Capital Initiative Co-Chairs Celebrated at Ceremonial McMullen Hall Groundbreaking


St. Ambrose College of Business alumni Joe O'Rourke '72 and Steve Roell '71 will be joined by fellow Board of Trustees member Caroline Ruhl in co-chairing a capital fundraising initiative to assist with the expansion and renovation of McMullen Hall. 

Emerita Trustee Jill McLaughlin, whose family has supported the H.L. McLaughlin Master of Business Administration program since 1977, will serve as an honorary chair for the initiative along with Rev. George McDaniel '66, PhD, an emeritus SAU professor of history.

All five valued supporters of St. Ambrose University and its business programs were celebrated at a ceremonial groundbreaking on Thursday, Oct. 3, on the St. Ambrose campus. Construction continues on schedule toward the fall 2020 opening of a fully modern facility that is being called "A Place for Business."

Featuring a 15,600 square-feet addition with a distinctive atrium, the renovated facility will provide a centralized home for the College of Business and its eight undergraduate majors and four graduate degree programs.

Construction began last spring. Bush Construction of Davenport is the general contractor for the project. The lead architect is Greg Gowey of Studio 483 Architects in Davenport.

Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose, expressed her gratitude for the continued support of O'Rourke, Roell, Ruhl, Fr. McDaniel, and the McLaughlin family.

Roell, an Alleman High School graduate, earned a degree in accounting in 1971, and recently retired as Chair and CEO of Johnson Controls, a multibillion-dollar international corporation. He joined the SAU Board of Trustees in 2015.

O'Rourke recently retired from O'Rourke Sales Co., a family-owned electronics business he and his brothers started in Davenport over 50 years ago. It has grown into a national distributor for technology and infrastructure. He has been a member of the SAU Board of Trustees since 2011.

Ruhl is the CEO and co-owner of Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors, serving eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois since 1862. Caroline is the fourth generation to lead the residential brokerage and home services company. She joined the SAU Board of Trustees in 2017.

Fr. McDaniel authored the seminal campus history, A Great and Lasting Beginning: The First 125 Years of St. Ambrose University in 2006, near the end of his 24-year career in a St. Ambrose classroom. Fr. McDaniel offered the blessing at the start of Thursday's ceremony. 

The McLaughlin family helped the first St. Ambrose graduate program grow into one of the region's strongest MBA degree programs. The program was named in honor of H.L. McLaughlin, the family patriarch, founder of McLaughlin Body Co., and father of SAU graduates Ray and Jim McLaughlin. Jill, Ray's wife and partner, served on the SAU Board of Trustees from 1996 through 2018.

Ruhl and McLaughlin were unable to attend Thursday's ceremony. Roell and O'Rourke both addressed the ways a modern, central home for College of Business programs will prepare SAU graduates for the fast-changing demands of business in the 21st Century.

A Place for Business

Opening Fall 2020

Along with a 2-story, light-filled atrium, major design features include 6 modern classrooms, several labs, a tiered lecture hall, multi-functional classroom space, and student commons.

"I think the best education we can give our College of Business students is to provide the tools to anticipate what's going to happen in the business environment," Roell said. "And that's what the McMullen project is all about.

"Our students need to know how quickly change takes place and how much technology impacts the pace of that change. And when that change comes, what will be required from the leadership perspective? How will they collaborate with other players and members of a team to overcome those challenges?"

O'Rourke agreed and said SAU's commitment to giving students skills to meet adaptive challenges prepared him well for his business career. As technology moves faster, the capacity to think critically and adapt is even more in demand.

"I was fortunate, not too long after graduating, to join my brothers in a small, locally-owned business. We sold CB radios,'" he noted. "Many of you may not remember, or maybe have not even ever heard of, CB or Citizen Band radios. Our business would not have lasted over 50 years if we did not expand and adapt to the changing needs of our customers and technology, beyond CB radios. That's why we are all here today.

"And while we can look at this project as a smart business decision, we also know you have to have something behind the decision to make it work. At St. Ambrose, it is a professional ethic of the entire campus community to ensure that every student succeeds. That's what Steve and I know - that even with shiny new buildings and classes and majors that we never dreamed of, it's still our St. Ambrose.

"That's the strength of this institution and that's why Steve and I invest our time and resources to see it succeed. I commend the Cabinet and Sister Joan, for their thoughtful and strategic leadership, and I am pleased to join you today to make McMullen Hall a 'Place for Business.'"

The hallmark of the new construction will be a two-story, light-filled atrium, that is fully framed and is being enclosed. Major design features include six classrooms able to accommodate new methods of learning and teaching, as well as two computer labs, a finance lab, a sales lab, a co-curricular lab, a large tiered lecture hall, multi-functional classroom space, and a student commons area.

Additional interior remodeling will provide an office suite for the COB dean and office space for the COB faculty and staff.

Maritza Espina, PhD, dean of the College of Business, said the new facility signals the university's capacity to change with the pace of global business and with the changing face of business education.

"In today's competitive environment, we must be sure that the College of Business stays relevant, not only with the curriculum we offer but the way we teach," she said. "Moving the College to the renovated and expanded McMullen Hall will strengthen our brand, our programs, and the learning experience. The new classroom formats will encourage active learning - allowing our students to engage with the material, participate in class, and collaborate with each other."

Sister Joan expressed her gratitude to the capital initiative co-chairs and additional donors for their assistance in building momentum for the renovated facility. She also expressed excitement for the learning environment the university will introduce to the public in less than a year.

The groundbreaking ceremony is a milestone moment in the timeline.

"The McMullen Hall project provides a permanent and prominent location for the College of Business in our community and in the region, with a redesigned teaching environment and state-of-the-art resources," she said. "Today, we are open for business."


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