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Birmingham-Southern names International Programs Office in honor of Sklenar family
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Birmingham-Southern is naming its Office of International Programs in honor of Birmingham businessman and civic leader Herb Sklenar and his wife, Ellie, for their longtime support of study abroad at the college, including a major gift to BSC's Destiny: Delivered comprehensive campaign.
The Ellie and Herb Sklenar Center for International Programs will be officially dedicated in a campus ceremony this fall. Herb Sklenar is retired chair and chief executive officer of Vulcan Materials Co. He is a current member and past chair of the BSC Board of Trustees.
“Herb and Ellie Sklenar have unselfishly supported Birmingham-Southern College in many ways over the years,” said BSC President David Pollick in making the announcement. “Their love for this place grows out of their love for the liberal arts education, and most specifically the opportunities our students have to study abroad and the tremendous influence that an international experience has on both these students' college experiences and their life journeys. We are both proud and humbled to name our Office of International Programs after the Sklenar family.”
The couple's gift last year established an endowed fund to provide scholarships for BSC students who wish to go on semester-long or year-long foreign study experiences or who want to study overseas during the January Interim term. The Sklenars previously established an endowed fund at the college in honor of Howell Heflin Professor of Political Science Dr. Ed LaMonte that supports faculty and staff travel.
Herb Sklenar said the most recent gift was a natural next step in a lifetime of philanthropy and involvement in the local and national communities.
“In our lifetimes, Ellie and I have observed and personally experienced the accelerating interconnectedness of life on our planet,” he said. “The increasing speed and scope of travel, communications, and international trade have been awesome. And the need to think in global terms with respect to environmental stewardship is becoming increasingly appropriate. For all these reasons and others, education at the college level should have strong international dimensions, including study and travel abroad for students.”
The Sklenar Center for International Programs at Birmingham-Southern offers study/travel opportunities in all regions of the world, including some 14 exchange or partnership programs with colleges and universities in 13 foreign countries. BSC students are strongly encouraged to study abroad during their four-year academic careers. The center also advises the college's growing international student population.
“BSC is a place of distinction where an excellent college education can be obtained by qualified and motivated young people, and it is a great asset to this community and state,” Mr. Sklenar added. “Ellie and I are honored and pleased to have our names associated with the college's Office of International Programs. But our greatest pleasure comes from the thought that our gift will enable more BSC students to experience the benefits of study and travel in other countries.”
Mr. Sklenar has been a member of the college's Board of Trustees since 1990, serving three terms as its chair from 1994-97. A native of Omaha, Neb., he was born to parents of Czech heritage. After earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an MBA from Harvard, he held executive positions in several corporations before joining Birmingham's Vulcan Materials Co. in 1972 as chief financial officer. He retired from Vulcan in 1997 as chair and CEO.
The couple has been noted for their philanthropy and involvement in the local and national communities, including his chairing of the initial capital campaign for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Mr. Sklenar is a past president of the Rotary Club of Birmingham and on the national advisory board of the National Czech and Slovak Museum in Iowa. He also is active with the Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations and is a member of the Board of Distinguished Advisors of the American Committees on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.
Birmingham-Southern's Destiny: Delivered comprehensive campaign seeks to raise in excess of $100 million, in two phases, over several years. The three-year Phase I, announced publicly in March 2008 with more than $30 million already raised, has a goal of $50 million.