McMullen Hall Fundraising Initiative Leaders Excited About a Place for Business


04/20/2020

Bishop John McMullen would be proud.

In August, the St. Ambrose building named in honor of the university's founder will provide a modern setting where the St. Ambrose College of Business can build leaders of the future.

The newly expanded and remodeled McMullen Hall will measure nearly 38,000 square feet, including 15,949 square feet of new construction that features a two-story, light-filled atrium.

Inside the glass and bricks, six classrooms will provide updated learning spaces that can best prepare the next generation of business leaders. 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 will provide accommodations that match the modern business environment and can facilitate a curriculum built to teach today's fast-paced business concepts.

The alumni and friends of SAU taking the lead in a capital initiative to help fund this essential $8.6 million project see the immense value a Place for Business can have for the university and its students, present and future.

Board of Trustees members Joe O'Rourke '72, Stephen Roell '71, Caroline Ruhl and Tom Berthel '74 are serving as co-chairs of the initiative. They are supported by honorary chairs Rev. George McDaniel '66, PhD, an emeritus SAU professor of history, and Jill McLaughlin, a trustee emerita.

"I think the College of Business is due for modernization," said O'Rourke. "If you go back to my time at St. Ambrose, the business school was one of the major degree areas. In recent years, the College of Health and Human Services has made remarkable strides. The Wellness and Recreation Center has added a great deal to the campus, as well. Now, it's time to pursue similar growth for the College of Business."

O'Rourke retired from a successful career as secretary-treasurer of O'Rourke Sales Co., a national distribution and fulfillment company for electronics and appliances across multiple sales channels. He knows business and he knows what the next generation of business leaders must learn.

The same can be said of Roell, the retired chair and CEO of Johnson Controls. After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Accounting degree at St. Ambrose, Roell spent the bulk of his working life with Johnson Controls, a $31.4 billion multi-national corporation. He is acutely aware of the changing face of today's business world, and he applauds St. Ambrose's commitment to meet the shifting challenges of a global economy.

"When I was a student at St. Ambrose the focus was primarily on the domestic economy," Roell said. "Today, students must be prepared to meet the needs of the international aspects of business."

An undergraduate program that will continue to thrive in the new McMullen Hall is Sales. Ruhl is president and co-owner of Ruhl & Ruhl, one of the largest real estate dealers and developers in the Quad Cities. She said the innovative recent addition to the COB's degree offerings is highly welcomed by employers.

"I'm personally very excited about St. Ambrose's growing program in Sales," she said. "Not too many schools have such a program, and I think it's very important."
O'Rourke agreed.

"It's a very good concept," he said. "I majored in accounting, but I soon learned how important sales were. Sales drives business and the need for trained sales people is critical."


While the revamped and expanded McMullen Hall will offer all things new and modern, the St. Ambrose commitment to offer a first class education underpinned by an intimate and personalized approach will not change.

While the revamped and expanded McMullen Hall will offer all things new and modern, the St. Ambrose commitment to offer a first class education underpinned by an intimate and personalized approach will not change.

Berthel, CEO of Berthel, Fisher & Company, a financial planning firm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said the modernized McMullen Hall will make St. Ambrose attractive to prospective students.

"I think every student reaches a point in his or her education where they have to have mentoring," Berthel said. "Large universities are excellent, but the type of mentoring you get at St. Ambrose is special. It's hands-on, and when you combine that with everything they are doing at St. Ambrose to offer students the latest in business curriculum it will have a very big impact."

For Fr. McDaniel, the new McMullen Hall represents the latest in the school's commitment to business, a tradition extending to 1882, when Bishop McMullen founded the college using two rooms in the St. Marguerite Grade School on the Davenport hilltop.

"In 1882, when the school first opened, there was a large commercial course component to prepare young people to get a job," McDaniel said. "Those simple commercial courses evolved into economics, finance and more. Business has changed and evolved, and I'd like to think that with the new building we have met that change."

Taking initiative in business education is not new at St. Ambrose. In 1977, the school was the first in the region to offer a graduate business degree. The new McMullen Hall is intended to revitalize not only St. Ambrose's commitment to business education, but also to the community in which that education takes place.

Jill McLaughlin is daughter-in-law of the late Harry L. McLaughlin, the namesake of that first graduate degree program, the H.L. McLaughlin MBA program. She agreed the new McMullen Hall represents more than brick and mortar.

"The true impact of a St. Ambrose education is not found on spreadsheets and performance records," McLaughlin
said. "It is in the lives that were changed, the passions discovered, and the opportunities provided that gave hope for a more satisfying life. That is what St. Ambrose was founded on, and I firmly believe that is the core of every decision made."

For Roell, it is about leadership.

"The Board of Trustees at St. Ambrose and the business school in particular understands the recruiting challenge," he said. "They have anticipated the changes necessary to attract students and I commend the Board and its willingness to listen to people like me who have brought our concerns to them. The leadership at St. Ambrose has a very strong passion for the school and they always seem to take into account the perspective of the students and faculty. I commend them for that."

-Steven Lillybeck

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