It was from the ISU Foundation asking me to give a speech, something related to the College of Business. I’d given speeches before as a student representative and president of Business Council. While I was excited, I didn’t give this vague offer too much thought.
It was one week later, in a small room at the ISU Foundation, that I was told this was not the ordinary speech I had imagined it to be. It was then I learned about the gift that would alter the course of the college in the best of ways: the $50 million donation from Debbie and Jerry Ivy.
Not only was I to speak on behalf of the students, I was going to meet the donors before a public announcement and interview them, alongside Raisbeck Endowed Dean David Spalding, all of which would be videotaped for historical purposes. Oh boy!
“It’s just a regular interview,” I tried to convince myself as I walked up the scenic path approaching the Gerdin Business Building on central campus. Before interviewing the Ivys, the ISU Foundation had prepped me with questions and encouragement, but still the nervous anticipation swelled inside me.
It was intimidating. There’s something about meeting a pair as successful as the Ivys, knowing that they embody the drive for success that I so greatly admire. I channeled everything the college had taught me of networking and professionalism (which was no small feat) and I strode into the room, faking confidence to the best of my ability.
Despite being surrounded by lights, cameras, a video crew, and a bundle of people to impress, the moment I met Debbie and Jerry Ivy, I was put at ease. My confidence only grew as the dean and I spoke with two of the most kindhearted and fun-loving people I’ve ever met.
Jerry Ivy was an off-the-cuff kind of guy. Each question Dean Spalding and I asked was countered with a quick joke and a smile, followed closely by a story, sometimes quirky, but all sincere. Debbie Ivy would laugh along, and her answers would reflect the kindness and sincerity of her character. They each had their own style, their own way of presenting themselves. Above all else, they are a team.
As Debbie put it, Jerry is the idea man. His mind wanders outside the box, and his creativity helps drive their company, Auto-Chlor, to the top of the industry. Debbie then takes these ideas and directs them into reality. She’s able to mold these speculations into concrete plans.
The Ivys complemented each other, in personality and in skill, yet, they remained more humble than I ever imagined. The response to nearly every question we asked about company success would always find its way back to “our employees.”
To the Ivys, this business has been more than just their jobs. It has been their responsibility and duty to grow the company for the employees. Every step of the way, the employees were to be thanked. And it was in these responses that made me feel a rush of gratitude for the Ivys. Here they were, a well-rounded, successful, entrepreneurial pair. But still they remained humble and grateful for any and every person that helped them to reach such heights.
It was then I realized that this was why our college was receiving such a gift. The Ivys care about their people. They want to thank those that helped them grow. So they give back to help students grow, strive, and succeed.
The day after our interview, a public event was held to announce this historic gift.
Even though I’d known about the donation for a week, I don’t think it hit me until the moment the words rang through the crowded lecture hall. The collective gasp. The standing ovation. The excited chatter in the air. It was an amazing experience.
When it was my turn to stand in front of the podium, the terrors of speaking to a room filled with my role models seemed to disappear. Debbie and Jerry Ivy just gave each of these faculty and staff members a gift. They gave each of my peers this gift. Because I met them, I realized I wasn’t thanking them for the money. I was thanking them for their humility, for their generosity, and for their passion to help others. I was thanking them for embracing and embodying the core values of our college, which is now aptly named the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business.
– By Kara Masteller, past president of Business Council