Sunday, April 1, 2007

New headquarters for business at W&M

On Friday, I attended the groundbreaking for Alan B. Miller Hall, the much needed, new home of William & Mary's Mason School of Business. The b-school at W&W was founded in 1967 and I'm told it didn't have enough or the right space from its first day. When I first saw it in 1996, I was shocked -- the library was squashed into a classroom, classes were being held in two different buildings, and the students were holding meetings in the halls. Hardly the b-school that I expected in such a well-regarded college.

Seems like plenty of other people shared that view, including Alan Miller, a 1958 W&M economics grad who founded and runs Universal Health Services, a hospital management company with $4 billion in annual revenues. I interviewed Miller for a story in W&M Business magazine -- he's sharp, of course, but he's also direct, unpretentious, and he's got an infectious laugh. He's not, however, saying exactly how much he donated to make the new building a reality. Dean Larry Pulley said Miller "leads a team of million-dollar-plus donors who are bringing over $35 million to this project." There seem to be about seven or eight members on that team and they ponied up just under half of the entire $75 million cost of the new building, including furniture, equipment, and the kind of cutting-edge technologies you'd expect to find in a leading b-school. Nice to have people like this in the world.

It's a great looking building, from the drawing boards at Robert A.M. Stern's firm, which happily echoes the Georgian roots of the old campus. It's 163,000 sq ft; that's 100K more than the school's current home in Tyler Hall. It's also in a great location -- on the Western edge of the Campus just a mile or so from my house. (Nobody in town is gonna miss the parking lot it will replace.) Due to open in 2009, I expect it's going to attract a faculty and a student base that will put W&M's business program in a position to compete with best b-schools in the country.

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