Original Article posted Sept. 16, 2013
By Darla Martin Tucker [edited for additional content]
Five years ago John Thomas, La Sierra University’s business school dean laid out a concept for a state-of-the-art facility and promised he would carry the project to completion.
On Thurs., Sept. 26, the university will celebrate the fulfillment of that promise with the grand opening of the $16 million, 60,200-square-foot Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business. Festivities will begin at 6:15 p.m. and will include musical performances by La Sierra’s ensembles and remarks by California State Senator Richard D. Roth. A special tribute will be made to the Zaparas, Seventh-day Adventist philanthropists and former La Sierra students who contributed $5 million in seed funding for the new facility. [click here to RSVP and share on Facebook for this event, open to the public]
“It’s been a long journey. It’s a dream come true,” Thomas said. He also serves as the business school’s Bashir Hasso Professor of Entrepreneurship. “This stunning new center for learning, scholarship, and entrepreneurship, offering outstanding opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and community-building, will enable us to build in a remarkable way on our reputation as a provider of rigorous and relevant business education programs.”
“For La Sierra this is a remarkable moment that connects the needs of one of the university’s most dynamic schools with the passion and vision of alumni and donors who are personally invested in the mission of the School of Business,” said La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey.
The new business school will be able to expand upon the significant role it has played in providing Master of Business Administration degrees to the Inland Empire’s leaders, continued Wisbey. “With the addition of the Troesh Conference Center in the Zapara School of Business, Western Riverside County will now have additional facilities for conferences. The university looks forward to playing a growing role in attracting meetings and events to the region,” he said.
The spacious building, highlighted by a sky-lit central atrium and windowed rotunda is prominently situated near the campus entrance. It replaces an aging predecessor facility originally built in 1968 and
located near the upper back portion of the campus. The older building will undergo renovation to house La Sierra’s departments of English, and History, Politics and Society.
Fullmer Construction in Ontario served as general contractor for the new building with architectural design by Thomas Riggle, president of TR Design Group in Riverside. Riggle’s work on the facility garnered an architectural prize. The Zapara building is among 30 post-secondary school facilities recognized for Outstanding Design in the 2013 American School & University Architectural Portfolio. The projects will be featured in the November issue of American School & University.
The new business building possesses many unique features. Palm trees, freeze-dried for preservation, were provided by Custom Made Palm Tree Co. in Ohio. The trees line the interior of a central atrium and extend upward to the second floor. The atrium runs the length of the building between two wings. It is open to the entire height of the second floor and features a 65-foot-high ceiling with clerestory windows.
The building has 12 classrooms, each different one from the other to accommodate differences in teaching and learning styles. Some classrooms have large windows while others do not; some classrooms have moveable chairs and desks for collaborative learning, while others are lecture halls with amphitheater-style seating, including u-shaped classrooms, and traditional classrooms with flexible seating.
Project leaders selected top business furniture designer Steelcase Inc. for most classroom and office chairs and furniture. “We did not compromise on quality,” Thomas said. The building design includes ‘conversation corners’ and student study areas, a learning lab with smart boards, and a student refreshment area.
The new building also houses offices for the Zapara School’s Center for Conflict Resolution, Center for Philanthropy, the Edward C. Allred Center and headquarters for a world politics and economics think tank, the TransResearch Consortium. The latter organization is jointly sponsored by La Sierra University, Portland State University, and Claremont Graduate University.
The new business school building has 13 faculty offices, additional offices for collaborating faculty, visiting scholars, and a resident entrepreneur’s office to accommodate visiting executives and professionals who will provide mentoring to La Sierra students.
Two rooms, called “start-up garages,” will function as incubators for students with promising entrepreneurial ideas and business plans. The garages will be outfitted with computers, phones and other necessities at no cost to student entrepreneurs. Students maintain their tenancy in the garage for one school year by meeting quarterly business goals set by the students and approved by administration.
An Innovation Lab, where students are encouraged to experiment with ideas, will include several desktop 3D Makerbot Replicator printers allowing students to enter the world of desktop prototyping and manufacturing. And an e-learning facility with a recording studio, green room and editing room, will allow continued and enhanced production of content for distance learning.
The Troesh Conference Center, named for Dennis and Carol Troesh, includes a 385-seat auditorium with Wi-Fi Internet access, breakout rooms, concert quality enhanced sound system, broadcast quality video systems, a 1,362-square-foot raised platform area and green room for guest speakers. It is open for reservation by businesses and community organizations and will feature several upcoming events including lectures by international archaeologists for Archaeology Discovery Weekend in November; the university’s annual Isaac Backus American Freedoms Lecture; and a liberating markets lecture series. Events will be live-streamed and archived for online access by other schools and organizations.
In the late 1920s business instructors joined the faculty of what is today La Sierra University. The institution’s first business graduates received baccalaureate degrees in 1945, and in 1967 an institutional merger with Loma Linda University resulted in significant growth of the business department. This led to the creation of a Master of Business Administration program in 1982 and the formation of the School of Business and Management in 1986 under the direction of its first dean, Ignatius Yacoub.
Thomas, a 1988 MBA graduate of the business program took the dean’s helm in 1999. His leadership has resulted in increased enrollment with off-campus delivery of the MBA program at multiple locations. The School of Business posted record enrollment last fall with more than 500 students in total. The new building can accommodate a student body of more than 1,000.
Under Thomas’s leadership the school’s mission emphasized entrepreneurial creativity and social change captured in the motto, “Create Value. Make a difference.”
The school’s Enactus (formerly Students In Free Enterprise or SIFE) team, which Thomas helped organize in 1991-92, brought the university worldwide recognition by winning the international title four times and the world cup event twice. The new building’s spacious floor plan includes offices for each student club including a 1,500-square-foot Enactus ‘war room’ for project development and competition strategy sessions.
The school also holds an annual summer Innovation Camp that attracts dozens of high school students from the region and other parts of California.
La Sierra University is an institution of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The success of La Sierra’s Enactus program captured the attention of the Zaparas, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who contribute to Adventist education.
“What an honor it is for this university and its many constituents to realize that its business school will be permanently identified with a couple who embody the values, the integrity, and the stature of Tom and Vi Zapara,” said Wisbey. “The Zapara School of Business will stand as a lasting beacon of quality and commitment to the principles and values that have guided the lives of this couple.”
“It’s finally happened, and with patience and perseverance by John Thomas and the president it’s a reality. And it’s a beautiful building,” said Tom Zapara. “Our donation was a wonderful opportunity to put God’s resources where they would be most beneficial.”
Violet Zapara graduated from La Sierra in 1947 and her husband attended in 1950. The couple founded Zee Medical Inc. in 1952, an occupational first aid, safety and training products company that grew to serve more than 400,000 manufacturing plants, construction firms, restaurants, hotels and other organizations in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The Zaparas sold the company 30 years later to McKesson Corporation.
“A lot of new things will be happening in the new school of business that they never had a chance to do,” Zapara said. “That school of business will dramatically increase. Dean Thomas has the ability to make it happen.”