The bankruptcy of one of Western Carolina University’s largest supporters will hurt the school’s fast growing construction management program.
In 2005 Joe Kimmel, owner of Asheville-based Kimmel & Associates, pledged nearly $7 million over eight years to the construction management program at WCU, which was named the Joe W. Kimmel School of Construction Management Engineering and Technology.
Both Kimmel and his company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late December. Bankruptcy filings often affect philanthropic commitments as creditors seek to recover their investments.
WCU spokesperson Bill Studenc said delays in receiving the promised Kimmel gift would likely affect the number of scholarships the program can offer.
“Delay in fulfilling commitments planned in the Kimmel gift will mean that fewer student scholarships and less program support will be available during the interim,” Studenc said.
WCU Chancellor John Bardo said the school’s primary focus in the matter is the welfare of the Kimmel family, whom he called “close friends of the university.”
“Our current concern is for the Kimmel family and their employees,” Bardo said. “As one does with family, we will take the long view of this trying time. We wish them all the best. We will stand by them in every way we can, and trust that there will be a brighter day in the world economy soon.”
WCU’s construction management school was started in 1999 and offers an undergraduate B.S. degree and an online masters degree. Currently, 300 students are enrolled in the two programs.
Robert McMahan, dean of the Kimmel School, acknowledged that the current economic climate is difficult for the construction industry, but he said the program is still growing.
“The construction management program has been growing steadily over the years, and we anticipate that trend to continue,” McMahan said. “Freshmen entering the program in the fall will not be preparing for employment this year, but for opportunities available in four years. We anticipate that as the economy improves, the construction industry will be one of the areas to benefit most greatly from the turnaround.”
McMahan said graduates of the Kimmel School have done well finding jobs during the recession.
“Obviously, the construction industry has been affected by the economic downturn,” McMahan said. “But what we have seen is that graduates of our construction management program continue to be able to secure the jobs they seek in the industry because of the valuable mix of skills they acquire here at Western Carolina.”
Kimmel & Associates is one of the largest recruiting firms in the country specializing in placing candidates in the construction industry.