Newswise — A leadership gift to West Virginia University from longtime supporters Ken and Randy Kendrick will allow the John Chambers College of Business and Economics to transform economics education through innovative programs for high-schoolers and educators statewide via the new Kendrick Center for an Ethical Economy.

The $40 million partnership with the Kendricks complements broader efforts to make WVU a purpose-driven leader in higher education. Over the next 10 years, WVU will dedicate approximately $20 million – including repurposed funds, in-kind support and new investments – to the project, while the Kendricks will contribute $20 million over that same time period, making their commitment one of the largest gifts in the history of the Chambers College.

“This alliance to create the Kendrick Center for an Ethical Economy is a game-changer for West Virginia because it will help our state retain top young talent in line with West Virginia University’s land-grant mission by aiding teachers in filling economic literacy gaps that exist for students,” President Gordon Gee said.

The Kendrick Center for an Ethical Economy will build upon the existing excellence within the Chambers College’s Department of Economics to implement three key initiatives: 

  • The Kendrick Educators in Economics Program will increase capacity and outreach in youth economic education statewide by investing in West Virginia teachers. The program will create a specialized track for educators within its Master of Science in Economics program, offer summer workshops focused on economics education for teachers, and recruit mentor teachers to support Kendrick Educators.
  • Enrollment in Economics 201, Principles of Microeconomics, will be expanded for West Virginia high school students to increase economic and financial literacy, encourage students interested in higher education to broaden their studies, and help retain and invest in homegrown talent.
  • The Kendrick Fellows Program will recruit high-achieving high school seniors to WVU, engage them in Center courses and activities, and incentivize them to stay in West Virginia after graduation.

The Kendrick Center complements a reimagined vision for business education at WVU. The innovative approach – reflected at Reynolds Hall, the new home of the Chambers College slated for completion in April 2022 – integrates start-up culture with an entrepreneurial mindset to cultivate business leaders of the future.

“The Kendricks’ focus on economic and financial literacy and keeping our top students in the state will not only benefit the individuals in these three programs, but West Virginia as a whole,” said Josh Hall, Milan Puskar Dean. “This revolutionary gift touches on all aspects of our mission, from building business leaders of tomorrow, to catalyzing interdisciplinary solutions that advance economic growth in West Virginia and beyond.”

The Center’s efforts to supplement existing economics and ethics education for West Virginia students and offer enhanced study for their teachers will be led by the Kendrick Chair of Economics, a position to be held by the Center’s director, with support from at least four additional faculty hires. Cathleen Johnson, assistant professor and assistant chair of the Department of Economics, will serve as the inaugural Kendrick Chair.

“The Kendrick Center allows us to build upon our charge as faculty to instill excellence, innovation, and ethics in our work, and it is an honor to partner with them to activate this gift that will serve our students and land-grant mission in transformative ways,” Johnson said.

A native of Princeton, Ken Kendrick is one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at WVU in 1965 and now serves as managing general partner and principal owner of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. He and his wife, Randy, reside in Paradise Valley, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix.

The Kendricks’ gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University. Kendrick served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors for many years and completed his latest term in 2020.

“On behalf of the WVU Foundation team, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Ken and Randy Kendrick for their continued partnership,” WVU Foundation President and CEO Cindi Roth said. “Their incredible history of support for WVU reflects their passion to see the Mountain State grow. This latest gift will build upon their incredible legacy by launching impactful programs to benefit West Virginia’s economy for generations.”

Ken Kendrick has remained dedicated to his alma mater throughout his career. He previously established programs at the Chambers College focused on free enterprise, funded children’s vision outreach programs at the WVU Eye Institute, and supported facilities and programs to benefit WVU student-athletes, including the WVU Hall of Traditions.

After graduating from WVU, Kendrick worked at IBM before founding Datatel, Inc., a worldwide leader in the development of computer software for the management of infrastructure technology for colleges, universities and foundations.

He then became a banking technology industry executive in the 1980s. Kendrick is a principal investor in Woodforest National Bank, one of the nation’s largest privately owned financial institutions. He also owns Bumble Bee Ranch, which is devoted to providing western lifestyle experiences to children’s charities throughout Arizona.

Kendrick was a charter member of the ownership group that established the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1995, and the team has achieved significant successes on and off the field under his leadership as managing general partner since 2004. Kendrick is also chairman of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and serves on the boards of numerous other charitable organizations, including the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Kendrick received an honorary degree from WVU in 2013. He has also been inducted into the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame, the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni and the inaugural Roll of Distinguished Alumni at the Chambers College.