Major gifts advance the college
Two significant facilities on campus will see transformational improvements thanks to generous gifts from long-time friends of the college, announced within days of one another.
On Oct. 20, the college announced that the Michels family, which owns engineering and construction firm Michels Corporation, was giving the college $7 million to transform Sensenbrenner Memorial Union into Michels Commons, a state-of-the-art dining facility and reception space.
The news came two days after the announcement that the college had received gifts of just over $1 million to create the Ariens Family Welcome Center for prospective students and their families. The facility, named for donors Michael and Mimi Ariens and their family, will house a new communications office made possible by a gift from Ed and the late Sally Thompson, as well as the Roland and Helen Murphy Office of Admission. The project
involves doubling the size of the existing admission facility with a new
reception rotunda, presentation room, gallery and offices.
President Thomas Kunkel says the continuing generosity of these donors makes possible exciting advances for the college.
Michels Commons will have broad impact: “The family wanted to make sure its gift would dramatically improve the student experience at St. Norbert College. This gift will touch literally every student here. It will be transformational.”
The Ariens Family Welcome Center will dramatically enhance the initial impression for visitors to our campus, especially prospective students and their families. Kunkel says, “We know from experience that the initial impression is crucial in a student’s ultimate college decision. So this project is an important strategic addition to campus.”
Kunkel adds that, through the generosity of the Thompsons, the Ariens Family Welcome Center project will also bring under one roof, for the first time, the college’s enrollment and communications teams. This project, once complete, will double the size of the current admissions center and house about 25 professional staff and more than 30 student employees.
An enduring relationship
The Michels, Ariens and Thompson families all have deep connections with the college.
The Michels family has long been a part of the St. Norbert community. Ruth and the late Dale Michels sent three of their four children to the college: college trustee and Michels Corporation president Pat ’81; Michels Corporation vice president Tim ’84; and Michels Corporation vice president Kevin ’89. Their granddaughter is Michelle Michels ’12, daughter of Pat and Melanie (Blahnik ’84) Hortsman.
The Michels endowed the Michels Chair in Business with a $1 million gift. In honor of their generosity on that occasion, Dale and Ruth Michels Hall was named for the couple.
Michael Ariens, chairman of the Ariens Company, attended St. Norbert for three years and served as a college trustee, chairing the board from 1984 to 1988. Both he and his wife, Mimi, president of the Ariens Foundation, received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from the college. Six of the couple’s nine children attended St. Norbert: Michael Ariens, II ’79, Margaret Ariens Denten ’82, Kathryn Ariens Martell ’84, Mary Ariens Dellanina ’87, Christopher Ariens ’92 and Andrew Ariens ’99. Kathryn’s daughter, Meghan Martell ’12, is a current student.
Ed and Sally Thompson conceived and funded the Thompson Marina, home to the Knights on the Fox summer music series that they first envisioned. The Thompsons also both received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from St. Norbert. Ed Thompson, president of business consultancy Thompson Management Associates, is a college trustee. Sally Thompson, who died in August, served many local nonprofits during a life of service.
Construction is set to begin on the Ariens Family Welcome Center in March 2011. It will be completed by the start of the 2011-12 academic year. The Michels Commons project is scheduled to begin in April 2011 and should be completed by May 2012.