by Thomas P. Healy
With a new name and solid financial footing, Butler University’s College of Business plans to offer a cutting-edge experiential program designed to let its graduates turn good ideas into great innovations.
The renewed sense of mission is courtesy of a generous gift from Andre B. Lacy, chairman of the board of LDI, Ltd., one of Indiana’s largest business development firms. In April, Lacy and his wife Julia made a $25 million commitment to the school. In return, Butler renamed the College of Business the Andre B. Lacy School of Business.
Lacy, 75, will also serve as senior advisor to the program. While the funds are appreciated, school of business dean Stephen Standifird says it’s the personal connection that makes this deal so exciting. “We need people like Andre,” Standifird said after the announcement. “We want him in the building—talking with faculty, interacting with students. We want him to infect the place with his DNA—his real business experience.”
For his part, Lacy is delighted that he’ll have an office next door to Standifird’s. “I will have an office so students will have access to me and I will have access to them,” he said. “He and I are talking about how we can end up making that something that would be a meaningful experience for the students.”
He’s not starting from scratch. For more than a decade, Lacy has served on the Butler Business Consulting Group Advisory Panel and mentored Butler students. “I have enjoyed mentoring bright people. Bright people are very attractive to me,” he said, adding, “Sometimes I get tired of giving money, I want to give me!”
A renowned entrepreneur, Lacy looks forward to encouraging business students to take a chance on their ideas. “That’s part and parcel of what Butler president James Danko’s vision is for the university and how he feels Butler can and should differentiate its value proposition to the students who have an opportunity to attend the Butler business school,” Lacy said.
Early on in his engagement with Butler, Lacy was involved in the university’s business accelerator, a Lilly Endowment–funded program designed to stimulate small business. “It recognized that small business is where roughly 90 percent of jobs are created,” Lacy noted. And while that interested him, he also wanted to help existing businesses find a pathway to sustainability.
Then James Danko became Butler’s president and the two formed a great working relationship. “Jim and I really hit it off quite well, right out of the box,” Lacy said. “Jim is a different—he has a business background.”
The two met periodically for lunch and conversation, and when Danko tapped Standifird to serve as dean, it became apparent that emphasizing small business would be too limiting. “We couldn’t go just to a little larger enterprise,” Lacy said. But if they opened it up to more than just startup companies, he said, “it would allow us to think of opportunity and the importance of freedom and how freedom ends up opening up the gate for a person to pursue anything and everything to their capacity and ability.”
Dean Standifird said the Lacys’ gift will fund programming needs. “We intend to use this to fuel new innovation. Higher education and business education is a very dynamic industry and we need to think deeply about how we deliver business education in the future,” he said.
Business education is a very competitive industry, Standifird said. “There are a number of high-quality universities in Indiana and around the country. The big challenge for Butler is to define our value proposition.”
In the first year of the new program, students create a business plan and use that as the basis for launching a company in the second year. Before they can graduate, students must complete at least two internships—an approach lauded by Bloomberg Businessweek, which ranked Butler’s program #1 in the country for internships.
“There are a lot of universities that focus on startups—and do a great job,” Standifird said. “We notice there’s a lack of focus on getting beyond startup to become successful long-term sustainable entities.”
“We think of students as partners,” he continued, “It’s about building their success both for short term and long term.”
Andre Lacy on leadership style
- It’s important to balance your life between family, business, and community. I think that makes you a more well-rounded, whole person.
- Everybody needs a boss. It gets to be lonely being a leader of an enterprise.
- With privilege goes responsibility.
- Enthusiasm is a key to leadership.
- You can’t stand still. Constantly quest for acquiring information and tools.
- Think broadly and strategically. You’ve got to be able to formulate ideas and have the willingness and capacity to articulate what you think is important and sell it. Life is a sales job,
- It’s important to have fun.