$15 million gift clears way for Auburn University’s second business building

Published: September 16, 2016
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Nearly 50 years after its founding as a school of business and 25 years after its move into Lowder Hall, Auburn University's Raymond J. Harbert College of Business will have a second home.

A $15 million commitment from 1982 alumnus Raymond J. Harbert, matched by $15 million from Auburn University, will fund the construction of a second business building on Auburn's campus. Lowder Hall will remain the administrative hub of the Harbert College, but the as yet unnamed second facility will accommodate needs that did not exist when the original business building opened in 1992. Auburn University's Board of Trustees approved the project during its Friday morning meeting at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.

"We are incredibly grateful to Raymond and Kathryn Harbert for their very significant ongoing philanthropic investment in Auburn University," said Jane DiFolco Parker, vice president for development and president of the Auburn University Foundation. "Their generosity has created tremendous opportunities for the Harbert College of Business and this recent gift will advance its position as one of the nation's premier business schools."

The planned building will feature approximately 80,000 square feet of classroom and meeting space and will enable the college to accommodate new methods of delivering education and adjust for growth in enrollment, which has risen 40 percent in the last five years. The second building will add to the vision for a "business campus" at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Donahue Drive.

"We're excited about the possibilities presented by this facility," Harbert College of Business Dean and Wells Fargo Professor Bill Hardgrave said. "It will enable us to address needs for flexible learning and meeting spaces and continue to innovate how we deliver a high quality business education."

Plans for the five-story building include several adaptable classroom spaces, an auditorium, an "ideation lab," breakout rooms for collaborative projects, an executive board room and a rooftop terrace. Hardgrave said the new building will offer undergraduate and graduate students ample space to "exert their creative energies."

The bid process for the construction project will open in early 2017 with a groundbreaking slated for spring 2017 to coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the college. The building should be completed in time for fall 2018 classes. The college will explore naming opportunities for classrooms and other spaces.

Harbert said this most recent gift will enable the college to make additional strides toward its stated goal of becoming one of the nation's elite public colleges of business. His $40 million commitment in June 2013 led to the naming of the college and has supported the creation of endowed chairs and eminent scholar positions to assist in faculty recruitment and retention, the formation of the Center for Supply Chain Innovation and the formation of a doctoral program in finance, as well as other programmatic support. Harbert and his wife, Kathryn Dunn Harbert, a 1981 Auburn alumna, are responsible for two of the four largest gifts in Auburn University history.

"While the end result of this particular commitment is bricks and mortar, it represents an investment in Auburn University people," said Harbert, CEO of Harbert Management Corporation, a Birmingham-based independent investment management firm, and member of the Auburn University Board of Trustees. "It's amazing to think how far the College of Business has come in such a short time. That progress reflects the high quality of its faculty and students."

The Harberts serve as co-chairs of Because This is Auburn —A Campaign for Auburn University. Auburn became the first university in the state to raise $1 billion in a comprehensive fundraising campaign. In his professional role with Harbert Management Corporation, Harbert leads a firm that has more than $4.4 billion in assets under management sourced globally from high-net worth individuals and families, financial institutions, pension funds, foundations, endowments and sovereign wealth funds. In addition to its investment teams in eight U.S. cities, including New York City and San Francisco, the firm has international offices in London, Paris and Madrid.

The Raymond J. Harbert College of Business has earned a number of national rankings for the excellence of its undergraduate and graduate programs:

  • No. 4 in Transportation Journal's ranking of supply chain management faculty research productivity
  • No. 5 in Accounting Degree Review's assessment of online Master of Accountancy degrees
  • No. 7 in U.S. News & World Report's survey of online graduate business programs
  • No. 8 undergraduate supply chain management program, according to Gartner
  • No. 10 in U.S. News & World Report's survey of online MBA programs
  • No. 10 in the SCM World University 100 global ranking of supply chain management programs
  • No. 12 in the Princeton Review's ranking of top online MBA programs
  • No. 16 Physicians Executive MBA program, according to Modern Healthcare
  • No. 29 among public undergraduate business programs, according to U.S. News & World Report.
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