Jabs Hall: open for business

Hundreds gather at MSU to celebrate Jabs Hall opening

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday at Montana State University’s Jabs Hall, home of the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, to celebrate the newly constructed building with a ceremony and ribbon cutting. 

“This building is a great addition to Montana State University and to the state of Montana,” said Kregg Aytes, dean of the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. “…It will help us become known as the most collaborative, creative and entrepreneurial business school in the region.”

With record enrollments at MSU and in the business college, Jabs Hall will also help the university begin to address a much-needed backlog of classroom space, Aytes said. He noted that the building’s 11 classrooms can simultaneously accommodate approximately 440 students, while informal study spaces scattered throughout the building provide room for another 220 students. The 50,830-square-foot Jabs Hall also has two computer labs.

In addition to Aytes, speakers at the ceremony included MSU President Waded Cruzado, Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian, MSU business student Holly Capp and Jake Jabs, a Montana native and Montana State College alumnus who in 2011 gave $25 million to fund the building. The gift is also being used for new scholarships and new academic programs in entrepreneurship, professional skills development, and fostering cooperative work between business students and students in other disciplines.

In her remarks, Cruzado called the building a “crowning achievement that will impact generations of students and Montanans to come.”

Cruzado also recounted parts of Jabs’ life story, which she called a “wonderful American success story” and an example of the greatness that can occur when education and hard work are combined. She also attributed Jabs’ success to his imagination, persistence and incredible amount of energy.

Jabs, now 84, grew up on a farm near Lodge Grass in a home with no indoor plumbing, electricity or running water. Jabs credits his parents for providing him with a strong work ethic, and his father – who had no formal education beyond the second grade – for instilling a belief in the importance of education. Jabs received a degree in vocational agriculture from what was then known as Montana State College in 1952.

Today, Jabs is president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse based in Denver, one of the largest retail furniture companies in the United States and one of the largest privately held businesses in Colorado.

In his remarks, Jabs said he was very pleased at how well his vision for the building had been fulfilled.

“My vision was to have a contemporary building,” Jabs said. “…. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect building than this building. … I think people are going to come from all over the world to see this facility.”

He added that the building will provide opportunities for important collaborations between students and professors.

Capp, who this week is completing her junior year as a business student, said that Jabs Hall is “more than concrete and steel.” In addition, she said that it will soon be filled with the hopes and dreams of MSU’s students. Its open design, she added, reminds students there are no boundaries.

“This building is smart and unique,” she said. “Students are reminded that… the sky is the limit.”

Christian described the ceremony as a “monumental day” in the life of the university and thanked Jabs for investing in students, the university and the state.

“We are humbled by the trust that you’ve shown in Montana State University and the Montana University System,” Christian said, noting that the building will help build a stronger state and a better, healthier economy for Montana. “On behalf of generations to come, we thank you.”

Aytes recognized a number of individuals and businesses that were involved in the design and construction of Jabs Hall, including Comma-Q Architecture, Hennebery Eddy Architects, Morrison-Maierle, Dick Anderson Construction and Kath Williams + Associates, as well as MSU’s own Campus Planning, Design and Construction and Facilities Services.

After the prepared remarks, and to signify the building’s opening, Capp cut a blue ribbon, Cruzado pounded a gavel and Jabs rang a bell while the building’s stock-and-news ticker was unveiled. MSU students played the school’s fight song to conclude the ceremony.

The MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship offers four undergraduate options of study - accountingfinancemanagement and marketing - as well as five minors - accounting, business administration, entrepreneurship and small business management, finance, and international business. It also offers a master of professional accountancy degree and a business certificate. Last fall, the college reported an enrollment of 1,327 students, which was a growth of 8 percent over the previous year.