MNU news

Momentum Building in Campaign for Cunningham Student Center

Cunningham Building Rendering
Accent Summer 2019

In January 2019, the Mabee Foundation granted MNU $1 million contingent on the university’s ability to raise the remaining $11 million needed to build the Center by the end of the year. And progress is strong!

“We’ve raised more than $3 million since then,” says Dr. Jon North, vice president for university advancement. “The challenge has propelled us forward by giving more donors the inspiration to join us in the effort.”

Recent $3 Million Gift Adds Energy to Campaign

The Kansas City-based Sunderland Foundation recently increased its support for the new Cunningham Student Center, by $2.4 million, bringing its total gift to $3 million for the university’s Bright Futures campaign. 

“The Foundation’s support gives us tremendous momentum toward our goal,” says Dr. David Spittal, MNU president. “We are grateful for this incredible gift.”

The Sunderland family and Foundation are known for supporting visionary projects that result in places where young minds grow and thrive, and where communities come together for celebration and inspiration. The Cunningham Student Center will join those kinds of projects by providing spaces for MNU students to gather, learn, eat and fellowship during their college experience. 

"We believe this gift will help transform the student experience at MNU,” says Dr. Jon North, vice president for university advancement. “Young people want modern spaces designed for collaboration, technology and community needs. This building will increase MNU’s ability to support that for all students.”

The Sunderland Foundation’s gift is providing motivation for others to join the campaign resulting in new donors and first-time donations. 

“It’s exciting to see the energy build,” says North. “The Sunderland Foundation is helping make that happen.”

The Sunderland Foundation supported two previous capital projects at MNU: Cook Center (1996-1997) and Bell Cultural Events Center (2005-2006) 

BergmanInspired to Help 

When Brad Bergman, CEO of Midwest Trust, heard about the campaign to build the Cunningham Student Center, he knew he not only wanted to be part of it, but he also wanted to take its message to other philanthropic organizations. Midwest Trust manages funds for numerous foundations, including the MNU Foundation, which gives Bergman an open door to many influential individuals and organizations. 

“The stewardship exemplified by leaders at MNU makes me very comfortable talking to others about the university," he says. "I’m confident that these values will continue at MNU for generations to come." 

Beyond the economic development benefits the campaign will have on the local community, Bergman is interested in preparing students to face the world upon graduation.

“What’s impressed me is how MNU is educating people who will lead and influence others in the world,” he says. “What MNU stands for should align with anyone’s values. We should absolutely appreciate graduates that are disciplined, caring and have committed to living a certain lifestyle. We need more people who aspire to live a better life, who can be an example for others.” 

Bergman’s quest to tell MNU’s story recently resulted in a $500,000 first-time gift from a local charitable foundation. 

“We are so grateful to Brad for facilitating this amazing gift,” says Dr. Jon North, vice president for university advancement. “His work is encouraging others to introduce us to their networks as well.” 

Like Bergman, other campaign volunteers have presented the campaign to their contacts, and so far, these meetings have generated a total of $1.3 million in first-time donations. 

“I hope that hearing this will inspire others to contact their associates about the campaign,” Bergman adds. “We all should be trying to make things better in our world. It’s a great way to live.”

building sketchWhat’s In a Building?

Accent asked alumni and friends what difference they think the Cunningham Student Center will make for students. 

Recently Professor Neil Friesland (’92) made a campaign appeal to fellow faculty and staff at MNU. Through a payroll deduction gift, he and his wife Amy (Weathers ‘93) are pledging their support.

“I have a lot of fun memories of times as a student in the Campus Center,” says Friesland. “Now as a professor, I can say with certainty that the relationships that are formed in a place—not a dorm or a classroom, but spaces that allow a cross-section of the community to engage, those are vital to a positive college experience.”

A recent study of public and private university graduates showed that campus life activities were among the top three factors in shaping satisfaction about one’s college choice. The Cunningham Student Center will put MNU on the leading edge of student amenities.

“Students and alums alike constantly tell me that the community and relationships built at MNU are what make it so special,” Alumni Director Pete Brumbaugh (’90) says. “While MNU has done a great job at providing that, we lack a space designed for all students—commuters, on-campus undergrads, evening or graduate students to gather informally, have flexible dining options and more.”

Dennis Troyer (’76), director of retention, has worked at MNU for 32 years. He finds it fitting that a building designed to benefit students will be named after Drs. Paul and Connie Cunningham. 

“Students need to sense they belong here,” he says. “The Cunninghams love our students. So, I think it honors their legacy to provide better spaces for our students to find their sense of belonging and to know how much they are cared for at MNU.” 

Lisa Busch is an MNU mom whose sons, Tim and Jacob, are students. She is impressed with the plans for the new student center and, among its other benefits, the convenience it will bring for parents and students alike. 

“To have financial aid, admissions and other services all under one roof would be perfect,” she says. “The plans are beautiful, current and much needed on campus.”

triangle patternHow Can You Help Make it Happen? 

Gifts of all sizes and types are needed to meet the $1 million Mabee Challenge to fund the Cunningham Student Center by the end of 2019. Make your gift or pledge, payable over five years, at

Fall 2019 Accent Cover image
This Issue

Fall 2019

We hope you enjoy this issue of Accent featuring women in leadership. From alumni to students to administration, MNU and the new We Lead initiative seek to empower our graduates.

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