Iowa State lands big gift for business college

$7 million from Gerdin foundation helps 'critical' expansion

Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Iowa State University’s enrollment has surged 44 percent in a decade, and its fastest growing area lately has been the College of Business — creating cramped quarters and stretched resources in the Gerdin Business Building.

The college needs more offices; more classrooms; more conference and collaboration space; and more labs for computer instruction and project work. The Board of Regents earlier this summer agreed to let ISU proceed toward a solution — a new 35,000-square-foot business building to sit just east of the existing 111,000-square-foot home.

In the subsequent weeks, ISU has made progress on the $22 million project — including landing a $7 million gift it announced Wednesday.

“This is critical for us,” College of Business Dean David Spalding said. “We are actually building this with no state aid.”

The commitment comes from the Gerdin Charitable Foundation, created by Ann and her late husband, Russell Gerdin, who in 1998 provided the foundational gift for the college’s existing business facility.

The couple founded Heartland Express, a nationwide logistics and transportation company based in North Liberty, and family members over have become friends and donors to the ISU business college.

In a statement, Mike Gerdin — chairman and chief executive of Heartland Express and a member of the College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council since 2012 — said the donation indicates the family’s “confidence and admiration for the great work being done at the Iowa State University College of Business.”

“The college has seen significant enrollment growth, which places stress on the current facility,” Gerdin said. “Ultimately, that impacts student learning. Our family is pleased to be able to help as the college expands and provides the best education possible for tomorrow’s business talent.”

Preliminary designs for the new building propose a four-story structure, and an atrium might connect the two buildings, Spalding said.

The project will expand the business college’s footprint 32 percent — about the same percentage business enrollment has grown in five years. ISU in fall 2012 reported 3,525 undergraduate and graduate business students, a figure that’s climbed 35 percent to 4,772 last fall.

The surge has meant more faculty hires — the college now employs 110.

“And we are expected to grow again this fall,” Spalding said. “We were the fastest growing college at Iowa State the last two years, and I think we’ll be the fastest growing college at Iowa State again this year.”

The Gerdin gift makes up a large chunk of the $10 to $12 million in anticipated donations for the $22 million project. The rest of the cost will come in the form of a $10 million loan from a business college internal fund to be paid back over 10 years, and from the ISU general fund.

Construction is expected to start in fall 2019 and end in 2021.

Its completion is meant to take pressure off the current facility, which hosts classes from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. four days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, and for several hours on Saturdays, Spalding said.

“From a classroom standpoint, there’s a very strong need,” he said. “From a faculty standpoint, we’re really as crowded as we can get in terms of office space.”

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