May 03, 2013 — MSU News Service
The new Jabs Hall at Montana State University will help mold Montana’s future entrepreneurs, according to Kregg Aytes, dean of the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship.
“The building will shape our behavior, and we will become more collaborative and innovative,” said Aytes, who was one of several officials to speak Friday at a groundbreaking ceremony held for the new building.
The event began with a processional of students, faculty, staff and friends from MSU and the community. The MSU Spirit Band, members of the ROTC, and horseback riders from a local drill team also participated in the event’s processional.
Jabs Hall will be the new home of the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, formerly known as the MSU College of Business. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer and be completed in 2015.
Both the building and the college are named for Jake Jabs, a Montana native and Montana State College alumnus who in 2011 announced a $25 million gift that will completely fund construction of the building and other programs.
Jabs’ spirit of entrepreneurship and decision to give back to students in his home state is “exciting and empowering to our students,” said Lindsay Murdock, a sociology student and president of the Associated Students of MSU, during her remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony.
“We are very excited,” Murdock said.
Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian said that the building will “mean good things for students in Montana, mean good things for Montana State University, and mean good things for the state of Montana.
“Montana is very fortunate to be the home state of Jake Jabs,” he added.
MSU President Waded Cruzado said that the university has a “bold vision” — for its business school to be one of the best in the nation. Jabs Hall, she said, will help the university achieve that goal.
Jabs himself noted that everyone needs business skills, and that there “is more need for entrepreneurs today that there has ever been.”
Jabs grew up on a farm near Lodge Grass and received a degree in vocational agriculture from Montana State College in 1952. While at Montana State, he played music with the band, was on the rodeo team and joined the ROTC.
Jabs, 83, is now president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse based in Denver. The company is one of the largest retail furniture companies in the U.S. and one of the largest privately held businesses in Colorado.
Jabs credits his parents for providing him with a strong work ethic, and Jabs’ father, who had no formal education beyond the second grade, shared with Jake and his siblings his belief that education was essential.
Jabs’ $25 million gift - the largest private gift in the history of higher education in Montana — will also be used for new scholarships and new academic programs in entrepreneurship, professional skills development, and fostering cooperative work between business students and students in other disciplines.
In addition to the $25 million gift, in 2010 Jabs gave $3 million to the MSU College of Business for the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, plus additional funds for scholarships for entrepreneurship students.
Of his decision to invest in education, Jabs said in a 2010 interview that, “education gives you the confidence to take risks, and to be successful in life you have to have take risks.”
Others speaking at the groundbreaking event included Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh, who said the new building will help produce the next generation of business owners, leaders and executives; and Angela McLean, chairwoman of the Montana Board of Regents, who noted that Jabs Hall and the students who take classes there will have a bright future. Michael Stevenson, president and chief executive officer of the MSU Alumni Foundation, thanked Jabs on behalf of all of MSU’s alumni.
After the prepared remarks, Jabs and the other members of the platform party ceremonially turned ground at the building site. Young children wearing T-shirts that read, “I’m a future entrepreneur” helped the group break ground.
The MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship offers four undergraduate options of study - accounting, finance, management and marketing - as well as six minors - accounting, business administration, entrepreneurship and small business management, finance, international business, and management of information technology. It also offers a master of professional accountancy degree. Last fall, the college reported an enrollment of 1,151 undergraduates and 42 graduate students.