When alumni, donors and dignitaries gathered in April 2013 to break ground on James E. Bertelsmeyer Hall, Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader opened her remarks with a story about a “providential collision of opportunity and generosity” that occurred two years earlier.
Jim Bertelsmeyer, ChE’66, remembers it clearly.
“I had been thinking that I wanted to make a major contribution,” says Bertelsmeyer. “I was inspired by Gary Havener’s words at the groundbreaking for the Havener Student Center. Gary (Math’62) said he was motivated to do something while he was alive so he could see and enjoy it. I remember Gary also commenting that he wished V.H. McNutt (MinE 1910, MS MinE 1912) had been there for the dedication of McNutt Hall. That got me thinking, Why not make a contribution while you’re living? So I contacted (then-chancellor) Jack Carney and that was all he needed to set the wheels in motion.”
After nearly six years at the helm of Missouri S&T, John F. Carney III was preparing for retirement in a few months — and pondering his own legacy. Schrenk Hall immediately came to mind. The 40-year-old chemical and biochemical engineering building was desperately in need of renovation, but prohibitive cost estimates had deferred maintenance. Convinced that a new building for chemical and biochemical engineering would be far more cost effective than a major renovation, Carney made a trip to Tulsa to talk with Bertelsmeyer about funding possibilities for the project.
With state funding unavailable for capital projects, Carney saw another possibility: bond financing. But he knew he would have to demonstrate significant financial support from alumni before the University of Missouri System Board of Curators would consider financing a portion of the project. He asked Bertelsmeyer to lead the charge as the major donor.
Within a few days, Carney had his answer. In April 2011, Missouri S&T announced Bertelsmeyer’s $5 million gift in support of the new building. With the momentum provided by a lead gift, Carney went to the Academy of Chemical Engineers to ask for support. The timeline was tight (the curators’ last meeting of the fiscal year was less than 60 days away) and the fundraising goal was a leap of faith in Miner pride.
That leap proved to be a lifeline. The response was immediate and enthusiastic as alumni stepped forward, beginning with academy member Bipin Doshi, ChE’62, MS ChE’63, president and CEO of Schafer Gear Works Inc. of South Bend, Ind. He and his wife, Linda, pledged $1 million to the project.
Before long, a grassroots fundraising campaign took off among chemical engineering alumni spanning more than 65 years of graduating classes, from 1944 to 2010. Their groundswell of support made the difference.
Within weeks, Missouri S&T raised a total of $8 million in private donations. In June 2011, the Board of Curators unanimously approved bond financing of $12.3 million. The final $2 million needed to complete the $22.3 million project came from campus funds.
“The whole project came together in a very short period of time — in a down economy,” says Bertelsmeyer. “The legislature was cutting funding to education and the economy was still trying to recover from the 2008 economic collapse. It was truly a team effort.”
One of the most remarkable demonstrations of teamwork came from S&T graduates who were employees or retirees of ExxonMobil. Rallied by Jason Brinker, ChE’97, they took advantage of the company’s 3-to-1 matching gift program to contribute nearly half a million dollars.
The new campus landmark is a testament to many. As Bertelsmeyer said on the day he symbolically shoveled the project’s first dirt: “Support came from alumni of all ages — and also from our current students. It was truly a broad-based effort. I’m proud that my family and I could play a part.”
Another speaker that day, Brian Peterson, ChE’11, MS ChE’13, summarized the sentiments of many: “I am extremely proud of where our department has been, and where
we are going.”