PITTSBURG — Renovation and expansion of the Kelce College of Business at Pittsburg State University is one step closer to reality today, following a $300,000 donation Thursday by the Girard National Bank and its University Bank locations

The gift was presented in a ceremony at Russ Hall, where many of the more than 30 Pittsburg State University graduates and students who work at the bank gathered for a photograph and listened to remarks from PSU President Steve Scott.

Girard National Bank President and CEO Mark Shifferdecker said that when they learned of the renovations they were “immediately intrigued and excited.”

Shifferdecker said with the competition from business schools at the larger universities in Kansas, the bank sees the improvements to the Kelce School as a way to combat “brain drain” and hopefully keep more PSU graduates in the area to work and open businesses.

According to a release from PSU, the Kelce College of Business, formed in 1977 as the Center for Business and Economic Development, is now listed among the world's top 5 percent of business colleges thanks to accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

It's housed in one of the most heavily utilized buildings on the PSU campus and has more than1,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in business classes each semester. But it requires additional space to advance and expand its burgeoning outreach activities in business and economic development. And the building is showing its age — originally constructed in 1950 as a high school, its mid-20th Century layout and technology are unable to keep pace with the demands of a 21st Century business degree, the release said.

Scott said the renovations will be “transformational in how we teach.”

He said the ways the university will deploy technology and the way students will learn will help to propel the school forward.

Kelce Dean Paul Grimes said in the release that Girard National Bank and its University Bank branch in Pittsburg have been loyal supporters of the Kelce College of Business.

"We are proud to have so many of our alums working for GNB. This generous gift helps us move toward our goal of providing a state-of-the-art learning environment for the next generation of Pitt State Business Gorillas," Grimes said.

Schifferdecker said in the release Girard National Bank and University Bank are strongly committed to PSU's success.

"This pledge is just one example of our support,” Schifferdecker said. “In addition to making financial gifts, many bank officers, employees, and directors also contribute by serving on university boards and committees, supporting university events, and making personal financial contributions.

"A strong economy is good for our customers. A well-educated work force is also great for the bank," he said.

Scott said this donation brings the total donations for the $18 million project to approximately $4 million. However, he said, the project will not rely solely on private money, but the university will be able to use “R&R” or renovation and repair funds, to do some of the work as well.

Those funds cannot be used on new construction, but can be used to renovate existing buildings — which, Scott said, is part of PSU’s drive to be a sustainable campus.

“One way to be sustainable is to repurpose buildings,” he said, adding when complete the Kelce building will be the campus’s first LEED-certified facility.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a green certification.

The Girard National Bank is locally owned and based in Crawford County. In addition to its headquarters in Girard and its University Bank locations in Pittsburg, Arma, and Galena, Kansas, the bank has offices in 10 other communities in Kansas and Southeast Colorado.

 — Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at prichardson@morningsun.net, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.