OLATHE — MidAmerica Nazarene University has announced it will honor the Olathe community with the first-ever Pioneering Spirit Award at President’s Honors, MNU’s annual gala. The annual fundraising event to benefit student scholarships, is set for April 7, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. in Cook Center on MNU’s Olathe Campus. Over the past six years generous donors have contributed more than $2.5 million to the gala. This year organizers hope to bring the total raised to more than $3 million.
By honoring the Olathe community with the Pioneering Spirit Award, university leaders are recognizing the many individuals, businesses and civic leaders whose vision, hard work and sacrifice made MNU’s first 50 years possible. Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland and Olathe Chamber of Commerce CEO Tim McKee will accept the award on behalf of the community.
“We want to honor the people who helped us get where we are today,” says Dr. David Spittal, MNU president. “We also want to recognize the citizens who have helped create the bright future we have in Olathe where education, individual growth, and economic development are encouraged to flourish.”
When MidAmerica’s Board of Trustees was determining a site for the new college in 1966, Olathe civic leaders played a significant role the selection. Olathe banker and philanthropist R.R. Osborne convened a group of 10 business men who agreed to buy 100 acres of land to donate to the college. The group included Art Martin, Ernie Miller, L.L. Bangs, John Breyfogle, E.E. Bode, Roy Lamberson, Charles Dennis, Ernie Wellingford, Cecil Pember, and Jack Slaughter.
A contingent then flew to the Oklahoma City area to visit another Nazarene college, now Southern Nazarene University. What they saw impressed them to move quickly to ensure that the new school would locate in Olathe. A December 3, 1966 local news story proclaimed that Olatheans felt the selection of their city for the new college was “the best news ever.”
The group of developers agreed to have utilities brought to the property and give their support for an industrial revenue bond for $1.5 million to provide funds to build the college’s first six buildings. Widespread community support led to the unanimous approval of the bonds from city commissioners. Apparently this was an unusual occurrence, according to a quote from attorney Maurice R. Hubbard, who said, “[It was] the first time in my memory that a bond issue was passed unanimously without debate and without dissent.”
“We are so grateful for the foresight of those pioneers who helped MNU get established in Olathe,” says Dr. Jon North, vice president for university advancement. “But I have to emphasize that we feel just as fortunate to work with today’s city’s leaders. The economic development Olathe enjoys, in an environment that values higher education and community, make us look forward to the next 50 years with great confidence and expectation.”
MNU and Olathe have truly grown together from a vacant corn field in a town of 10,000, to a campus of 21 buildings with more than 1,860 students enrolled in a city of 130,000. MNU provides a yearly economic impact of more than $44 million and a ready workforce of quality students who make Olathe their home away from home. MNU’s Bell Cultural Events Center hosts hundreds of events and thousands of visitors each year, providing Olathe with a premier venue for the performing arts.
Plans at MNU include several capital projects included in the university’s largest-ever fundraising campaign for $61 million, launched last fall. Bright Futures: the campaign for MNU includes building a new student center, athletic facilities and other campus improvements that will add to the area’s economic and educational environment.
“The remarkable level of business development and quality of life Olatheans enjoy, inspires us at MNU to work hard to develop our campus and programs as well,” North says. “Providing innovative spaces and technology for our students’ and the community’s benefit for the next 50 years is our goal.”
President’s Honors will feature an elegant dinner, live and silent auctions, entertainment and celebrations of generosity that directly impact students’ education. Several individuals and businesses have lent their support as sponsors of the event, including Webb & Associates, Olathe Medical Center, the Olathe Chamber of Commerce, Fry Orthodontics, Warren Hannon Jeweler, QTS, and Ruckus Group.
Tickets for the gala start at $100 and are available for groups and individuals. Sponsorships at varying levels are available as well. Visit www.presidenthonors.org for ticket and sponsor information.