Hundreds celebrate groundbreaking, honor donors for $16 million business school
February 13, 2012
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) It was a breezy and festive evening Feb. 9 at La Sierra University, where a crowd of approximately 600 people gathered to celebrate the long-awaited groundbreaking for a new business school.
On a hillside near La Sierra University’s entrance, university leaders heralded a transformative phase for the School of Business as it prepares for construction of its new home, the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business (lasierra.edu/zaparaschoolofbusiness). The $16 million, 60,200-square-foot, state-of-the-art building will feature the Rubin Atrium and the 541-seat Troesh Conference Center. The new facility will employ energy-efficient and environmentally friendly elements, and will have the capacity to serve 750 students at any given time. It is slated to open in 2013.
“This amazing building has been made possible by a lead gift from Tom and Vi Zapara, and I am more grateful than I can say to Tom and Vi for their 16 years of support, and more than that, for their tireless belief in the potential of our students, of our SIFE team, and of the School of Business,” said business school Dean John Thomas during the ceremony. He addressed the Zaparas who were seated in the front row.
He later described the groundbreaking as “a great milestone for us, for the School of Business. We planned five years ago to make this happen,” said Thomas. “We wanted to do something that would leave a legacy. The next generation of kids is so excited that this has really happened. I’m just more than humbled and honored for the response from God, and for the whole community coming together.”
Dozens of university students, faculty, staff, community leaders and several local and state elected officials attended the ceremony. They included Riverside City Council members Steve Adams, Nancy Hart and Andy Melendrez, State Senator Bill Emmerson, a La Sierra alum, and State Assemblymen Jeff Miller and Kevin Jeffries.
Thomas spearheaded the push to bring the new school to fruition. He has served as dean since 1999. Under his leadership the 25-year-old school’s enrollment has increased by almost 200% to reach an enrollment record last fall of 442 students.
The School of Business offers eight undergraduate degrees and nine Master of Business Administration degrees, including a new MBA concentration in healthcare management. It houses the Center for Philanthropy, the Edward C. Allred Center, the Center for Conflict Resolution and the Transnational Research Consortium.
The groundbreaking event included remarks by university President Randal Wisbey and university Board of Trustees Chair Ricardo Graham who lauded the new facility as a pivotal step in the business school’s trajectory. “La Sierra’s Zapara School of Business is poised to again move forward and solidify its rise as a premier provider of business education in the Adventist Church, the Inland Empire and around the world,” said Wisbey.
La Sierra senior management student Jonathan Davidson cited the power business people wield in creating jobs, technology and wealth. “But this power comes with a heavy responsibility. And by studying here at La Sierra, we are being prepared to shoulder that responsibility,” he said. “Our professors remind us every day that only strong ethics and unshakable morals will help us achieve true greatness.”
It was a happy evening as well for the Zarparas, long time Seventh-day Adventist philanthropists who owned a successful occupational first aid, safety and training products company for 30 years. The company, Zee Medical Inc., was an entrepreneurial endeavor begun in the couple’s garage in 1952. The Zaparas are also alumni of La Sierra University.
“Isn’t this great what God has done,” said Tom Zapara to the groundbreaking ceremony audience. “I can just see God in heaven there, He has to be happy that our young people can be exposed to the finest business education in the world.”
Using gold colored ceremonial shovels the Zaparas together with Wisbey, Thomas, Graham, business student representative Alexis Sadakane and Student Association president Melody Illacas dug into a dirt mound while an earthmover on a knoll behind them revved its engine and lifted its bucket up and down.
Southern California developer and La Sierra University Foundation Board Chair Mark Rubin and his wife, Pam, are benefactors of the new school’s atrium which will bear their name. Long time Riverside residents and business leaders Dennis and Carol Troesh are contributors to the school’s conference center. “We just wanted to see the campus grow,” said Carol Troesh. “It’s exciting to be a part of this business school [and] it’s exciting that the conference center will be where the community can be involved.” The family has several ties to La Sierra. The Troesh’s daughter graduated from the university and got married in the university church. A granddaughter attended school at La Sierra, and their grandson is currently enrolled, Troesh said.
Fullmer Construction in Ontario is general contractor for the $16 million project with architectural design by Thomas Riggle, president of TR Design Group in Riverside. The building will have eight classrooms, 27 faculty offices, three large lecture rooms, four seminar rooms, offices for the school’s centers, business club, accounting club, and for the award-winning Students In Free Enterprise, or SIFE team, two computer labs, and a digital media center.
The conference center will be open for use by businesses and community organizations. It will have four breakout rooms of 400 square feet each to respectively accommodate 20 people. The center will have audiovisual presentation capabilities, a 1,362-square-foot raised platform area and green room for guest speakers, Wi-Fi Internet access, catering kitchen and sound room.
The building will be constructed with a number of green materials including several with recycled content such as the carpet, vinyl flooring, ceiling tiles, window frames and roof. It will include high efficiency heating and air conditioning, water-conserving landscaping, lighting controls, windows in all offices, and low-emissivity glass in dual-paned windows.
Management and Marketing Professor Elias Rizkallah is looking forward to teaching in a new, top-tier facility. “Discounting the time when I am asleep per day, as a full-time faculty I spend more time in the School of Business than my home. Do I want a beautiful building? The answer is yes,” he said. Beyond improving his professional experience, the new structure can play “strategic roles. It influences the flow of the experience, the meaning students attach to it, their satisfaction, and their emotional connection with the institution delivering the service,” said Rizkallah.
“It’s a great day, not only for the School of Business, but for La Sierra University as well,” said Heather Miller, advisor for Master of Business Administration and Executive Education students. “We hope that the construction of the new Zapara School of Business will invigorate the campus and catch the attention and imagination of the Riverside community as well.
“I wish it was here four years ago,” commented senior accounting major Conrad Malivert when asked for his thoughts on the soon-coming business school facility.
“It’s amazing that people actually donate to our school and put money and effort into the students,” said business and pre-law freshman Cynthia Lopez. “They’re [donors] not going to use the building, the students are. I’m just thankful.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University