Alumnus Conrad Prebys donates $20M to benefit IU?s Kelley School of Business, fund new amphitheater

  • Oct. 1, 2015


Editors note: Conrad T. Prebys discusses his decision to donate to Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business in a video available online.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Conrad T. Prebys, president of Progress Construction and Management in San Diego, has committed $20 million to Indiana University and its Kelley School of Business.

The IU Kelley School of Business will use Prebys’ gift to establish student scholarship and faculty chair endowment programs, as well as to fund a new career services center in the Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center. The IU Bloomington campus is also benefitting from his support through a new outdoor amphitheater for musical and theatrical productions.

Prebys' gift was made as part of IU's new university-wide philanthropic campaign, launched last weekend. For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign has set a record goal of $2.5 billion to be raised by 2020. Prebys' gift is one of several generous financial commitments announced since the campaign began.

Prebys, a native of South Bend, Ind., earned a bachelor of science in general management from the IU School of Business (now Kelley) in 1955. He moved to San Diego a decade later and created a real estate development company that today owns more than 80 apartment complexes and self-storage locations in San Diego.

“We are extremely grateful to Conrad Prebys for his remarkable generosity and his commitment to preparing our students for highly successful careers in business and the arts,” said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. “His wonderful donation will enable us to enhance career placement activities at the Kelley School of Business that corporate recruiters already rank No. 1 in the nation and provide our student artists and performers with a new type of performance venue in which to showcase their outstanding talents.

"Indeed, his promises to be a transformational gift that will strongly advance several of IU’s top strategic priorities for its 2020 bicentennial, including our commitment to student success and to building a community of scholars that attracts and retains the best faculty from around the nation and world."

Enduring impact on Kelley

Part of Prebys’ gift will be used to continue to attract and retain top Kelley School faculty members. The Conrad Prebys Endowed Faculty Program will provide funding for four professorships and a chair.

The Prebys Scholars Program will benefit more than 30 high-performing undergraduates from underrepresented populations. His investment provides support for many who otherwise may not have the financial means to attend IU and the Kelley School.

Kelley School Dean Idalene “Idie” Kesner said the gift will help the school maintain its top rankings in research, teaching and career services.

“We are thrilled and very thankful that Mr. Prebys has chosen to remember his pivotal time at IU and the school of business in this way,” said Kesner, who also is the Frank P. Popoff Chair of Strategic Management. “His success will continue to have a positive effect for years to come, for our students, our faculty and the companies that hire our graduates.”  

In addition to educating the next generation of thought leaders and successful business professionals, Prebys’ gift provides for two crucial infrastructure needs at Kelley.

For the last two years, employers surveyed by Bloomberg BusinessWeek have ranked Kelley No. 1 for its holistic approach to undergraduate business education and the positive impact that has on the Kelley student, along with the school's commitment to diversity.

But new career services facilities are needed to replace those that have resided on the first floor of the Kelley undergraduate building for decades. Kesner said Prebys’ gift also will ensure that Kelley's job placement activities, facilities and services continue to receive “A-plus” grades by corporate visitors, including those whose opinions are valued by prospective students.

Over the last 10 years, 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.

Prebys is also underwriting an executive meeting room on the fourth floor of Hodge Hall. The 1,700-square-foot room offers views of the Bloomington campus and hosts a variety of programs, conferences and academic gatherings.

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

New outdoor performance venue

As a young man, Prebys studied the piano while recovering from a yearlong, serious illness. His love for the performing arts will be showcased in an outdoor amphitheater that will be built in the center of the Bloomington campus. 

The amphitheater will be located between Bryan House and Ballantine Hall and will host summer performances of the Jacobs School of Music, the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance, visiting artists and other university events. Prebys’ gift will be administered and invested by the IU Foundation.

“Conrad is a model alumnus who through hard work and an exceptional philanthropic vision continues to advance a wide range of institutions that will improve countless lives over the years,” said Dan Smith, president of the IU Foundation. “Through this gift, he will inspire many generations of IU students to pursue their ambitious dreams and share their successes by creating opportunities for others.”

From Hoosier origins to California dream

Prebys was raised in a working-class neighborhood of South Bend where few aspired to attend college. His father was a tool-and-die maker and he grew up in a small, crowded house with his parents, four brothers, his grandmother and an uncle.

As a child, he developed a heart condition and was informed that he would lead a sedentary life. He focused on music as a future career choice. The turning point in his life was an inspirational teacher who exposed him to the arts and encouraged him to further his education. He was the first of his five brothers to go to college. While at IU, he participated in the ROTC Program.

Prebys returned to South Bend after graduation to work as a mid-level manager for a local steel company and operated a pizzeria with his brothers near the University of Notre Dame campus. In 1966, he went to San Diego to visit a brother and decided to stay. There, he partnered with Tom Sparrow to found Progress Construction and Management, which has distinguished itself in Southern California by being a developer of affordable, middle-class homes. Prebys bought out Sparrow in 1979.

Over the years, Prebys has given generously to medical research, educational and arts organizations in the San Diego area, including the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, The Old Globe Theater, the Zoological Society of San Diego, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Salk Institute, Scripps Mercy Hospital and San Diego State University. He also supports the La Jolla Music Society, the Boys & Girls Club, the local PBS station and the Masterpiece Trust, which co-produces “Downton Abbey.”

Related Links

Conrad T. Prebys

Conrad T. Prebys

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Architectural rendering of the new outdoor amphitheater

Architectural rendering of the new outdoor amphitheater

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For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign

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