New business building dedicated at Southern Utah University

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University’s new state-of-the-art business building officially opened Monday, the first day of the university’s school year.

Dixie L. Leavitt and his wife Anne Leavitt, the building’s primary benefactors, both spoke during its official ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony.

SUU President Scott Wyatt smiles as he receives Dixie Leavitt’s old leather suitcase during ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for Southern Utah University’s new business building, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 27, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Dixie Leavitt, who turned 89 Monday, told the gathered crowd he’d first attended what was then called the Branch Agricultural College on Aug. 27, 1947, his 18th birthday. He said his father had driven him up to Cedar City in the family’s 1938 Dodge from their home in Bunkerville, Nevada, dropped him off as a brand-new freshman at the curb with little else but a leather suitcase containing a pair of corduroy pants and three new shirts sewn by his mother.

“I picked up my suitcase and looked around for someone to tell me where to go,” Leavitt said.

He would go on, it was noted, to serve as the school’s student-body president and star on its football and track teams. More importantly, he also met his future wife, Anne Okerlund of Logan, herself an accomplished theater and journalism student.

Anne Leavitt said Monday she still vividly recalled meeting her husband-to-be on campus nearly seven decades ago.

“I remember the young man in the corduroy pants with a suitcase. I think they were the same corduroys he wore when I came two years later,” she said. “He looked great enough in them that I was smitten.”

Dixie and Anne Leavitt are surrounded by five of their sons and one grandson during ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for Southern Utah University’s new business building, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 27, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I, too, have a clear memory of the days when all any student needed was a notebook and a pencil, maybe a protractor and a slide rule if you were really serious about math,” Anne Leavitt added. “To have come from from days of such rudimentary tools to this age when marvelous things are accomplished with the touch of a magical button, is a quantum leap.”

Anne Leavitt, who spoke at SUU’s commencement exercises earlier this year and authored a history of the university, said she appreciates having “been along for the ride.”

“I have also been a fascinated observer of the evolution of both our town and this university,” she said.

Anne Leavitt said she hopes today’s students have an appreciation for the contributions and accomplishments of their forebears.

“We will be responsible to see that they are infused with sufficient institutional memory, that they will somehow know that the beginning building blocks of today’s prosperity were dug from the sandstone of somebody’s sacrifice.”

More than seven decades later, his corduroy pants are long gone, but Dixie Leavitt did produce his old leather suitcase and handed it to SUU President Scott Wyatt, who received it with appreciation.

“Wall Street” area in the interior of Southern Utah University’s new business building, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 27, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Wyatt had earlier expressed his gratitude for the Leavitts and their remarkable generosity.

“It’s hard to think of any two people who have had a greater impact on this school than them,” Wyatt said during his introduction of the Leavitts.

Wyatt noted that the Leavitts’ contribution to the building was the largest single monetary gift in SUU’s history: $5 million toward the new business building and another $2.5 million toward scholarships.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to say the amount, but I think it’s important for this reason, because the gift that they pledged of $5 million ultimately became $12 million,” Wyatt said, noting that after the Leavitts’ gift was announced, support for the once-stagnant project quickly grew, with private donors and state lawmakers getting on board until the project was ultimately given the green light in 2016.

“Yes, they did in fact generate momentum and that momentum did carry through the Board of Regents, the building board and the Legislature,” Wyatt said.

Read more: Groundbreaking for $17M Business School project upcoming

The two-story, 42,000-square-foot building includes 15 classrooms, 38 faculty offices, study spaces, an investment learning lab, an entrepreneurship lab, an incubator space, plus lounges and other gathering areas.

SUU students near a table containing succulent plants that were given to audience members following ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for Southern Utah University’s new business building, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 27, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

After the Leavitts’ remarks at the conclusion of the program, they were joined onstage by five of their six sons, plus one grandson Dixon, who was representing his father Dane Leavitt, currently serving an LDS mission in South Africa.

The Leavitts collectively pulled on the ropes to unveil the words “Dixie L. Leavitt School of Business” on the building’s east side, as those in the audience clapped and cheered.

Dixie Leavitt said that even though his name may appear on the building, his wife and family deserve a large share of the credit.

“My six sons and their mother are and always have been the wind behind my wings,” he said. “No accomplishment was mine alone.”

Earlier in the program, Chad Nielsen, CEO of MHTN Architects, talked about the building’s design and architectural elements.

As an example, Nielsen mentioned a two-story zone in the interior of the building, which the design team nicknamed Wall Street.

“Wall Street is a metaphorical interpretation of the Wall Street that we all know in New York City as well as the Wall Street slot canyon near Bryce Canyon National Park,” he said. “This zone spans the building from north to south, creating a central spine where interaction and collaboration is encouraged.”

Exterior of Southern Utah University’s new business building, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 27, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Mary Pearson, dean of the Dixie L. Leavitt School of Business, spoke of both the college’s illustrious past and its bright future.

“Thank you to all of you who have supported and made this dream of a building become a reality,” Person said. “We’ve been waiting a long time and we are elated. The students, the faculty and staff are excited for what we can do and what we can become. This building will assist our students in finding a sense of purpose and meaning that has been a long-standing core value of SUU. We are well on our way to being known as the most innovative, collaborative, experiential, an entrepreneurial business school in the Intermountain West. Thank you. Our future is bright.”

Others who spoke briefly at the event included Greg Powell, associate professor of management and a department chair at the Dixie L. Leavitt School of Business; Joshua Haines, vice president of Layton Construction; Justin Harding, Gov. Gary Herbert’s chief of staff; Gary Porter, executive director of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation; and Jay Francis, executive vice president of Larry H. and Gail Miller Corporate Affairs and Miller Family Philanthropy. The opening prayer was offered by Pastor Nancy Pearson of the Community Presbyterian Church.

Following the hourlong ceremony, audience members were given tours of the interior of the building. Live succulent plants in small glass containers were handed out to commemorate the occasion.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

 

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