The Herald-Times

Ivy Tech names Connie and Steve Ferguson Academic Building in honor of $1 million gift

Donors say gift is to call attention to school's expansion needs

By Mike Leonard 331-4368 | mleonard@heraldt.com

August 11, 2011

The main Ivy Tech Community College facility on Bloomington's west side is now officially the Connie and Steve Ferguson Academic Building.

The Fergusons, Ivy Tech President Thomas J. Snyder and Chancellor John Whikehart presided over the naming ceremony under a brilliant blue sky late Wednesday afternoon. Workers peeled back a banner covering the building’s new name over the entrance of the building as local Ivy Tech supporters and the community college system’s state board of trustees witnessed the short ceremony.

Whikehart said he and Snyder asked the Fergusons if they would agree to the naming after Steve Ferguson told him in February that he and his wife wanted to make a $1 million contribution to the Bloomington campus. Both Fergusons said in separate interviews before the ceremony that one of the primary reasons they wanted to make their contribution now was to demonstrate their support for a 85,000-square-foot, $20 million addition to the current building, which opened in 2002.

The 148,000-square-foot building was designed to accommodate 5,000 students. The Bloomington enrollment has increased from 2,300 students in 2002 to 6,400 and is projected to continue to increase. The Indiana General Assembly approved the design for a new addition in 2007 and approved bonding authority for construction in 2009. The Indiana Higher Education Commission has not passed a construction recommendation on to the state budget committee for approval, however, and earlier this year indicated it was pulling back all Ivy Tech construction projects for further review.

“I hope we can get their attention,” Steve Ferguson said. “It’s not like I haven’t made my voice heard at those levels. But there’s nothing like putting your money where your mouth is. You need to step up if you believe in something, and I believe this campus needs this addition.”

Connie Ferguson represented Bloomington on Ivy Tech’s Regional Board of Trustees when Bloomington was affiliated with the Columbus region and has served as chairman of the Ivy Tech-Bloomington trustees since the Bloomington campus was created at the Westbury Village location in 2000. She said she believes the opening of the current building in 2002 was a catalyst that made the Bloomington campus one of the fastest-growing in the nation.

“It’s one of those cases where the bricks and mortar made a difference,” she said this week. “You can see it in the students — they recognize this institution means something.”

The rapid growth of the Bloomington college has forced Ivy Tech to lease about 30,000 square feet of space, mostly in commercial and office buildings along Liberty Drive near the main campus.

Steve Ferguson is chairman of the board of Cook Group Inc., the medical device manufacturer with its world headquarters located very close to the Ivy Tech campus. He also is a former Indiana legislator and former Indiana University trustee.

Ferguson invoked an old Chinese proverb at Wednesday’s event. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day,” he said. “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

“We have over 20 million people in this country who are either unemployed or underemployed,” he said when interviewed. “We’ve got 2 million vacant jobs in this country. It’s a gap we have in education and training, and it’s also an income gap because people who have an education are earning consistently more than those without. That income gap can only be solved by education.”

Connie Ferguson choked up momentarily when she told the audience how much she and her husband value education and access to education.

Over the years, the Fergusons have supported Ivy Tech students through endowed scholarships in biotechnology, nursing, radiation therapy and other programs. They’ve made other contributions as well, including financial support to launch the Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship last year.

Steve Ferguson said the growth of the Ivy Tech Bloomington campus has created a special synergy with its increasing cooperation and partnerships with IU and turned Bloomington into an education hub. “It’s a gateway here,” he said. “Not to take anything away from the other schools in Indiana, but if you think about the two impact institutions in this state, IU has over 100,000 students and the Ivy Tech system has over 100,000 students. I would guess that if you added up all of the other public and private institutions together they wouldn’t educate as many people as IU and Ivy Tech.”

Ivy Tech is the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system and serves nearly 200,000 students annually.

Connie and Steve Ferguson, center, admire the new sign for the Connie and Steve Ferguson Academic Building Wednesday with Tom Snyder, left, president of Ivy Tech Community College, and chancellor John Whikehart during the naming ceremony on campus. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

Steve and Connie Ferguson walk down the steps with John Whikehart, Ivy Tech chancellor, at right, to greet people after Wednesday’s naming ceremony for the Connie and Steve Ferguson Academic Building at Ivy Tech Community College. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2011