The largest gift in Kent State University’s history will help build a new $71 million business building to be named Crawford Hall after benefactor Edward Crawford, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland from 2019-21.
The Kent State University Board of Trustees also voted Friday to immediately rename the College of Business Administration as the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship.
“Ambassador Crawford has spent his life as a successful entrepreneur and business owner, growing his company from the ground up,” said Kent State University President Dr. Todd Diacon. “To have earned his confidence in our College of Business Administration, which will bear his name both on the college and on its new building, makes us very proud. Our students will not only be educated in an iconic facility with a forward-thinking design, but they will also be able to look to him as a mentor for their own entrepreneurial and business endeavors. We are very thankful for his support.”
Construction on Crawford Hall is slated to begin in December. Classes should begin there in fall 2024.
In a press conference following the meeting, Diacon declined to state how much Crawford donated to the university, but, as the largest gift in university history, it would have to be larger than the $10 million gift recently bequeathed to the College of Podiatric Medicine.
Funding for the new hall includes $24.7 million in gifts, $6.7 million in bonds and $42.6 million in local university funding, according to university documents. The budget includes $3 million in contingency funds, bringing the total project to $74 million.
Crawford founded Park-Ohio, a publicly-traded $1.6 billion, industrial supply chain logistics and diversified manufacturing business employing more than 7,000 in 125 locations around the world.
He said Diacon and business Dean Dr. Deborah Spake deserve a lot of credit for reaching out to him and impressing him with their vision.
“The president and Deborah, I want to call them out for their amazing effort to come to my office,” he said. “It was such a good idea; it was so dynamic. You sat there, both of you, and you get credit for this. My interest was piqued because most ideas in that office are my ideas, and they’re always great ideas. I got caught off-guard here. I thought, ‘This is a great idea, and it’s not mine.'”
Crawford Hall will be built on the footprint of Terrace Hall, which will be torn down, and sit just east of White Hall on the north edge of campus along East Main Street.
“…We know this iconic building will be seen by almost everyone driving through Kent and will certainly be seen by prospective Kent State students and their families, and, therefore, it will really be the centerpiece of our efforts to transform that part of our campus,” Diacon said. “We have this iconic, amazing 1910-era array of buildings, and now we will extend the beauty of that through Crawford Hall.”
There may be tweaks to the interior design of Crawford Hall due to lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it had already been designed with collaboration, modern pedagogy and technology in mind.
“We will likely put in an additional studio beyond what we had planned,” said Spake. “We know that we’re going to have to expand Wi-Fi given all the technology we use in teaching, and so a lot of it is technology-driven.
Crawford will continue as a mentor to students through the college’s ASPIRE Entrepreneurial Workshop Series, which Crawford launched while posted in Ireland.
He also noted that the entrepreneurial spirit is more than a series of skills and knowledge built over four years.
“Entrepreneurship can be misunderstood,” he said. “It’s a word that’s tossed about a lot … It teaches you to handle rejection.”
He said individuals who aspire to be entrepreneurs have to be willing to stand out from the crowd, standing in the center of the room when everyone else lingers along the walls and in corners.
“There are a lot of very smart and important people, maybe as smart and ambitious, but they want to be in the corner, not in the center,” said Crawford. “It’s filled with rejection. Entrepreneurship is the ability to block out incoming negative thoughts; you have to train yourself.”
Spake said that spirit is part of many courses the business college offers.
“Really, from the beginning we start to introduce them to the concept in our intro to business courses as freshmen,” she said. “And then those students who take additional entrepreneurship courses learn about it.”
Some students may take those courses just to gain that mindset even if they aren’t planning to start businesses.
“It is not uncommon for students who major in entrepreneurship in our college, to not necessarily intend to start a business, but they’re there to learn exactly that concert that he’s talking about and how that impacts their work, wherever they work moving forward.”
Do you have a business or healthcare story you’d like to share? Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, [email protected] and @bobgaetjens_rc.