$20 million gift to help build new business school

KU Business Dean Neeli Bendapudi's hope for the new six-story, 165,000-square-foot KU School of Business building is for it to fit in with the rest of the campus architecture, she said. This preliminary rendering from the architecture firm Perkins + Will shows a limestone building with red accents, viewed from across Naismith Drive to the northwest. The outstretched arm with the red roof would house conference areas, Bendapudi said. Design details may change after the school hires an architectural firm to begin official plans, she said.

Capitol Federal Chairman and CEO John Dicus, from left, Kansas University business school dean Neeli Bendapudi and Capitol Federal Chairman Emeritus Jack Dicus stand in front of Capitol Federal's headquarters in Topeka in this September 2012 file photo, as a banner behind touts the partnership between the Capitol Federal Foundation and the business school.

Every year when John B. Dicus visits the Kansas University School of Business to speak to graduate students, the thought comes to him when he sees the bathroom sinks.

As he runs his hands under the separate hot and cold faucets, he said last week, he’s reminded that Summerfield Hall, which opened in 1960, is the same building where he studied as a KU business student 30 years ago.

But now Dicus, the chairman and CEO of Capitol Federal Savings in Topeka, is helping to make sure business students won’t be there for too much longer. Today he, along with KU officials, will announce a $20 million gift from the bank’s Capitol Federal Foundation to go toward a new building for the KU School of Business. An event is set for this afternoon at KU’s Lied Center.

That building, officials will also announce today, is to be located on Naismith Drive directly across from Allen Fieldhouse on the south end of the KU campus. Plans call for six stories, about 165,000 square feet and a cost of around $60 million, said Neeli Bendapudi, dean of the business school.

In an interview last week, Dicus said that at other universities around the country, the business school building is often something to show off. And the foundation’s gift could make it that way at KU, he said.

“Our board of trustees looked at this as an opportunity that could be a real signature gift and commitment for our foundation over the next five or 10 years that we could give back to the university, to the state of Kansas, and to all prospective students going forward,” he said.

Bendapudi said she hoped construction could begin by early 2014 and that the building could open in time for the 2015-16 school year, which will mark KU’s sesquicentennial.

The building will help attract — and double the available space for — new faculty and students, she said. And its location across from the fieldhouse, on a part of campus that’s no stranger to national TV cameras, won’t hurt, she said.

“Allen Fieldhouse is so iconic and has such a tradition of excellence,” Bendapudi said. “And being right across from it, I think the Capitol Federal gift will allow us to have a business school building that will become just as iconic and certainly continue the same tradition of excellence.”

She said the building should allow the school to grow by as much as 50 percent.

John Dicus graduated from the business school with a bachelor’s degree in 1983, then earned an MBA there a year later. And his father, former Capitol Federal chairman John C. “Jack” Dicus, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1955, a few years before the school’s current headquarters was built. Each of their wives earned KU business degrees, as well.

The Dicuses said they hoped the gift would help to produce future business leaders for the state of Kansas.

“I think it’s a great investment on our part,” Jack Dicus said, “and that’s exactly what it is. We expect a return.”

The donation will be easily the largest in the history of the Capitol Federal Foundation, which was established in 1999 and has given about $34 million in gifts around the state of Kansas, including some other donations to KU. It will also be the biggest gift ever made to the business school.

Following the “lead gift” from Capitol Federal, fundraising for the building will continue with the help of the KU Endowment, and some gifts are already coming together, Bendapudi said. But she said she and others involved with the business school would be forever grateful for the big donation that got the ball rolling.

“No one wants to make a commitment if they don’t know whether the business school building will actually happen, or when it will happen,” Bendapudi said. “So this has truly created great momentum for us.”

The building, which has not yet been given a name, will allow the business school to grow once it moves out of Summerfield, where there’s little room to spare, Bendapudi said. It will include space for collaboration among students.

“We don’t have any places where students can work,” Bendapudi said.

It will also feature technological capabilities beyond those in Summerfield and nicer faculty offices to attract new professors. And its prominence could help draw businesses to the school to work with students, Bendapudi said.

John Dicus said he’d long been aware of the business school’s need for a new building, and an infusion of funds into the foundation from a 2010 stock sale helped make the gift happen, as well as Bendapudi’s persuasive nature.

“A super salesperson,” Jack Dicus called her.

Bendapudi said much of her first year since coming aboard as dean in April 2011 had been devoted to reaching out to potential donors among alumni.

Jack Dicus said the Capitol Federal Foundation had inherited a focus on higher education from former chairman Henry Bubb, who served as a member of the Kansas Board of Regents and was also Jack’s father-in-law.

And John Dicus said the business school meant a great deal to his family.

“This is a way for all of us to give back to a university and a school of business that made a lot of things possible for us later in our lives,” he said.

The spot marked for the new business building is just south of Robinson Gymnasium, where a group of tennis courts is currently located. The university plans to move the courts elsewhere on campus when the new building is constructed, said School of Business spokeswoman Toni Dixon. When the school moves, it will leave Summerfield Hall for the university to use for other purposes, Dixon said.