College of business receives donation for new facility

The Marshall University Lewis College of Business is one of the 187 dual accredited business schools in the world, and with a $25 million donation for a new facility, it will take the school to the next level.

“We are exceptionally grateful for this gift,” Avinandan Mukherjee, dean of the Lewis College of Business, said. “This is a game changer for the school.”

Brad D. Smith, who has donated to Marshall in the past, contributed the $25 million donation.

“You have to have a passion to begin with,” Marshall President Jerry Gilbert said. “Brad has had this commitment to West Virginia and Marshall since he left. He never lost that tie to this university.”

Smith is a graduate of Marshall.

“He has felt a strong allegiance and gratitude to Marshall for helping him get started,” Gilbert said. “He has been a very generous donor to Marshall even prior to this. We have a development office, the MU Foundation, and its job is to communicate with alumni and supporters and express to them the things that Marshall University is looking to fund over the future of the university. This office will match donor interest with the needs on campus.”

In the spring of 2017, Smith organized the Design for Delight, a business competition for the College of Business through his concept that inspired the idea for the iCenter. The iCenter is the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation. This innovation center will invite the design thinking as a methodology, provide courses for students and also programs for the community. The iCenter will be in the new College of Business curriculum along with a business incubator. Mukherjee said there would be a statewide business model competition event that Marshall will sponsor in April 2019.

The new building will allow for new programs within the College of Business, which also brings new changes in the curriculum. These changes will not take place until fall 2020.

“One of Brad’s visions is to change the entire state of business in West Virginia through his gift to Marshall,” Mukherjee said. “This will be a clearing house of sorts. We will get a project from a company, we screen the projects to fit into classes, we put it into the right class, have students work on it in the class and then bring it all together at the end of the semester in an event called BERS, the Business and Economic Research Symposium. We are already doing it but we really want to step it up. We are all about impact here.”

The new facility will house actual business in the main floor, and this will give students more opportunities for hands-on learning, Mukherjee said.

“With the new changes to the school it is prominent that we need a state of the art facility,” Mukherjee said. “At the center of it all will be this focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. That’s what Brad wants to see more of and that’s what we think the state needs as well.”

Smith has invited his contacts to participate in the two speaker series in the College of Business and to lead classes in the new facility.

“It is great to have it off campus and look like a business building that a major company could be in,” Gilbert said. “This will give our students a sense of what the business world is like. The area is called in opportunity zone. That is an initiative by the federal government to allow people to shelter capital gains. We think there is going to be tremendous investment in the opportunity zone. There is tremendous opportunity to stimulate additional building and infrastructure growth.”

The tentative location for the new business building is on Fourth Avenue, close to campus.

“I think putting the new building on Fourth Avenue is another signal that things are going to get better and people are optimistic about the future,” Gilbert said. “I think the fact Brad and Alys gave us this big gift is a very positive sign for Marshall University.”

Corbly Hall will still be used on campus. Gilbert said it will be repurposed for other programs.

Gretchen Kalar can be contacted at [email protected].