A groundbreaking gift from alums Terry and JoAnn Zeigler won’t just rename the business school at Bloomsburg; it will also elevate the reputation and quality of business education at BU far into the future.
Are business schools still relevant?
That’s an oft-asked question these days, posed by think tanks, research centers and advocacy groups alike. Prospective students are adding their voices to the chorus, wondering if their tuition dollars and years of study will give them an edge in an ever-changing, ever-more-competitive marketplace.
This much is clear: For business schools to retain — some might say regain -— their luster, they must tailor the education they offer to meet the new and evolving demands of the 21st-century workplace.
In short, they must move beyond business as usual.
That’s the vision of Terry ’76 and JoAnn Zeigler ’77, a vision that recently inspired the couple to make a multi-million-dollar gift to Bloomsburg University as part of the It’s Personal campaign.
The Zeiglers have high hopes, and high expectations, for business education at BU — and for the university’s newly named Terry and JoAnn Zeigler College of Business.
“Our entire message is about relevancy,” says Terry Zeigler, president and CEO of Datacap Systems Inc., based in Chalfont, Pa. “How do we keep Bloomsburg relevant in a rapidly changing world? How does a business education at Bloomsburg adjust to the reality that 65 percent of kids entering grade school today will as adults take jobs that don’t exist today?”
There are no easy answers, but Zeigler has some strong and persuasive opinions, born out of nearly four decades of in-the-trenches experience as a small-business founder. Terry is quick to say that he’s not an academician, that he knows his place as a donor. “I’m not the dean,” he says. “The college is in good hands with Dean (Jeffrey) Krug.” While the Zeiglers have no desire to interfere with day-to-day operations at Bloomsburg, they proudly embody the new face of philanthropy and the desire to bring about change and make a tangible difference with their giving.
What’s in a name?
Naming the business school at Bloomsburg was not high on the list of motivations that inspired the Zeiglers to make the largest gift in the history of the university. “This part was difficult for us,” admits JoAnn. “I really believe in doing good things, in doing the right thing, and we’ve been blessed to be able to be generous. But both of us have a hard time with the notoriety, the fanfare.”
The Zeiglers ultimately were convinced that adding their name to the business school would go a long way towards carving out a distinctive brand for Bloomsburg. Both Terry and JoAnn come from humble beginnings that mirror the background of many of today’s BU students: middle-income, blue-collar families, a strong work ethic, and better than average performance in the classroom. Terry’s father never earned a high school diploma; he worked first as a plumber, then as a production scheduler in a factory. JoAnn’s dad also dropped out of high school, earned his high school equivalency diploma after World War II, took a few college courses, and eventually started his own business.
They hope that the Zeigler name and the personal road they took to success — marked by relentless passion, discipline, and determination — will influence future generations. Here’s a glimpse of what the Zeiglers and Dean Krug foresee a decade from now, and beyond, when students, faculty, and business leaders reflect on what is distinctive about a business school education at Bloomsburg:
Business students typically dive into a singular discipline — such as accounting, marketing, management or finance — a solitary approach that leads to narrow areas of expertise. “In today’s world, it’s critical to see how each business area is interconnected,” Terry notes. “The college is aware of these trends and is committed to continuing to create a more integrated curriculum.” This broad knowledge of how companies operate, he insists, will help BU graduates drive teamwork, bring out the best in others, and engender the collaborations needed for success.
Hands-on, action-based learning.
The Zeigler College of Business will provide students with increased opportunities for real-world learning. Terry and JoAnn’s gift will be used in part to support and expand much of what is at the heart of a Bloomsburg business education: internships, interactions with successful alumni, greater participation in start-up competitions, development of business plans, and other activities that impart practical skills and prepare students for leadership.
Nimble and adaptive.
The pace of corporate change today is unyielding. Terry sees this daily in his own business, which develops and markets integrated point-of-sale payment systems — a complex process that plays out in a matter of seconds anywhere a consumer uses a credit card or makes an e-transaction. New threats are constant; think PayPal, Apple Pay, or Square. “If Visa or MasterCard sneezes tomorrow,” he says, “it can turn our world upside down.”
