Alumnus Jon Krabbenschmidt Donates First of Two $5 Million Commitments toward New Building to Inspire Other Alumni, Industry Partners to Follow
Jon E. Krabbenschmidt credits a significant portion of his business success to his experience at Chico State and wants future students to have the same opportunity. But to do so, he says, the University needs to replace Glenn Hall, the existing building for the College of Business that opened in 1958, with a state-of-the-art building, and he’s willing to take the first step to make that vision happen.
This spring, Krabbenschmidt donated $5 million as a first commitment toward an ultimate $10 million gift dedicated to the construction of the new building.
“I hope Chico State can use this gift not just to accelerate the building construction but to say, ‘We have an alumnus who is willing to do this and other alums and businesses need to step up to the plate and make contributions in a significant manner,’” he said. “There are lots of Chico State graduates that have been very successful in their careers—and I know many of them—and those people should be giving back to the school that provided them with the foundation for their success.”
With enough support, the University plans to break ground on a new building for the College of Business ahead of schedule.
“Jon believes in the vision we have for the College of Business and our commitment to providing a 21st century education that accommodates cutting-edge learning experiences, fosters the collaborative environments that are so critical for the field of business, and supports the centers that provide hands-on, real-world learning before they earn their degrees,” said President Gayle Hutchinson. “For decades, we have been honored to recognize him as one of our incredibly successful alumni, and today we are thrilled that he is investing in the future of his alma mater in a way that will have an impact for generations to come.”
As a high school student, Krabbenschmidt admits he chose Chico State because it offered easy access to the outdoors, where he could balance his time in the classroom with hours hiking, skiing and hanging out in Bidwell Park. However, he benefited from the close community, small student-to-faculty ratio, and social atmosphere that are all still true today. He ultimately excelled in his business administration classes and graduated with honors endowed with the skills he needed to start his career.
After graduating, Krabbenschmidt earned a JD and became a licensed attorney and then a licensed certified public accountant. He worked in the tax department at Arthur Andersen and Co. for five years, and then worked as executive vice president of Sierra Capital Companies for another five years. He eventually found his home when he reconnected with his friends from Andersen to become one of the first employees of Novogradac & Company LLP, an accounting and consulting firm that is now a nationally recognized leader in the tax credit industry.
While at Novogradac, he specialized in partnership accounting and taxation, assisting clients with audits and tax compliance as well as various other finance, consulting, and tax planning activities. His clients included investors and developers that operated in market rate and affordable housing, renewable energy, new markets tax credits and historic tax credits. He also had a few friends that owned vineyards and wineries, so he eventually learned about accounting and taxation of agriculture. He used this background to co-author several books on tax credits, lectured and became an expert witness in his field.
He retired after nearly 30 years of serving as a partner and now focuses on his real estate investment and development business through his entity Gate Holdings, LLC. Krabbenschmidt maintained a fondness for his alma mater through the years and often tried to recruit accounting students for his firm. Once a year, he would visit Chico State to lecture on his area of expertise—low-income housing tax credits—but gradually began to realize Glenn Hall, its classrooms and its offerings had remained relatively unchanged and lacked capacity for student collaboration.
“As a student, I didn’t understand that running a company is really a collaborative process that doesn’t just depend on accounting and telling someone what the numbers are,” he said. “You have to have good communications skills with people in sales, marketing and finance, and you have to put all those disciplines together.”
Dean Terence Lau said he is grateful for Krabbenschmidt’s support and shared vision for the College of Business to provide the most transformative education it can offer.
“This building will provide future Chico State students greatly enhanced experiential learning opportunities, support curriculum revision that push us to the cutting-edge of business education and further understanding of the role of business in society,” Lau said. “This will create more diverse and rigorous learning and research opportunities for students and faculty while strengthening entrepreneurship, business and finance, technology, globalization and corporate partnerships.”
The vision for the new facility is to showcase innovation and collaboration by design. It includes spaces for active, experiential, and immersive learning; conference breakout rooms; collaboration spaces; centers for excellence; and dedicated spaces for faculty research and signature programs.
“I’m one of those ‘If you build it, they will come,’ people,” Krabbenschmidt said. “Chico State can attract top faculty with a great facility, and this will in turn give the students the best education possible. The education and learning experience should be immersive and allow students and faculty to mask out all the other demands in their life. The new Chico State College of Business building will provide this environment.”
Hutchinson said she is delighted to have witnessed this next chapter and looks forward to how Lau and the next president of Chico State will work to bring the vision to fruition.
“I share Jon and Terence’s vision and hope that this transformative gift will inspire other donors to follow and turn a longstanding vision of a building for the 21st century into a reality,” she said.