- Ada, Oklahoma

August 24, 2013

ECU celebrates new business, conference center

Eric Swanson Staff Writer
The Ada News

Ada — Politicians, East Central University officials and community leaders turned out in droves Thursday to welcome the newest addition to campus.

Hundreds of people flocked to ECU to visit the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center, which houses the ECU Foundation Hall and the Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business. The $14 million building is named for two of the major donors to the project — the Chickasaw Nation and Harland C. Stonecipher, the Ada man who founded Pre-Paid Legal Services.

The festivities began early Thursday afternoon with tours of the building, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony. A gala banquet capped the evening, complete with remarks by state and tribal leaders.

Stonecipher was scheduled to speak at the banquet, but he was unable to attend because he was undergoing surgery in Oklahoma City. His close friend Mike Turpen, vice chairman of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, delivered Stonecipher’s speech instead.

Reading from a script, Turpen said that Chicksaw Nation representative Brian Campbell and ECU President John Hargrave originally approached Stonecipher about contributing to the new business center.

“At that time, I did not have the funds to do the project, but the idea, the concept, intrigued me,” Turpen said. “Here was an opportunity to do something to benefit East Central University, and in particular the school of business and especially those students interested in business. That idea appealed to me in a very special way.”

Turpen said Stonecipher supported the business center in part because a group of community leaders — including tribal representatives, Hargrave and other ECU officials — had sold him on the project. He added that Stonecipher believes in encouraging budding entrepreneurs to launch their own business and take control of their future.

“The students who graduate from this school of business will have an advantage in not only understanding the mindset of the entrepreneur,” Turpen said. “They will have the tools to make it happen.

“How many believers in the free enterprise system will this school of business produce? That remains to be seen. But from this day forward, we’ll all be watching with great hope for their success and for others who follow.”

Other leaders hailed the business center as a major asset to the community.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said the business center was an important project that would help shape Ada for decades to come.

“The potential for greatness lies within this facility,” he said. “Outstanding leaders, thinkers and doers will emerge from these classrooms. Their futures will be bright, and the Chickasaw Nation is proud to have assisted, in a small way, in that journey.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said the business center was a valuable asset for the college.

“What a wonderful addition to your campus, to the business school, to the Stonecipher Business School itself, for your students,” she said. “Business studies, of course, are very important to the state of Oklahoma. We’re a state of small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“And so, I know your students are going to be very excited, along with your faculty, to have such a beautiful, wonderful, state-of-the-art building.”

Toward the end of the evening, Fallin gave the Stonecipher family a proclamation honoring their contribution to the business center. Fallin noted that the grand opening coincided with the Stoneciphers’ 55th wedding anniversary.

Showcasing the business center

ECU showcased its newest asset throughout the day, starting with an open house and guided tours.

College students and faculty members led the tours, which gave visitors a chance to check out the business center’s classrooms and other features. Those amenities included a financial lab, a 24-hour computer room and a courtroom for criminal justice students.

Wendell Godwin, dean of the business school, said the technology would help ECU attract students who had originally considered enrolling at another college.

“They weren’t coming here because they thought they were going to get a better education at a larger school,” he said. “Now they’re touring our facility and seeing that we have some of the same technology. So I can get the same type of education locally at a lower cost point than I can by going off to school somewhere else.”

ECU junior Stacey Zulu said the new building would benefit not only business majors, but all students.

“Anyone can come to this building and access the computer labs, and there’s some freshman classes that are offered in this building,” she said. “So I just think it’s great.”