Governor Reynolds Announces $2.9-Million Lamberti Gift to Fuel Development of BVU Entrepreneurship Program
The Donald F. and Charlene K. Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship will be named for the Casey’s founder and former BVU Board of Trustees member.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds joined Buena Vista University President Joshua Merchant in announcing that Don Lamberti, founder and longtime chairman/CEO of Casey’s General Stores, Inc., has provided a $2.9-million gift to establish The Donald F. and Charlene K. Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship at BVU.
“Don and Charlene Lamberti are two Iowans who have made their mark on our state and its communities,” Reynolds says. “Putting a visionary entrepreneur like Don Lamberti together with an academic leader like Buena Vista University—both champions of rural Iowa—can’t help but create a world of new opportunities for people of all ages across Iowa.”
BVU President Joshua Merchant says, “We cannot thank the Lambertis enough for their vision, selflessness, and continued philanthropic commitment to Buena Vista University. Their gift signals an exciting new era, making it possible for the University to bring business leaders together with our faculty and students as we strive to build and sustain strong, vibrant rural communities across our region.”
The announcement occurred before a crowd of Iowa business and education leaders, and BVU alumni who convened Wednesday evening at Gravitate Coworking in downtown Des Moines.
“Don’s leadership, in concert with a number of dedicated donors, puts us on a track to offer support for business start-ups while providing a creative space for social entrepreneurship, additional collaborative efforts, and even an inclusive entrepreneurship minor aimed at students of all majors who desire to turn their passion into a career.”
President Joshua Merchant
The new Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship is envisioned as a place where new businesses will grow as jobs are created. Programming and real-world business applications within The Lamberti Center curriculum will provide both students and professionals opportunities to sharpen their skills while aiding and challenging one another with a shared goal of moving rural America ahead.
Don Lamberti, a longtime member of the BVU Board of Trustees, is one of Iowa’s iconic business innovators, a leader who worked to build his first mom-and-pop convenience store in 1968 into Casey’s, a publicly traded enterprise. Casey’s now employs nearly 15,000 people serving more than 2,000 stores, many that stand as a central hub of activity in their rural communities.
“I’ve been blessed in my life, and throughout my career, by the people throughout the Midwest, especially in the rural communities across Iowa, the places and the people that gave Casey’s its start and have sustained it in on a successful path,” Don Lamberti says. “I’m honored to be able to share in this vision, this unique connecting of ideas and businesses across generations.”
The Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, which will be served by a director and a Harold Walter Siebens School of Business faculty member/executive in residence specializing in entrepreneurship, will stand as a resource for existing businesses across the region, allowing those enterprises, for example, to develop and fine-tune marketing campaigns and business plans with the assistance of BVU faculty members and students enrolled in related fields. Business leaders will have ample opportunities to share their experiences with students of any major as they join forces to better serve a growing region.
The Lamberti gift, coupled with an anonymous $500,000 donation, allows Buena Vista University to move ahead in offering innovative courses and programs while developing a minor in rural entrepreneurship available to all students. For business majors, advanced courses in entrepreneurship, management, marketing, accounting, finance, and enhanced practicum opportunities will be available as students delve into roles businesses and entrepreneurs play in transforming their communities.
“If students want to live and grow in rural areas, or anywhere in Iowa, this Center is for them,” says Merchant, who in 2018 was appointed by Reynolds to serve on the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative Task Force.
Much of the instruction and teamwork within The Lamberti Center may occur in its idea incubator, a site to be called The Foundry at BVU, where business leaders and entrepreneurs may access training and resources made available by the University, strengthening existing partnerships to expand a growing mentoring network.
“In so many ways, this remarkable gift from the Lambertis allows us to reshape and build upon programming BVU’s acclaimed Harold Walter Siebens School of Business has offered for decades,” Merchant says. “Don’s leadership, in concert with a number of dedicated donors, puts us on a track to offer support for business start-ups while providing a creative space for social entrepreneurship, additional collaborative efforts, and even an inclusive entrepreneurship minor aimed at students of all majors who desire to turn their passion into a career.”
“President Merchant and BVU have demonstrated their commitment to fostering these relationships,” Lamberti says. “It is with great humility that I offer my encouragement in seeing that this bold vision, integral in moving rural America forward, becomes a reality.”
The Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship becomes the second entity on campus bearing the Lamberti name. The couple’s multi-million-dollar leadership gift paved the way for the construction of the 65,000-square-foot Lamberti Recreation Center, a site dedicated to the health and welfare of BVU students and members of the community, a hub of physical activity at BVU since its opening in 2001.