TCU’s Neeley School makes investment for the next generation

🕐 6 min read

Meet the future and a place where the future will be built.

The TCU Neeley School of Business just got an upgrade – new buildings and new technology – but it reflects plenty of change and innovation taking place inside the glossy new exterior as well.

First, that glossy new outside. The 82-year-old Neeley School of Business just completed a two-year building project that combines formerly separate buildings into one modern Spencer and Marlene Hays Business Commons.

The construction included the demolition of Dan G. Rogers Hall (constructed in 1959) and the addition of Spencer Hays Hall, Tom and Marilyn Sumner Hall, Kim and Bill Shaddock Auditorium, Roach Family Plaza (including a new fountain), Dan G. Rogers Rotunda, as well as a café – it is 2020 after all – classrooms, conference rooms, meeting rooms, team rooms, banquet rooms, offices and informal seating areas.

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“It’ll also be able to help further propel TCU as a powerful academic community,” said Mark Johnson, chairman of the TCU Board of Trustees.

Plenty of attractive eye candy for future – and past – Neeley students, the result of a campaign to expand the business school in 2014 that began under the previous dean, O. Homer Erekson, who led the school from 2008 to 2019.

“These facilities demonstrate the university’s response to the changing needs of higher education through enhanced technology and design as we try to create the optimal campus environment to stimulate the imaginations of our students and our professors,” Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. said at the official opening of the expansion on Jan. 30.

“Our classrooms in Sumner Hall are dripping with technology,” said Daniel Pullin, the John V. Roach Dean of the Neeley School of Business, who began his tenure in May of 2019. “The type of technology that allows us to bring the best of the world to Neeley and the best of Neeley to the world. Likewise, our auditorium and banquet hall now work in tandem to allow us to host world class industry and research conferences with thought leaders that stand squarely at the forefront of business.”

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The new buildings make a statement, he said.

“It allows us to lift our academic profile,” Pullin said. “It allows us to create intellectual collisions, by which our students quite literally get to rub elbows with the types of business leaders that they themselves aspire to be.”

The outside looks great, but with new leadership and a solid track record, there’s little doubt the Neeley School of Business is looking to make its presence felt locally, nationally and internationally.

“The graduates – 24,595, to date, not that we’re counting – emerge ready to tap into a flourishing environment of entrepreneurship and innovation in and around North Texas. We’re delighted that the advantages of a Neeley education have been noticed,” said Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at TCU.

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Pullin, who came to TCU after serving as dean of the Michael F. Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma, said the Neeley School has a simple, but inspiration message to convey to – not just students and faculty – but to community as well.

“It’s worth repeating because it’s so powerful and inspirational, and we call that promise the Neeley Promise, and it’s really simple, it’s one sentence,” he said. “It’s exciting, and it guides all of our activities, and it says the Neeley School of Business unleashes human potential with leadership at the core and innovation in our spirit.”

The school is “not just about graduating students, or trading tuition and for credit hours and diplomas,” he said.

“Everything that we do is about preparing leaders. Leaders who can tackle the greatest business issues of our time; that can make a difference, not only in business, but in society as well,” he said.

The school is launching new academic programs, he notes, such as a graduate certificate in data analytics.

“It’s very popular already,” he said. “We’re busting at the seams. We got to figure out how to open new sections of that to meet not only market demands, but the demands of our students.”

That confidence in the program is being borne out in the marketplace, he said.

“We just found out a little while ago that we’ve maintained our 97% placement rate at graduation for our undergraduate program, and we talked for the first time in TCU history about the average starting salary of over $70,000 for an undergrad, which is No. 1 in Texas and in the top 20 in the country,” he said. “The market is validating the merits of our promise and the quality of leaders that we’re preparing.”

Pullin also noted that the school wants to be more than just a place to graduate students, it is being positioned as a “hub of life-long learning.”

“You have to have the career agility. You have to reinvent yourself as the world around you changes and as your aspirations and capabilities change, and our executive ed program provides aspirational learners the opportunities to do that,” he said.

The school is also working to provide a platform for non-business majors in their careers.

“We all have careers, and I think the power of business to adjust upward the trajectory of all learners, all Horned Frogs, is very powerful,” he said.

Beyond TCU, Fort Worth and North Texas, grand opening attendee Franklin Gaglione, grandson of Marlene and Spencer Hays, who provided major gifts to the program, noted how important higher education is to all families.

“In addition to my grandparents’ gratitude towards TCU, the gifts dedicated are also a testament to the lasting impact of American higher education,” he said. “My grandfather came from a family that lacked both wealth and post-secondary education. And despite these barriers, TCU took a chance on him and provided a pathway for him to realize his own aspirations.”

– Additional reporting by Neetish Basnet

Transformative Gifts

In 2014, salesman Spencer Hays of Nashville and his wife, Marlene, made a $30 million gift to Texas Christian University, a foundation gift toward the $100 million facility expansion for the Neeley School of Business.

An Emeritus TCU Trustee, Hays graduated from the University with a B.S. in Commerce in 1959. The couple previously made the naming gift for TCU’s Marlene and Spencer Hays Theater.

Hays is involved in businesses in several fields, including publishing, clothing, insurance, financial planning, school fundraising and real estate. His businesses include the Tom James Company, the world’s largest manufacturer and direct seller of custom clothing. He is Executive Chairman of the Southwestern Company, where he began a lifetime profession of direct selling as a TCU student selling books door to door for the company.

Tom and Marilyn Sumner made a $5.5 million gift commitment to TCU Neeley in 2017.

Sumner BBA ’67 MBA ’68, a leading Houston business executive and TCU trustee, and Marilyn, TCU ’68, have made a significant leadership gift to support the planned expansion of TCU’s Neeley School of Business.

Sumner is currently CEO and chairman of Allpoints Service Corp., which provides land surveying services to home builders. Marilyn Sumner was a career education administrator before co-founding a consulting company to advise school districts in the Houston area.

“The gifts that made this state-of-the-art expansion and visionary renovation possible are powerful statements in support of TCU’s important role in creating ethical leaders,” said TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. “The generosity ensures that Horned Frog graduates will succeed and also that TCU’s future will be bright.”

– FWBP Staff

Neeley School of Business Expansion

$75 million in new construction

$25 million for renovation

Hahnfeld Hoffer Stanford – architect

CannonDesign – contractor

Baird, Hampton & Brown – consultant

Dunaway Associates – consultant

L.A. Fuess Partners – consultant

Source: TCU

Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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