Sunderland Foundation Commits $15 Million to UMKC

by Patricia O’Dell

Fittingly, the significant gift will go toward campus renovations and construction

The Sunderland Foundation investment will benefit both UMKC campuses in Kansas City — Volker near the Country Club Plaza and Health Sciences next to Children’s Mercy and Truman Medical Centers — by improving classrooms, laboratories and spaces for research and student support.

“The Sunderland Foundation has been a supporter and advocate for UMKC for more than three decades,” Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal said. “We are honored and excited that they continue to invest in our growth and recognize that improving the function of existing resources furthers the university’s ability to engage students and the community and support research and development of new technology.”

  • The Henry W. Bloch School of Management will receive $5 million for renovation and construction of the Bloch Heritage Hall, the original home of the Bloch School. While the state-of-the-art Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation opened in 2013, Heritage Hall has not received an upgrade since 1986. Heritage Hall incorporates the original Tudor-style Shields Mansion, built at the turn of the 20th century, and an addition that was completed in 1986. The renovation and technology update will support advanced teaching methods and anticipated enrollment growth, bringing this essential space in line with UMKC’s commitment to providing students tools for their success.
  • University Libraries will receive $3 million for the renovation of the Miller Nichols Library third floor for a digital humanities and digital scholarship center, and in preparation for the relocation of the State Historical Society of Missouri, currently housed in Newcomb Hall. Beyond being a resource for students and faculty, the Miller Nichols Library is a recognized community resource for both historical enthusiasts and professional researchers. After the society raises an additional $3 million, the plan is to move the society’s offices from Newcomb to the library next to the LaBudde Special Collections, enabling scholars and enthusiasts to optimize their research of the two rare collections on the third floor of the library.
  • The School of Law will receive $3 million for renovations to classrooms and student services. The school will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2020, and is one of only six law schools to have educated a U.S. president (Harry Truman) and a Supreme Court justice (Charles Whittaker). Its interactive classrooms and student success suite are key components of student-focused education. Renovating 40-year-old classrooms to better accommodate the more interactive experience between professor and students will attract new students and improve current students’ learning.
  • The School of Dentistry will receive $2 million for renovations to the pre-clinic laboratory. Comprehensive dental care is shown to improve overall health and decrease risk of complications during dental procedures. The planned improvements will include replacing dated equipment with state-of-the-art technology that will enable simulation of patient care, proper exam positioning and clinical skills in an authentic learning environment.
  • The School of Computing and Engineering will receive $2 million for the renovation of Flarsheim Hall that will reconfigure existing space in conjunction with the completion of the new $20 million Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center, scheduled to be finished in 2020. In 2018, the Sunderland Foundation provided the lead gift on the center, which will be a significant addition to the community as well as the university and will include a virtual reality lab, a clean room and other state-of-the-art technologies.

The Sunderland Foundation was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as president of Ash Grove Cement Company for 33 years. His grandson, Kent Sunderland, president of the UMKC Foundation, UMKC Trustee and former vice chairman of Ash Grove Cement, now serves as president of the Sunderland Foundation board of trustees. Since its inception the Sunderland Foundation has supported construction projects.

“We focus on capital funding because building was at the heart of our business when my family owned Ash Grove cement,” said Kent Sunderland. “We understand the value of buildings that work for people. Providing resources for organizations that enhance Kansas City is integral to our family’s foundation mission.”

Lisa Baronio, UMKC Foundation president and UMKC chief advancement officer, recognizes the significance of the investment in capital improvements as essential to student success.

“The Sunderland Foundation understands that one of the significant components of excellent education is state-of-the-art physical space, technology and equipment that allow our faculty, staff and students to perform at their highest levels. We are grateful and excited to make these buildings reflect the same high level of quality as our human capital.”