the existing Thomas Tredway Library, combining the library, dining services and student activities in one building. A yearlong study by a campus task force and lengthy deliberation by the college’s Board of Trustees determined that fusing a student center with the library was the best way to address both the changing academic and social needs of today’s students.
“This gift demonstrates our support for the college’s mission, strategy and leadership, particularly as that mission is being manifested in the new student center,” Gerber said. “The new student center is a tangible and bold demonstration of the college’s response to the expansive possibilities of collaborative learning. We believe this unique building will cement Augustana’s leadership position among U.S. colleges as a high-impact learning institution.”
Features of the fused library and new student center include:
- More group study spaces within the library and in related areas in dining and “in between” spaces
- Expanded “in between” spaces for students, faculty and staff to meet
- A central dining area shared by students, faculty and staff
- Improved technology capabilities throughout the building
- Private spaces for reference librarians to mentor, tutor and guide students doing research
Building the Center for Student Life is tied directly to Augustana’s strategic plan, Affirm Our Mission, Assure Our Future and Assess Our Results, by upholding the college’s commitment to a student-centered approach and culture. A dynamic building, anchoring the academic quad and housing multiple key student functions, will enhance the campus, benefit the entire student body, and improve student recruitment and retention.
“With this gift, the Gerbers lead the way for thousands of alumni, parents and friends who generously support the mission of the college,” said Augustana President Steve Bahls. “They invest in Augustana because they have a profound appreciation for what the college has done in their own lives, and they want to continue that transformation in today’s students and the students to come.” Gerber says his own experience at Augustana has shown him that the college is “committed not only to content learning, but also to instilling the ethical guidance so critical for students as they prepare for the workforce or for graduate school.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s in geology in 1975, Gerber received scholarship assistance to attend the University of Illinois where he earned a master’s in geology. “I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do when I got my master’s, but I was fortunate enough to get a job with Shell Oil, and I have been in the energy business ever since.”
Gerber stayed with Houston-based Shell Oil for many years, but in 1998, he became CEO of EQT Corporation in Pittsburgh. He retired as the CEO in 2010 and remained as EQT’s executive chairman until last spring. Gerber is currently on the board of directors of both BlackRock and Halliburton.
“My geology courses prepared me to be a scientist, but Augustana prepared me to be a CEO,” Gerber says. “No one beats Augustana in providing the foundation for the important balance between heart and mind that is required in U.S. business leadership today.”
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