“Change,” he adds, “is the name of the game, whether it’s the music industry, the publishing industry, the health care industry, you name it. Students who graduate from college today must stay enduringly relevant. They must be prepared to adapt, to be nimble and entrepreneurial, or they will not make it in the business world. My hope is that a Bloomsburg business education will increasingly train students to think like entrepreneurs and find solutions to tough problems.”
One way to do this is by exposing students to the best practices of small businesses, learning skills which will serve them in later years whether they work for a Fortune 500 company or a family-run enterprise. “When you learn about small businesses — and let’s be clear, many of these students will work in small and family-run businesses, especially if they stay within a 50-mile radius of campus — you learn everything there is to know about how a company is run,” Terry adds. “These are skills that will make Bloomsburg graduates instantly valuable to a company of any size. A small business/family business focus can be a powerful differentiator for BU.”
Theory and practice.
A portion of the Zeiglers’ gift will be allocated to support faculty and their professional development to ensure that BU recruits and retains teachers who are always — here’s that word again — relevant. “Our hope,” according to Terry, “is that this investment will work to enhance faculty skills so that business education at BU continually keeps up with the evolving needs of industry.”
The Zeiglers imagine a series of faculty initiatives that include:
• special training that emphasizes teaching business as a whole;
• consulting activities done with students or independently;
• opportunities to advise and assist students in business development activities; and
• research and scholarship that advances strategic initiatives at the college.
Love blooms at Bloomsburg
How is it that a small-business owner and his wife are able to make a multi-million-dollar gift to name a business college? And why did they choose Bloomsburg as their philanthropic destination?
The answers trace back to the mid-1970s when Terry Zeigler first eyed JoAnn Schultz on campus. They met in a badminton class (part of a mandatory recreation requirement) in the cold of winter. One complication kept this from unfolding as a mutual love-at-first-sight narrative: JoAnn was dating another guy at the time.
That didn’t stop Terry. He conveniently offered her rides back to her dorm in his VW Beetle. “He was confident … and aggressive,” JoAnn recalls with a laugh. They started dating a few months later, a first date that was forever burned into their memories when a pack of streakers raced by the couple. They married in 1977.
Thirty-nine years and three children later, their fondness for Bloomsburg remains. And their generosity continues to grow.
In recent years, they have funded an endowed scholarship program at the university and announced a $1.67 million gift to establish the Zeigler Institute for Professional Development (ZIPD). ZIPD has been hugely popular, providing a comprehensive educational experience designed to build both personal and professional capacities, help students make informed career choices, and set them on a path towards success in the business world.
Their latest gift is a continuation of their commitment to shape a new generation of business leaders.
“Bloomsburg University is forever indebted to Terry and JoAnn Zeigler,” says President David Soltz. “Their vision for the Zeigler College of Business, their passion for providing opportunities for students from every walk of life to have access to an outstanding business education, and their tremendous generosity will have a lasting influence. I am thrilled that the first named college on our campus will carry the Zeigler name.”
Dean Krug echoes those sentiments. “Terry and JoAnn represent all that is good about Bloomsburg University,” he notes. “They are smart and savvy, real and authentic in all ways, visionary in their outlook, unwavering in their efforts to make good things happen, and always, always, looking for ways to improve the student experience at BU. They see this gift as an investment. I couldn’t be more pleased that they have chosen to make that investment in the Zeigler College of Business.”
So, back to the question of how the Zeiglers were able to stretch as far as they did with their support of BU. The equation is simple. They worked hard all of their lives. They saved consistently and aggressively for four decades, living in the same modest home for 37 years. They invested in real estate early in their marriage, buying condemned homes and burning the midnight oil to fix them up and prepare them for rental. And Terry dedicated his career to a small business he co-founded in his 20s — a business that is now widely regarded as a best-in-class enterprise.
Add it all up and the impact is clear: not just a name on a building but a legacy that will pay dividends for Bloomsburg students and faculty far into the future. •
Ronald Arena is a writer and communications consultant.