BOWLING GREEN - The largest gift in Bowling Green State University history is coming from a man who has been traveling the country inspiring others to give to the school.
Kermit and Mary Lu Stroh, of Wapakoneta in Auglaize County, are giving $8 million to BGSU, most of which will go toward the construction of a convocation center.
"If you stand up to go forward and ask people to give and become active, you need to show the leadership," said Mr. Stroh, co-chairman of the BGSU Building Dreams Centennial Campaign.
"I hope what we are doing shows our commitment and interest in the students of Bowling Green State University."
The campaign, which sought to raise $120 million by the end of 2008, surpassed its goal a year ahead of schedule.
Mr. Stroh, who served as a BGSU trustee from 1993 to 2002 and was chairman twice, said he has been inspired by the generosity of alumni and friends of BGSU. That reaffirmed his family's plans to make the gift, which has been in the works for several years.
"We had people thinking if you didn't go to Michigan or Stanford or OSU, what they call the larger universities, you are an inferior person. I take offense to that," he said.
"We're very strong. We need to step forward with our shoulders back knowing we can go forward and be as successful as anyone else with a Bowing Green education."
Although Mr. Stroh, 75, is not an alumnus himself, he has two daughters, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren who are graduates.
The gift, which will be an-nounced during a ceremony at 10:45 a.m. today in the Center Court Club of Anderson Arena, will be the lead contribution to build the convocation center.
The BGSU board of trustees voted yesterday to call it the "Stroh Center."
The project is expected to cost $36 million and will be paid for primarily with bonded debt, but $14 million in private gifts is needed to get it done.
"I don't think this would be possible without this gift," Doug Smith, vice president for university advancement and president and chief executive officer of the BGSU Foundation, said. "It's a remarkable gift from a remarkable family."
The Strohs have been known as cheerleaders for BGSU.
"For many years, Kerm, Mary Lu, and the entire Stroh family have been true friends to BGSU," President Sidney Ribeau said. "We are very fortunate to have their enthusiastic leadership for this important project that will impact the entire Bowling Green community."
Mr. Stroh became a fan of BGSU when he visited Anderson Arena in the 1960s as a play-by-play announcer for high school basketball, a hobby of his.
He said he fell in love with the people and the atmosphere of the university and while he has fond memories of the arena, a new facility is needed.
"Anderson Arena is a wonderful place to play, but it has served its purpose," he said.
Plans are for $7.7 million of the Strohs' gift to go toward the new center, $200,000 to intercollegiate athletics, and $100,000 to the existing Kermit and Mary Lu Stroh Endowed Scholarship.
Plans are for construction of the Stroh Center to begin in 2010 and be completed by 2012. It is to have seating for 5,000 to watch basketball and volleyball games, graduation ceremonies, and other events.
The center, which is expected to be built near the football stadium, also will include locker rooms, meeting rooms, and coaching staff offices for the teams, the BGSU Athletics Hall of Fame, a merchandise store, ticket office, and lounge.
Gymnastics and student-athlete support services will be moved into Anderson Arena.
Mr. Stroh jokes that the family gift is from his wife's grocery savings over the years, but in fact Mr. Stroh had a successful career in the propane gas business.
He and his father started Moulten Gas Services Inc. in 1958, providing residential, industrial, and agricultural service to western Ohio and parts of Indiana and Kentucky. The Strohs sold it in 2004.
Mr. Stroh said it doesn't mean much that his family's gift is the largest in BGSU's nearly 100-year history. He's more pleased at the chance to give young people a shot at success.
"The only thing I'm interested in is what it means for the university," he said.
Prior to the Strohs' gift, the largest was a $6.7 million contribution in 2001 from the Thompson Foundation for the President's Leadership Academy.