Philanthropist Conrad Prebys remembered during groundbreaking for new Kelley School career center

Conrad T. Prebys

Conrad T. Prebys

Indiana University alumnus Conrad Prebys passed away in July after a battle with cancer, but his presence was clearly felt Thursday at an official groundbreaking ceremony for a new career services center that will bear his name.

Kelley School of Business Dean Idalene “Idie” Kesner recounted Prebys’ visit to the Bloomington campus shortly after his $20 million gift was announced in October 2015.

“He toured Kelley’s newly expanded and renovated Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center and was greeted right here in this room by dozens of excited Kelley students holding giant posters and signs proclaiming his ‘awesomeness,'” said Kesner, also the Frank P. Popoff Chair of Strategic Management.

“I think he was genuinely surprised by the reception and genuinely moved by the gratitude of the students. They were eager to shake his hand and let him know how his gift would make an impact on their futures and the futures of generations of Kelley students to come.

“He leaves a wonderful legacy in San Diego and elsewhere in California. And it’s gratifying to know his legacy will also live on at Indiana University, a campus he loved so much.”

Kesner was joined at the ceremony by IU President Michael A. McRobbie and IU Foundation President and CEO Dan Smith in expressing gratitude to Prebys and expressing condolences to his family.

Once completed in December 2017, the two-story, $14 million Conrad Prebys Career Services Center will meet an important need for an increasing number of students at Kelley as well as other undergraduates across the Bloomington campus.

IU Foundation President and CEO Daniel C. Smith, left, IU President Michael A. McRobbie, IU Kelley School of Business Dean Idalene Kesner and IU Associate Vice President, Capital Planning and Facilities John Lewis break ground for the Kelley School of Business Prebys Career Center.

IU Foundation President and CEO Daniel C. Smith, left, IU President Michael A. McRobbie, IU Kelley School of Business Dean Idalene Kesner and IU Associate Vice President, Capital Planning and Facilities John Lewis break ground for the Kelley School of Business Prebys Career Center.

The career center was among several needs addressed when Prebys, president of Progress Construction and Management in San Diego, committed $20 million to IU and the Kelley School.

His gift also will support an endowment fund for attracting and retaining top faculty and scholarships for high-performing undergraduates from underrepresented populations.

The IU Bloomington campus also will benefit from his support for a new outdoor amphitheater for musical and theatrical productions.

Raised in South Bend, Prebys was the first in his family to attend college. At IU, he was a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity, the Playbill theater group and the ROTC program. After graduating with distinction in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in business, he returned to his hometown and worked there several years before relocating to San Diego in 1966 and beginning a career in real estate.

He co-founded Progress Construction and Management, which has distinguished itself in Southern California by being a developer of affordable, middle-class homes. He later shifted his focus from construction to property ownership and owned more than 80 properties in the San Diego area.

Over the years, Prebys has given generously to medical research, educational and arts organizations in the San Diego area. Viewers of PBS’ “Masterpiece Theater” each Sunday will see his name among the supporters of the Masterpiece Trust.

Prebys’ gift to IU and Kelley counts toward the $2.5 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

Over the past decade, the number of IU Bloomington students served by Kelley’s Undergraduate Career Services Office has almost doubled. With the expansion of Hodge Hall and an increase in the number of students admitted to Kelley, the facility can no longer keep up with the demand.

Once completed, the addition will nearly double the amount of space where recruiters will be able to meet privately with students. It will include more than 70 interview rooms as well as nearly 30 staff offices. The design for the first floor will allow for flexible use, including a multipurpose area where visiting companies can set up displays and make presentations.

An artist's rendering of the Conrad Prebys Career Services Center

An artist’s rendering of the Conrad Prebys Career Services Center

“The Prebys Career Services Addition will help to ensure that the Kelley School’s career services remain among the best in the country,” McRobbie said. “His extraordinarily generous gift is a testament to his belief in the value of a quality business education that gives students the skills they need to succeed and instills in them the values and principles that will guide them in their careers and in their lives.”

“I love Indiana University, the beautiful Bloomington campus, and it’s exciting to be able to make this gift to the university,” Prebys said in October. “I am very proud to help the Kelley School build on its strong foundation and further its profound promise to students and their futures.”

Kesner noted that for everyone who enters the Conrad Prebys Career Services Center, it will be a reminder of Prebys’ enthusiasm, integrity, tenacity and generosity.

“Few of us leave legacies in this world that touch the lives of so many young people at such a pivotal point,” she said. “At the moment of their success, at the moment they accept their job moving them from unemployed student to successful, newly hired business executive, they will think of Conrad Prebys, the Prebys Center and a true Hoosier success story.”

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