Then & Now: PBB at 20
The Pappajohn Business Building is celebrating its 20th birthday — it is still the gorgeous facility it was when it opened in spring 1994.
Occupying most of a city block, the four-story building is appropriately placed on what was known in the 1830s and ’40s as Block 85. According to Irving Weber, who was known as Iowa City’s official historian, Block 85, bounded by Jefferson to Market and Clinton to Capitol streets, was one of Iowa City’s first business areas. The block included a post office, general store, a hotel, and stagecoach stop.
Fast forward to 1966: The College of Business Administration is moving from University Hall (now Jessup Hall) into the newly completed Phillips Hall, which will house 425 business majors, 460 prebusiness students, and a total faculty and staff of 75. Only one classroom holds more than 50 students.
Twenty-some years later, Phillips Hall struggles to meet the needs of 2,250 majors (including liberal arts under-graduate economics majors and graduate students), 3,800 prebusiness students, and 255 staff and faculty. A majority of the college’s students are taught in classrooms outside of Phillips Hall. Some faculty and all graduate teaching assistants are assigned office space in other buildings. And, Executive MBA programs utilize rented space in a local hotel.
More faculty have been hired to serve the increasing number of students. New outreach programs have been created to serve the educational needs of the corporate community and the state’s citizens. After 20 years as the home to the college, Phillips Hall was cramped — it could no longer meet the needs of the growing college.
In 1989, the Iowa Legislature, prompted by the persistent urgings of Dean George Daly, approved $1 million in planning funds to hire architects and begin work on plans and designs for a new building that would be twice the size of Phillips Hall. The state then issued revenue bonds in 1990 to finance $24 million of the $33.1 million project. Private contributions totaling almost $15 million exceeded the $8 to $10 million that UI officials promised to raise toward the building’s construction. The largest donation — $4 million — came from Des Moines venture capitalist and philanthropist John Pappajohn, for whom the building was later named. (At the time, his gift was one of the largest ever received by the UI Foundation in the university’s history.)
After the building was approved and during its construction, many hopes and dreams were expressed in news articles, UI newsletters, and UI Foundation Iowa Endowment 2000 campaign materials. Did the building “secure the future” of the college as many hoped it would? Let’s find out.
As plans for the Pappajohn Business Building (PBB) progressed, the building’s design centered on three central considerations: making it open and accessible, coordinating the building’s architecture with the neoclassical architecture of the buildings on the Pentacrest, and keeping student and faculty needs at the forefront.
Gary Fethke, former dean and emeritus professor of management sciences, was senior associate dean of the college during the building campaign years, and he later was named interim dean when then-dean George Daly stepped down to become dean of the Stern School of Business at New York University. Fethke took over and was instrumental in making sure the building would meet college needs, consulting students, faculty, and staff early in the planning stages.
According to Fethke, the selected architectural firms — Architectural Resources Cambridge Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., and Neumann Monson, the local architectural firm — “saw our vision for the college and were unbelievably capable. Richard Gibson and many others at Iowa were great partners, too.”
But there were a few changes along the way, he says. Because the average classroom size at the university holds 30 people, college administrators decided to have larger classrooms in the building.
“We decided that small classrooms weren’t going to work for the school, because the better way to teach undergraduates was larger classes taught by faculty,” he says. “The university said, ‘You’ll never use those rooms. Never.’ Think about that — today they are filled!”
In addition, the large 387-seat, theater-style Buchanan Auditorium was almost left out due to budget constraints.
“That would have been a huge mistake,” Fethke says. “We thought we were going to use only a 70-seat classroom system in the building, but Buchanan Auditorium has turned out to be invaluable.”
When complete in 1994, the building’s final layout encouraged students to use it outside of class hours, too, which is why numerous group study spaces, comfortable lounge areas, and an outdoor courtyard and patio were included in the plans.
Today, you’ll find students packing the computer lab to complete assignments, lining up for food at Pat’s Diner, and signing up to use the many large- and small-group study rooms and carrels. Many spaces are the same in the college today, but a few things have changed in the last 20 years. The Undergraduate Program space was completely redesigned, more spaces for group study have been created, including additional small-group study rooms in the library, and new furniture conducive to study have been set up on the second- and third-floor lounge areas in the center of the building.
“Think of all the furniture we put into the building,” Fethke says. “There are many inviting places for students, and that was the idea: to make the building inviting and a place they’d want to stay to interact.”
Students definitely enjoy all the amenities available to them, including air-conditioned classrooms.
“I’m in the building more than I prefer to be,” jokes Jake Borchert, a senior accounting and finance major from Ankeny, “but it is definitely my preferred place to study on campus, especially the individual study carrels in the library. I like the new spaces for group study but they tend to be noisier. I need the quiet,” says the senior, who hopes to pass the CPA exam this summer before beginning his career with Deloitte in Des Moines.
