Board of Trustees approves college of business administration renaming, new business building after ‘largest single gift’ in university history

Ambassador Edward Crawford served as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland from 2019 to 2021 and currently serves as chairman of Crawford United Corporation, CEO of The Crawford Group and director of Park-Ohio. The Kent State Board of Trustees approved the renaming of the College of Business Administration to the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship at its meeting on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.

Emma Andrus Reporter

The Kent State Board of Trustees voted to approve the construction of a new college of business building at its special meeting Friday morning. The vote comes after the university received the ‘largest single gift’ in the history of the university from former United States Ambassador to Ireland, Edward F. Crawford.

The new building will be located at the current site of Terrace Hall, located between East Main Street and Terrace Drive. It will be an approximately 150,000 square foot, “state of the art” building and will “support innovative instruction and research,” said Mark Polatajko, senior vice president for finance and administration. The building is a part of the university’s Gateway Master Plan, aimed at transforming the campus. 

The new business building will be named Crawford Hall. Crawford served as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland from 2019 to 2021 and currently serves as chairman of Crawford United Corporation, CEO of The Crawford Group and director of Park-Ohio.

“When I learned about Ambassador Crawford, and I read about his life, I found myself saying out loud, ‘This is a Kent State story,’” Diacon said. “Ambassador Crawford’s life is one of grit, of hard work, of overcoming prejudice, of sharp acumen and a fearlessness to be great.” 

The budget for the build is not to exceed $74 million, Polatajko said, with $24.7 million in gifts, $6.7 million in bond proceeds and $42.6 million in university local funds supporting the funding of the project. Construction will begin in December of 2021 with occupancy expected in August 2024. 

While the amount of the donation has yet to be released publicly, President Todd Diacon said it will be made available at a later date. 

“We really want to focus on the ambassador’s story, the ambassador of generosity and certainly what a bright future it is for Kent State,” Diacon said. “Today, we really want to focus on this transformative gift in terms of the program of the people.”

Prior to Crawford’s donation, the largest gift in university history was a $10 million dollar donation from The Podiatry Foundation for the College of Podiatric Medicine. The John Elliot Center for Architecture and Environmental Design was named in honor of John and Fonda Elliot following a $12 million donation in 2018. 

“I’ve noted that great universities in America, almost without exception, feature great business and entrepreneurship programs,” said Kent State President Todd Diacon. “In addition, these same great universities feature, almost without exception, signature buildings for their business and entrepreneurship programs — buildings that become iconic on the campus and that serve as gathering spots.” 

Student Trustee Dylan Mace, a finance student, offered remarks, thanking Ambassador Crawford for his donation. 

“This building will provide students with the tools, technology and space to be competitive in the ever-changing business climate of today,” Mace said. “This space will breed collaboration and innovation among students of all backgrounds and dreams.” 

In addition, the board approved a name change for the College of Business Administration, effectively immediately. The new name, the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship, is intended to “better reflect the dynamism of business and entrepreneurial education nationally,” Diacon said. 

The Faculty Senate discussed and approved the proposed name change at its Oct. 11 meeting earlier this month before the proposal came before the board.  

“Today, a more modern approach is to name a college of business with a focal discipline reflective of the programs and co-curricular activities,” said Deborah Spake, dean of the College of Business Administration. “If you’ve been in our current building, which was constructed in the early 1970s, the pedagogy at the time was sort of this ‘sage on the stage’ model where the professor stood down front, students didn’t move in their seats.”

“Today, business is much more collaborative and interactive and technology-laden. The new building will allow for all of that. … It also, with the new technology, will allow us to bring in even more business people and entrepreneurs than we already bring to the college to interact with our students on a very regular basis.”

Crawford and his son Matthew Crawford spoke to the nature of entrepreneurship today and how they’ve incorporated entrepreneurial education in their own business models.

“Entrepreneurship is, to me, misunderstood,” Crawford said. “The concept of entrepreneurship is kind of a life science. It teaches you how to handle rejection. … There’s more to this entrepreneurship than just books. It’s special. It can be taught. It can be trained. People can learn from that.”  

Matthew echoed that statement and said, “There’s a traditional notion that there’s kind of one entrepreneur and then everyone else kind of works for this entrepreneur. And that’s not the case at our business, and candidly, it’s not the case in any business these days. … Our job is to get … all those entrepreneurs to grow in the same direction.”

These approved action items are intended to “elevate Kent State University, and specifically its College of Business Administration, to greater impact, national prominence and most importantly, to enhance the quality of the student educational experience,” said chair of the board, Shawn Riley. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, Diacon presented Crawford, who is a basketball fan, with a framed basketball jersey with his name on it. At the base of the frame is a plaque that reads: “Ambassador Edward F. Crawford. In recognition and gratitude for embodying our Kent State story, offering transformational support and leading our path to success. Kent State University, Oct. 22, 2021.”

“Thank you very much for accepting us into the family,” Crawford said. “We’re going to be good team members. And we are going to make this business school sparkle.” 

Emma Andrus is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]