by Carrie Thayer
It was mid-morning when students and staff packed into the Center of Business’ atrium. With cups of coffee in their hands and backpacks over their shoulders, the crowd stood waiting for an announcement that promised to be big.
And it was.
Along with a new name for the Center of Business, President Anne Blackhurst revealed that MSUM had received the largest endowment in its history — $5 million.
The gift was given by two alumni, Rodney and Carolyn Paseka.
Rodney is a native of Georgetown, Minn. and received degrees in accounting and business administration from MSUM in 1971. He joined the Hebron Brick Company as its sales manager in the late ‘70s and became one of three owners and the Chief Executive Officer in 1986.
In 1999, Rodney became the sole owner of Hebron Brick and implemented technological advances, including a significant use of robotics that helped to grow the business to $40 million in sales in 2014.
Carolyn is a Moorhead native. She attended MSUM and worked as a senior clerk at the school for 15 years before retiring in 2001.
The Paseka’s credit their time at MSUM as playing a part in their success, and hope to pass on the opportunities they have enjoyed to future students.
“We celebrate the generosity of a family that wants to ensure future generations of students will have the same opportunities, the same transformative educational experience,” Blackhurst said.
She also announced the new name of the Center for Business building — the Paseka School of Business. However, the Paseka’s wanted to make their intentions clear.
“The naming of the school was secondary to what my purpose in this gift is,” Rodney said. “This is less about me than it is those students.”
Eighty percent of the Pasekas’ donation will be allocated for student scholarships. The rest will be available for new faculty positions, research and other uses.
Business administration major Nathan Cole spoke about the difficulties students face balancing school, organizations and a social life, and how that can limit their opportunities to work.
“Even with the tightest of budgets and squeezing in as many hours as we can, students often find themselves unable to financially support themselves,” Cole said. “We end up overworking ourselves or accumulating student debt.”
It’s lessening that debt that the Paseka’s want to help students with. They hope by assisting students in their financial woes now, they will be instilled with a desire to “pay it forward” when they are successful.
Scott Nelson, president of the Alumni Foundation’s board of directors, also sees it as a call to action for other alumni.
“Most of us know that we get more than we give when we are generous, but few of us have the courage to take the leap of faith that [the Pasekas] have taken today,” Nelson said. “Serving as a call to action or the many of us who have been sitting on the sidelines.”
Nelson announced in 2013 the Alumni Foundation had devised a plan to increase MSUM’s endowment to $60 million in 10 years. To reach this goal, the fund would require donations of $4.5 million each year.
While the Paseka’s donation puts the Alumni Foundation ahead of schedule for the year, the process of increasing MSUM’s endowment to a level that will help to attract more students and staff is ongoing. However, this may not be the last we hear from the Pasekas.
“This is the first gift, and we’ll leave it at that,” Rodney said.