MNU Achieves Mabee $1 Million Challenge to Build Student Center

MNU Achieves Mabee $1 Million Challenge to Build Student Center

MidAmerica Nazarene University announced that supporters of the Cunningham Student Center have met the $1 million challenge from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation toward the construction of the new $20 million facility. One year ago, the Mabee Foundation challenged MNU to raise the remaining $11 million needed for the building by January 8, 2020. Meeting the challenge would result in a $1 million award from Mabee. Including that award, MNU has now raised over $20 million for the new student center. 

“It is hard to adequately express my gratitude to the alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff, corporations and foundations who have sacrificially given to make this happen. It’s going to impact students for generations,” says Dr. David Spittal, MNU president. “Twelve months ago, the task seemed nearly insurmountable. But God had plans and he has blessed MNU.

We are extremely grateful for the longstanding support we have received from the Mabee Foundation,” Spittal says.  “This is the fifth Mabee Foundation challenge grant we have been fortunate to receive since the university’s founding.”

Dr. Jon North, vice president for university advancement says the momentum gained from the Mabee Challenge Grant cannot be underestimated.
“When the Mabee Foundation issues a challenge grant, it propels others to back a campaign,” North says. “The generosity we have seen over the last year is astounding as new supporters gave first time gifts and longtime supporters gave multiple gifts to reach the goal.” 

With vision and sacrificial service, MNU has grown from 80 acres of cornfield in 1966 to a 21-building campus on 105 acres in one of the country’s most affluent counties in 2020. 

“From our first president, Dr. Curtis Smith, who rolled up his sleeves and laid sod on campus, to a young pastor who understood what a college could do for his small community, the people of MNU have never shied from hard work and most of all, faith,” Spittal says.
To honor two of the most loyal and enthusiastic supporters of the university, the new student center will be named after General Superintendent Emeritus Dr. Paul Cunningham, and his wife, Dr. Connie Cunningham.  If not for his vision and her prayerful support, MNU might never have located in Olathe, Kansas. 

Paul Cunningham was in his first pastorate in the small Olathe Church of the Nazarene in 1964 when the Nazarene denomination voted to start a new college. Convinced that his city of 15,000 held the best potential location, Cunningham approached bank president and civic leader R.R. Osborne with the idea.
An enthusiastic business leader with tremendous vision for what Olathe could become, Osborne put together a group of other business leaders who donated 40 acres of land in addition to his own 40-acre donation. The location became MidAmerica Nazarene College and opened its doors in 1968. 

“It is safe to say that MNU would not be in Olathe today, if not for the vision and enthusiastic support of Drs. Paul and Connie Cunningham,” Spittal says. 

The Cunningham Student Center is set to become the hub of campus activity at MNU and will house student services, dining areas, spaces for learning, leadership development and community engagement. The 50,000 square-foot facility will be a place where students, faculty, staff, alumni and the external community can easily participate in a variety of activities. Its modern amenities will elevate the student experience on campus.

Senior business administration major Logan Borger is the student government president at MNU. He and other student government leaders have been involved in the planning process for the student center. 

“It has been a great privilege to meet with the architects and brainstorm about the ways we hope to utilize the space,” Borger says. “It’s so much more than a modern cafeteria. They’re on board with designing versatile spaces that will work for entertainment, education, studying, collaborating and more.”  

The Cunningham Student Center is the centerpiece of MNU’s five-year $61 million Bright Futures Campaign. Campaign Co-chairs Tim and Gail Buchanan of Wichita, Kansas and Dan and JoAnne Rexroth of Lenexa, Kansas have been drivers of its success. 

“I knew the Mabee Foundation’s challenge would propel us forward,” says Tim Buchanan. “And although we had confidence, I have to say that it has been amazing and humbling to watch what God has provided through the generosity of families, individuals and organizations. We are exceedingly grateful to all!”
Dan Rexroth reiterated Buchanan’s thoughts and added, “we’ve always said all gifts matter, no matter the size. That is so true of this campaign. A number of faculty and staff members committed to giving through payroll deduction and sacrificed some of their normal monthly spending to make that happen. Each gift makes this possible.” 

The university plans to break ground for the facility May 1, 2020. They have chosen A. L. Huber as General Contractor for construction of the plans created by PGAV Architects. PGAV is a nationally recognized planning and design firm specializing in next generation environments for learning, working, and living across the spectrum of institutional, academic and commercial sectors. A.L. Huber is one of Kansas City’s oldest full-service general contractors with expertise in building the most advanced modern facilities to the renovation of treasured historic structures. The projected completion date for the project is December 2021. 

For more information on the Cunningham Student Center and the Bright Futures campaign, visit