Exterior design and interior details impress three generations of business students
By Terry Tush
As Ed Keller tours Oklahoma State University’s new Business Building for the first time, his mind races back nearly 60 years to his student days. On this Friday afternoon in February, the Tulsa banker is getting his first look at the state-of-the-art building on a tour provided by three of his grandchildren: Kennedy Jones, Kale Jones and Kassidy Paul, all current students in the Spears School of Business.
For someone who first walked onto the Stillwater campus as a freshman in 1959 — and fondly remembers taking classes in the Classroom Building — the 77-year-old Keller is in a state of awe after the tour, as is his 49-year-old son, Griff Jones. As the current students listen, the pair of OSU business school graduates reminisce about their past experiences while marveling at the new home for business students.
The afternoon tour is a walk down memory lane for the five members of three generations of OSU business school students — Keller (’63, finance), Griff (’91, finance), Kennedy (2019, marketing and strategic communications), Kale (2021, finance) and Paul (2021, sports management and marketing with a finance minor).
From the advanced technology to the student-friendly classrooms to the collaborative team rooms, both Keller and the elder Jones are impressed with the amenities in the 147,450-square-foot building.
"It’s awesome. It’s just the nicest academic building I’ve been in."
Griff says the new building will provide opportunities to his children and niece that haven’t been available to OSU business students for many years.
“When I was here, you went to the Business Building, did your hour or hour-and-a-half class and then you turned around and left,” he says. “You might go to the Student Union or other places on campus where you commingled with people. (But) this feels like a real social place where you would spend more time between classes.
“If you’re a prospective student coming on campus, to just walk into this, just as a great athlete would look at a football stadium or a baseball stadium or a basketball arena, someone really interested in business is going to see this building and say, ‘I want to be there. That looks really cool.’ I’d say it’s a real calling card.”
The technology throughout the five-floor building is among the most advanced available, including wireless presentation systems that allow students and faculty to connect and collaborate during classes. Each of the building’s 13 classrooms are equipped with super-size HD 1080p monitors. Four new classrooms are computer-teaching classrooms, and three have lecture-capturing technology. There are 793 total classroom seats.
Finding spaces to work together has been a struggle in the past, says Kennedy, but the new building was designed to provide collaborative areas throughout, enticing students to make the Business Building a destination instead of a stop-off during their day. There are 16 team/breakout rooms, each equipped with a video screen that students can use to connect on projects. And the Business Perks coffee shop on the first floor is open weekdays.
“Business students have been spread across campus the whole time I’ve been here. My Intro to Marketing class was in Ag Hall, so I’ve kind of been everywhere on campus,” Kennedy says. “I think the best part is finally having one place to connect and build relationships with one another.”
Kale, a freshman, is looking forward to taking advantage of all the new building offers. “I’d probably say the best thing about the new Business Building would be the opportunities, from the nice new classrooms to the study rooms to the coffee shop. All the opportunities you have in this building are awesome.”
Those opportunities haven’t been available to OSU business students in years. Opening in 1966, the old Business Building served thousands of OSU students well, but it was time for an upgrade.
The business school was housed in Morrill Hall when Keller was a student from 1959-63; the Business Building was nearly 25 years old when Griff attended. Both still fondly remember classes in the Classroom Building, and Griff recalls taking some in the Business Building’s classroom annex, which was razed for the new building.
A new building with nice features is exciting but it goes far beyond aesthetics. Several new initiatives are better preparing OSU business students to enter the workforce. In recent years, Dean Ken Eastman and his leadership team have spearheaded updates to the core curriculum and created the Eastin Center for Career Readiness. These changes aim to ensure that students build their professionalism and analytic skills, have engaging and collaborative learning experiences, get significant practical experience, are ready to hit the ground running when launching their careers and are well-equipped for rapid promotions.
“This approach to learning is completely different, and I think it’s exciting to see,” Keller says. “I really believe that those who are really successful are going to have these leadership skills and be able to work in group environments. They are going to be the ones who win.”
After years of watching the building go up just north of the old one, students enjoyed experiencing the new Spears Business home for the first time on January 16, the start of the spring semester.
"The first day of my class I called (my grandpa) afterward and asked him, ‘Have you seen this building? It’s just amazing.’ It’s been awesome getting to share it with him."
“I was just absolutely amazed at how modern it is and the updated technology. It feels so natural, it’s a very calming environment, and it’s nice and social. The coffee shop and furniture make it very easy for the students to want to come here and to want to learn.”
After the tour, Keller agrees with his granddaughter.
“I do think it’s welcoming. As opposed to 40 or 50 years ago walking into the Classroom Building, there was nothing necessarily welcoming about it. It was just a bigger building than you had at your high school. This seems to me to be a very warm and welcoming environment,” he says.
Although the interior provides an exceptional educational experience for students, the exterior is also beautiful. Architect Rand Elliott’s Georgian revival architectural style matches the traditional look of the Stillwater campus.
“I don’t know how you can’t walk through here and not be proud of it,” Griff says. “There are some neat buildings on campus that we all have fallen in love with over the years, and this feels like this is going to be one of those buildings that everybody gets drawn to, whether you’re a business major or another major.
“In our house, we have a painting of Old Central; that’s an iconic building on this campus. And as people graduate, I can see them saying, ‘I want to have a picture of this Business Building.’ It’s just an iconic-looking building, and although it’s brand-new it seems like it really taps into the rest of the architecture on campus.”
Keller admits to getting a little emotional when thinking about the legacy he is leaving on OSU’s business school.
“I’m thrilled personally that (all three grandchildren) are in the business school,” he says. “I haven’t tried to influence that. I want them to follow what they’re really passionate about and what they’re interested in. Regardless of that, I just want them to have an experience here. I think there are roots that you build here that will serve you well wherever you go.”
"It’s been the best opportunity. Having my grandpa and my dad go here, and now I have the opportunity to go to OSU, having my brother and my cousin here with me, it’s honestly incredible. It’s made us closer, I think. We’ve gotten to share some of the same experiences, same opportunities, and find our own paths."
That path now leads to a different building, and one that will change the lives of thousands of Oklahoma State business students for years to come.