WEST PALM BEACH — Thanks to the largest single gift in its history, Palm Beach Atlantic University officials on Thursday evening unveiled plans for a major expansion of its Rinker School of Business and its programs.
And they will build a home for the school’s projected growth — the brand new, six-story Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Business Building.
“This new building will allow us to expand an already growing program,” said the university’s president, Debra A. Schwinn. “We have strength in business already. This is going to allow us to go to a whole other level.”
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The Rinker family was behind the $26 million gift — $20 million from John J. and Sheila Rinker and $6 million from the Marshall & Vera Lea Rinker Foundation. Marshall Rinker started a construction materials company that bore his last name and which he sold in 1988 for $515 million.
By then, the Rinkers were already major backers of and donors to the now 54-year-old university. Their support has included financial gifts, volunteering and leading “major capital projects in music, literature, arts and athletics,” PBAU said.
“PBA is generating students who have integrity, moral strength and the ability to live by such principles,” said John J. Rinker said in a statement. “They are investing themselves in our community, and we are the better for it.”
Currently, students enrolled in PBAU’s Rinker School of Business account for almost 20% of the university’s overall enrollment of 3,800.
Schwinn expects those numbers to get larger given the influx of new businesses to the county, a trend she said university officials recognized two years ago when plans for the new building first materialized.
“We saw the beginning of many financial businesses moving to this area,” Schwinn said, adding that the opportunities for careers for business administration, finance, accounting data analytics and other programs will open exponentially going forward.
“We want to provide top-notch graduates that will help these companies that are settling in West Palm Beach,” she said.
The building will be located just south of the university’s Warren Library.
It will feature a two-story atrium and a stock trading room with professional terminals and a stock ticker. A 314-seat tiered lecture hall will also add space for the Titus Center for Franchising and the LeMieux Center for Public Policy, as well as for community events.
It is being built partly on the site of the former Quattlebaum funeral home property, which the Rinker foundation bought almost a decade ago and then donated to the university in 2018.
“At this profound time of growth for our university and community, the beautiful new Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Business Building will ensure that Palm Beach Atlantic continues to produce well-trained, values-driven interns and employees for the companies moving to our area,” said Brian Strow, dean of the Rinker School of Business, said in a prepared statement.
The announcement, made at The Breakers, is timely. This spring, the Rinker School of Business will host the final site visit for its Association to Advance Collegiate Schools Business accreditation.
“That’s the highest accreditation you can have for a business school,” Schwinn said. If PBAU were to achieve AACSB accreditation, she added, it would put the university in the “top 5% to 6% of business schools across the globe.”
More is on the way at PBAU as part of it its “God-Sized Dreams” master plan, which has slated a new health sciences complex, a performing arts center and a student and alumni welcome center.
“We’re really excited about the future,” Schwinn said.
Milestones in PBAU’s development
2004 — Gregory Hall (home to the Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy) opens
2007 — Warren Library (Phase I) opens
2008 — University acquires 900 South Dixie Highway (the Human Resources Building)
2009 — Lassiter Rotunda of the Warren Library opens
2013 — Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Foundation purchases former Quattlebaum funeral home property
2014 — Marshall & Vera Lea Rinker Athletic Campus Opens
2017 — John & Sheila Rinker Sports Center opens and PBA joins the Sunshine State Conference
2018 — Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Foundation donates Quattlebaum funeral home property to Palm Beach Atlantic
2020 — Watson Family Hall opens to students
2020 — Renovated Fraser Dining Hall with new coffee shop, Jack’s Coffee, opens
Antonio Fins is a politics and business editor at the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.