When the couple behind the world’s largest builder of hospitals announced their donation of $300 million to Missouri S&T last October, Chancellor Mo Dehghani called the gift “transformative for S&T, the Rolla region and our state.”
One year later, that transformation is taking shape.
The gift from June Kummer and her late husband, Fred S. Kummer, a 1955 Missouri S&T graduate, is the largest single gift ever to any Missouri university, public or private. It also is the fifth-largest gift to any public institution in the nation.
The gift established the Kummer Institute for Student Success, Research and Economic Development to support Missouri S&T’s efforts to increase access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, strengthen Missouri’s economy, and establish new research and development partnerships with Missouri manufacturers and state and national funding agencies.
“The Kummers gave us a mandate to use this gift for three things: elevate S&T, have broad STEM outreach, and have an economic impact in our region and across the state,” says Dehghani. “Every decision we make as stewards of this gift is made with that mandate in the forefront of our minds.”
Fred Kummer graduated from Missouri S&T in 1955 with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. He and June, an architecture graduate from Washington University in St. Louis, established a general-contracting business in the basement of their St. Louis home.
That business, Hospital Building and Equipment Co. later became HBE Corp., the world’s largest design-build firm for health care and financial facilities. In 1973, Kummer expanded into the hospitality business, launching Adam’s Mark Hotels & Resorts, a chain of upscale hotels that eventually grew to 25 properties in 13 states.
The Kummers’ gift has already led to several initiatives at S&T to carry out his and June’s vision. They include: a new scholarship program, the Kummer Vanguard Scholarship, which provides up to 500 scholarships for qualifying students interested in pursuing a degree in a STEM field. In its first year, nearly 460 first-year students enrolled at S&T are Kummer Vanguard Scholars, a fellowship program for Ph.D. students, called the Kummer Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) Doctoral Fellowship.
This project provides support for Ph.D. students in STEM areas who are interested in pursuing technological innovation and entrepreneurship. This fall, 10 Ph.D. students are Kummer I&E Doctoral Fellows, the Kummer Center for STEM Education, which will provide STEM education resources and outreach for elementary and secondary school students in Missouri as well as training for teachers, the Kummer College of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, which Missouri S&T Provost Colin Potts describes as a “redefined business school for the mid-21st century.”
The Kummer College will build on Missouri S&T’s existing strengths in the STEM fields through founding degree programs in business (including MBA), economics, engineering management (bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees), information science and technology (bachelor’s and master’s degrees), and systems engineering (master’s and Ph.D. degrees).
Four new centers of excellence to bolster Missouri S&T’s research activity. Each center builds on existing strengths – in infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, and environmental and resource sustainability – with the intent to elevate research and development that can move from the laboratories to the marketplace.
New endowed chairs and professorships supported by the Kummer funds. Searches are underway for the Kummer Endowed Chair for Business and Information Technology and the Kummer Endowed Chair for Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Science, with more to follow.
Support for the Missouri Protoplex, the first building of a proposed manufacturing technology and innovation park across U.S. Interstate 44, north of the main S&T campus. The Missouri Protoplex will serve as an R&D hub for manufacturers across the state. The Kummer Institute Foundation board of directors has approved $50 million in matching funds for the $105 million construction project.
Plans for construction of the S&T Innovation Lab, which will provide space for students to collaborate on various projects. The Innovation Lab will include makerspace areas, “idea labs” for brainstorming and generating ideas, and various student support services. The facility will provide space for students to develop their “possibility thinking” abilities, Dehghani says.
New support for S&T researchers and instructors in the form of seed grants to spur major research proposals or develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
The news of the Kummer gift has led to further private support for Missouri S&T. That support includes new funding for endowed chairs in economics and mathematics, gifts to establish a new Arrival District to campus, and even further support from state and federal sources.
The Kummer gift also allowed S&T to surpass the $150 million goal of its Rolla Rising fundraising campaign, which began in 2016, with a record $423.4 million.
“Fred encouraged us all to think big, and he backed it up with the largest charitable gift in Missouri history,” Dehghani says.
“He has significantly raised our sights and our supporters’ confidence in our future.”