In Phillips Hall, faculty members only had blackboards and overhead projectors in their classrooms.
“Worst of all, we had to roll TVs and VCRs into the classroom on carts,” says Gary Gaeth, the Cedar Rapids Area Business Chair and professor of marketing. “I had a humongous collection of taped TV commercials and slides that were part of my teaching materials, and not every classroom had a TV or projector in it, so I’d order the equipment I needed for each class.”
Then, when PBB opened, faculty enjoyed technologically advanced classrooms that included a high-tech lectern connected to a computer and VCR that could project multimedia presentations and lecture notes. An overhead projector could display a magazine article for all students to easily view. Select classrooms had enhanced setups that included additional equipment such as LaserDisc video players (precursor to DVD players), slide projectors, and ELMO presenters, which were sophisticated overhead projectors in the 1990s. In addition, one classroom was earmarked as the Iowa Communications Network classroom, a fiber optic networked classroom that allowed the college to broadcast MBA course lectures to locations around the state (Newton, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and the Quad Cities).
“The new technology has been great,” Gaeth says. “I don’t think any of us appreciated how much more we’d be able to do in this building until we moved in. For several years, many faculty were still teaching on the whiteboards and overheads until they could migrate their teaching materials to digital formats.”
The PBB classrooms weren’t the only places chock full of the latest in technology. The PBB computer lab was the largest on campus (today it’s the second largest), holding 100 workstations, each equipped with more than 70 business application software programs, including those for statistical analysis, database management, multimedia production, and imaging. (Today there are more than 125 computers, which only business students can use from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Two 32-seat computer classrooms are adjacent to the computer lab. At 18,000-square-feet, the two-story Marvin A. Pomerantz Business Library is nearly triple the library space in Phillips Hall. In addition to an extensive journal collection, it gives users computer access to all campus library materials and bibliographic online databases. Bloomberg terminals allow students to monitor and analyze market data, giving them real-time access to the world’s financial markets (NYSE, AMEX, NASDAQ, Hang Seng, and Nikkei stock exchanges, among others).
This “temple of technology,” as a Des Moines Register reporter dubbed PBB in 1994, is supported by the staff of the Stead Technology Services Group, an on-site team that ensures the technology is up-to-date, that servers and networks are secure, and that answers to users’ questions are given quickly. The Stead Group is named in honor of longtime friends and supporters of the college, Jerre (BBA65) and Mary Joy Stead.
Keeping up on the changes in technology and making them available to the college is a formidable task that the team tackles well, says Jim Chaffee, assistant dean of information technology and facilities. More than a help desk, the team designs new projects each year that provide technological solutions throughout the college.
In recent years, the Stead Group has developed several new technologies in the building, including:
- first on-campus development of a wireless network in the building;
- SMART Podium systems in some classrooms, which have tablet functionality, allowing users to write on the screen with digital ink, save notes, and take snapshots of the work to give the class a truly interactive experience;
- Tippie View, an interactive wall- mounted unit equipped with touch screens that keep students current on trending business news and information, helps visitors stay informed about what’s happening in the college, and offers wayfinding maps; and
- an ELITE interactive classroom, where both teaching and research take center stage — faculty can project a computer or document scanner to the four 80” flatscreens around the room, easily seen by students; where students can work together in small groups; and where research studies that require computer access is available.
“In addition to many major projects, the team is proud that it has kept the technology in the building up-to-date, from faculty and staff computers to teaching technology in the classrooms,” Chaffee says.
The PBB would have depreciated a long time ago if it weren’t for a dedicated team of UI and Tippie staff who not only maintain the facilities but look at ways to improve the building. A special endowment fund established when the building was built supports the upkeep of the building (contributions today continue to support PBB).
“Our roles have changed over the past 20 years,” says Rick Adrian, director of facilities. “When PBB opened, there were 1,200 students, today there are 2,500, plus the number of faculty and staff has increased. With rising use, we’ve increased the daily cleaning and polishing of the facility, while replacing carpeting, reupholstering furniture, and repainting as needed. We’ve also begun to redesign parts of the building to improve functionality and provide attractive environments for users.”
Chaffee and Adrian are working with a local architectural firm to determine how to restructure parts of the building to create even more office and collaborative spaces and to make the building a more efficient user of energy.
A people tracking system installed in three of the building’s 25 entrances recorded more than 1 million people entering the building this past year, making the PBB one of the more heavily used buildings on campus.
“This system gives us a better under-standing of the building usage and peak times of use,” Chaffee says. “Combining that data with information we have about energy use in the building, we will learn how to be more efficient energy users, which will hopefully save the university and Tippie money.”
People still consider this a new building, Adrian says.
“I often hear people say ‘I want to be in a new building like the Pappajohn Business Building,’” Adrian says. “That speaks volumes to how we’ve taken care of this special building.”
Contact: Lesanne B. Fliehler, Dean's Office, 319-335-0859