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KU's newest academic building: Capitol Federal Hall
The national roster of university building names is generally composed of the ghosts of former administrators and rich alumni who shared their deep pockets with their alma maters.
KU is no different in that respect. The names of wealthy alumni grace many of the university's halls and libraries: Anschutz, Eaton, Summerfield, Hall, and the list goes on.
The new KU School of Business' building-to-be, a $65 million-plus project paid for almost entirely with private funds, will also bear the name of a big-time donor. In this case the donor is a foundation, and unlike, say, the Hall Family Foundation, it's named after a business, not a person.
Come spring of 2016, KU will open the doors to the new "Capital Federal Hall" across Naismith Drive from Allen Fieldhouse. The building's namesake is the Capitol Federal Foundation, which in turn is named after the Topeka-based Capitol Federal Savings.
The Capitol Federal Foundation donated $20 million toward the building's construction. Current Cap Fed President and CEO John B. Dicus and his father and former bank chairman, John C. Dicus, are both grads of the KU business school.
Neeli Bendapudi, the KU business school dean, said the Dicus family requested the name for the new building.
"We just assumed it would be Dicus Hall, but that's pretty typical of them, that they want it to be about the company," Bendapudi said. "They really wanted to make a statement that it was about the success of the company — every employee, every stockholder that made it possible for them to make this (donation)."
Not everyone sees it quite that way. On social media, there was a handful of jeers at the new name. Among them:
Capitol Federal Hall. Why not just Capitol Hall? Such a cheesy name for a campus building. Can we get marketing on it? @KU_Business— Matthew Bonesaw (@MatthewBonesaw) May 14, 2014
Like is the business school going to be a NFL stadium, or what.— Joseph Beeler (@brothajoben) May 14, 2014
School officials were sensitive to this last point, that "Capitol Federal Hall" might have the same sort of corporate ring to it as the "Sprint Center" or "Busch Stadium," or any other of the dozens of professional sports parks named after corporations.
The planning team discussed the possibility that the name could sound as though the building has a corporate sponsor, but felt there was precedent at other universities, Bendapudi said. One example she cited was the Hilton College of Hospitality at the University of Houston. (The full name is the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hospitality and Restaurant Management, named for the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain, not the business itself.)
Brand associations can cut both ways, too. Bendapudi said that the Dicus family took on considerable risk in lending their company's name to a building at KU. "With the company, it was an incredible sign of trust on their part," she said. "It puts a very positive pressure on us."
Bendapudi noted that the corporate logo of Capitol Federal won't be incorporated into the building title in any way.
KU officials hope that the building will be, in tandem with Allen Fieldhouse, a southern gateway to the university. The building itself will come equipped with all the trappings of modern educational building design: open spaces, flexible classrooms, media technology and the like.
For Bendapudi and colleagues, the "Capitol Federal" in Capitol Federal Hall is a reminder that students won't have to pay for the building with tuition dollars, nor will taxpayers. It also, Bendapudi said, sends a message to students: "You don't have to leave Kansas to make your fortune. You can do it right here in the heartland."
Students might read that message; they might not. They might resent at least the superficial appearance of corporate sponsorship to their education, or they might not care at all, especially given that they won't have to pay for the building. And these are, after all, business students. They might not think a thing of heading to class in a place called Capitol Federal Hall.