Ottawa University announced that alumni Jim ’57 and Jeanne ’56 O’Dell have donated $6 million to the University, the single largest gift in the school’s 152-year history. This extraordinary gift will fund the O’Dell Center for Athletics at the University’s newest residential campus at Ottawa University Arizona (OUAZ) in Surprise.

“Every once in a while, something really special enters into and informs the life of Ottawa University in such a way that it is a true game-changer,” said Kevin Eichner, OU President. “Today, it is my very great pleasure to make an announcement about just such an event. The O’Dell’s have been strong supporters of our move for launching our new campus. From the beginning they saw the promise inherent in Surprise for Ottawa University’s institutional future.”

The O’Dells have spent the past 46 years building the Valley Bank and Trust, a community bank in Brighton, Colo., where they live. Their stewardship of the bank made it an attractive acquisition candidate operating in the Colorado markets and the family made the decision to sell the bank to a well-respected holding company out of Dallas. The O’Dell family gave the first $1 million gift in OU history in 2000 and chaired the Touch the Future Capital campaign that same year, consistently demonstrating their support of all aspects of the University. Jim O’Dell also serves on OU’s Board of Trustees.

The addition of the O’Dell Center for Athletics comes at an important time for the Surprise campus, as well as the University as a whole, as OU’s presence continues to grow in the West Valley. The Surprise campus opened in the Fall of 2017 with 434 students, nearly double the anticipated inaugural class when OU announced the new campus in February 2017.

“I have been involved in the search for an Arizona campus from the beginning,” said Jim O’Dell. “I know how hard President Eichner and the entire OU staff have labored to make it work. I have met all or most of the coaches and really want to make the whole experience the best it can be. OUAZ in Surprise is the beginning of a great place for students to learn.”

The facility will be designed to house locker rooms, training facilities, coaches’ offices and student support services. The center will be immediately adjacent to the new Spirit multi-sport athletic field, near the Surprise Civic Center and Recreation Campus, and will include a new press box and entertainment area. Groundbreaking is anticipated to begin in February 2018. OUAZ is fielding 19 varsity men’s and women’s sports teams. 

“Jim and Jeanne are thrilled to be able to share their great fortune with us,” said President Eichner. “They have always been faithful and visionary with their giving, and this particular commitment on their part reflects their discernment and trust that their gift will be one that keeps on giving for many decades to come, affecting the quality of experience for our students, our coaches, our fans, and the image of our institution. Rarely have I seen such pure joy on the part of donors. They are special, and this is an especially sweet moment for them and us.”