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$6.9 million gift to WCU largest in its history

As industry experts warn of a worsening international shortage of construction professionals, Western Carolina University and one of the nation’s largest personnel recruiting firms are teaming up to boost the number of college graduates prepared for management positions in the construction industry.

Western Carolina University recently announced a $10.4 million net investment in its construction management and related programs, the bulk of which is a pledge of $6.92 million from Kimmel & Associates. The firm is a leading construction industry executive search company based in Asheville. The gift will leverage $3.49 million in state matching money and other support.

In twin celebrations – one held on the Cullowhee campus and one held in Asheville – university officials announced the naming of the Joe W. Kimmel School of Construction Management, Engineering and Technology in recognition of the gift.

“The incredible gift from Joe Kimmel, his family and his associates will provide much-needed support to an academic program that is near and dear to Joe’s heart,” Western Chancellor John W. Bardo said in announcing the contribution. “We view this gift as among the most important events in this university’s long and storied history. We expect this pledge, combined with additional private and public support, will result in a school that will place Western on par with the nation’s finest institutions of higher education in preparing students for careers in construction management and related fields that are critical to the emerging economy of the state and the nation.”

The Kimmel contributions will create $9 million in permanent endowments, including $3 million in faculty support that qualifies the university for another $3 million in matching money from the North Carolina Distinguished Professorship Endowment Fund. The gifts also provide $2 million to supplement programmatic operations and activities; and $1 million in scholarship support.

Kimmel said he is pleased to be able to make the gift to Western on behalf of the company he founded in 1981. “Everyone at Kimmel & Associates is fortunate to have the opportunity to give back to the industry that has treated us so well for decades and to do it through Western Carolina University,” he said. “What better blessing could there be?”

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Industry experts say Kimmel’s gift couldn’t come at a better time. The Associated General Contractors of America estimates that the United States is facing $3.3 trillion in infrastructure construction and repair over the next 10 years, and the U.S. Department of Labor reports that construction is the only goods-producing sector in which employment is projected to grow. Industry representatives say that the growing number of projects, combined with a continuing shortfall of construction management graduates each year and the aging-out of current professionals, is creating a shortfall in the number of educated and trained construction managers nationally.

Students studying construction management at Western say they are excited about the future of their program. “I am proud to be part of a program that caught Mr. Kimmel’s attention,” said Kevin Kirk, a senior from Durham who also is studying business administration and law. “The name Kimmel & Associates is nationally renowned as one of the best in the field. When they’ve got their eye on Western Carolina, that says a lot. There’s great opportunity at Western. I’ve got a job with one of the top five contractors in the world, and I haven’t even graduated yet.”

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