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Donors fund Gates event: Students respond with mixed reactions to funding sources

Bill Gates, Founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bill Gates will speak in Memorial Auditorium on April 27 for the dedication of the Grant Center, home of the Offutt School of Business.

Gates is a co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which addresses global challenges such as poverty, healthcare and education.

President William Craft made the announcement during a taped press conference on Wed., Feb. 27.

“We were looking for someone who could represent in his or her life or work the kind of innovative spirit that we want to foster in the Offutt school (and) the kind of entrepreneurial thinking that we want students to learn and practice,” Craft said.

Greg Cant, dean of the Offutt School of Business, mentioned the value of using entrepreneurial processes to address social changes.

“I’m not sure there is a better way to influence the affairs of the world than to be a social entrepreneur,” Cant said.

The plan to get Gates to speak for the dedication originated as an idea that seemed “ridiculously ambitious,” Cant said.

However, because of the financial support offered by various friends and benefactors of the college  for the event, the idea became a reality.

Cant said that another contributing factor in landing Gates was his personal connection with Harold Hamm, a member of the business school’s Global Leadership Council and CEO of Continental Resources, an oil company.

Campus-wide attitudes about Hamm being a contributor for the event are mixed.

Kelsey Kava, a senior communications studies major who co-led a sustainability trip to Portland, Ore., over spring break was one of the students who expressed disappointment.

“Concordia College is not lining up to its mission and promise of sustainability,” Kava said.  “Now we’re connected directly with fracking.”

Other students are not as concerned.

Matt Gantz, a junior finance major, said that personal feelings about Hamm should not be directly connected to the event.

“Looking down on Bill Gates being brought to campus by Harold Hamm…is a one-sided way to look at the situation,” Gantz said.

Because Concordia is a liberal arts college, it would be unusual to not associate or accept assistance from people who think differently, Craft said.

Regardless of personal differences, the topic has sparked discussion.

“This situation gives us an opportunity to reflect,” Kava said.

The event will include a public lecture by Gates in Memorial Auditorium, a question and answer session with Gates and the public, a luncheon for major contributors to the business school, and a formal ribbon cutting at the Grant Center open to the public.

Admission to the lecture is free, but will require tickets.  Information to obtain tickets will be provided on Mar. 20.

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