Kermit Stroh discusses his family’s $8 million donation while his wife, Mary Lu, and President Sidney Ribeau look on.

Kermit Stroh discusses his family's $8 million donation while his wife, Mary Lu, and President Sidney Ribeau look on.

BGSU receives $8 million, the largest gift in its nearly 100-year history

An $8 million gift from a Wapakoneta family to the University will support several initiatives, including construction of a new convocation center on campus.

On March 1, Kermit F. and Mary Lu Stroh and their family announced the gift, which is the largest single private gift in BGSU’s nearly 100-year history.

In addition to providing $7.7 million for the convocation center–to be called the Stroh Center–the donation includes $200,000 for intercollegiate athletics and $100,000 for the already-established Stroh family endowed scholarship for students from Auglaize, Hardin, Logan, Mercer and Shelby counties.

The convocation center is an important project for the Strohs, who have spent a lot of hours at BGSU events in the current facility.

“Anderson Arena is a great venue with wonderful memories, but now is the time for the University to move ahead,” Stroh said. “Our family decided we’d like to lead the charge in creating a new convocation center for the University.”

The family’s connection to BGSU started approximately 45 years ago when Stroh first visited the campus as a play-by-play announcer covering local high school sports teams for a Wapakoneta-area radio station. He was doing the job because he loved local high school sports, and the station provided publicity for his fledgling propane gas company.

Those early visits resulted in a half-century relationship with the institution that includes bachelor’s degrees for daughters Tracey Wright and Melissa Wansker, son-in-law and Bowling Green native Van Wright and grandsons Cameron and Alex Wright; a nine-year tenure as a board of trustee member, and a reputation for being among BGSU’s most loyal cheerleaders.

Stroh was a trustee from 1993-2002, including two terms as chair of the board. Following his service on the board, he received an honorary doctorate and was named an Honorary Alumnus.

He is co-chair of BGSU’s Building Dreams Centennial Campaign, and he and Mary Lu are members of the Presidents Club and Falcon Club. 

From the beginning, the people and programs at BGSU impressed Kermit and his family.

“Everyone I met on campus had a passion for BGSU and it showed,” he recalled. “And it remains the same today. When you come to BG and you interact with people, whether they are working on the catering staff, a member of the classified or administrative staff or faculty, they care about what goes on here. That’s a trademark of the University.”

BGSU President Sidney A. Ribeau praised the Stroh family for its initiative to help make the convocation center project a priority. “For many years, Kerm, Mary Lu and the entire Stroh family have been true friends to BGSU. We are very fortunate to have their enthusiastic leadership for this important project that will impact the entire Bowling Green community,” Ribeau said.
The Strohs have created  “a transformational gift,” according to J. Douglas Smith, vice president for University advancement. “Their generosity helps meet a significant need at the University as we prepare to embark on a second century.”

The impact that the Stroh Center will have on programs such as men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball is significant also, said BGSU Athletics Director Greg Christopher. “As we work to advance our athletic programs, our facilities are key to recruiting and attendance. The Stroh Center will be a shining example of BGSU’s commitment to quality.”

“We hope the center will be much more than a basketball arena. We hope it will facilitate events, activities and opportunities for the BGSU and local communities,” Stroh said. “We want it to offer versatility for business gatherings, concerts, convocations, and many different events.

“This is important to us,” he continued. “We’ve seen this University step forward and be innovative on many fronts. Other universities are trying to copy what we are doing. This will be another initiative that will put BGSU in the spotlight.”

March 3, 2008