At a news conference today Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin announced a gift of $4.5 million to the UMD School of Business and Economics (SBE) from Duluth natives Sharon and Joel Labovitz. The gift is the largest ever for the School of Business and Economics and the second largest for UMD.
The 4.5 million gift is dedicated to the construction of a new building for the UMD School of Business and Economics. The School and the Building will be named the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. UMD plans to go to the Minnesota legislature next year with a proposal for the structure. Pre-design sketches call for it to be constructed on the northwest corner of the UMD campus across from the new library, and to include state-of-the-art facilities for providing business education in a knowledge-based, global economy. Plans call for the building to contain the latest in advanced technology with modern computer labs, facilities for distance learning, conferences and workshops, and multi purpose classrooms.
Chancellor Martin said, "We are enormously grateful to these two outstanding Duluthians for their tremendous support and commitment to UMD and to this entire region. The wonderful generosity of Sharon and Joel Labovitz will provide benefits to students and area residents for decades to come."
A 1949 UMD graduate, Joel Labovitz is Chairman of Labovitz Enterprises, a Duluth headquartered firm with interests in various businesses. He is the principal owner of four hotels: The Duluth Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Downtown Waterfront, the Marriott Courtyard Hotel and the Hilton in Waco, Texas, and the Holiday Inn Bozeman in Bozeman, Montana. Mr. Labovitz is also chairman of Lion Financial Corporation and Lion Hotel Group, both headquartered in Duluth. He is an advisor to Zenith Management Company of Duluth.
Soon after UMD graduation, Labovitz joined his father Maurice at Maurices, a women's clothing store in Downtown Duluth. The two men expanded the local business through the 1960's and 1970's. When Joel Labovitz sold the company in 1978, Maurices had 175 stores in 18 states. He stayed on as President and Chief Executive for two years, adding another 100 stores before stepping down in January 1981. Today, over 430 Maurices stores are operating across the county, with the giant retailer's corporate headquarters still located on Superior Street in Downtown Duluth.
A Graduate Registered Nurse, Sharon Labovitz has been an active leader and philanthropist in numerous civic, educational and cultural organizations for many years. She is President of the Sharon and Joel Labovitz Charitable Foundation and has recently completed twelve years as a member of the Board of Directors of the College of St. Scholastica. She is currently the President of the Board of Athenaeum, a Fine Arts and Music Library in La Jolla, California.
Joel Labovitz has been closely involved with the UMD School of Business and Economics for many years. He was named a "Senior Fellow" at the School and taught its very first courses in entrepreneurship. He was presented the "Business Leader of the Year" award in 1985 at the annual Student Business Banquet. In 1988 he received the UMD Distinguished Alumni Award and he delivered the UMD Commencement address sharing the personal and business philosophy he's followed during his successful career. He has continued to lecture and teach at UMD to both students and faculty on the topics of entrepreneurship, leadership and business ethics. In 2002, UMD celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Awards which provide recognition and encouragement to creators of small and large businesses in the area.
"The importance of this outstanding gift cannot be overestimated," said SBE Dean Kjell Knudsen. "Through the generosity of Sharon and Joel Labovitz, the UMD School of Business and Economics has a golden opportunity to further grow in stature and reputation and significantly contribute to the strength of our area and the entire state."