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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Honors Benefactors Mark and Tammy Strome at Luncheon

The entrepreneurial spirit flourishes at Old Dominion University.

During a visit to the university by Mark and Tammy Strome, who have pledged $11 million to Old Dominion in support of a new, multipronged program to nurture business entrepreneurs, President John R. Broderick highlighted the campus-wide effort to continue ODU's strong enterprise tradition.

"Old Dominion University has always been entrepreneurial and innovative in its approach to education and service," Broderick said Tuesday at a downtown luncheon honoring the Stromes. "From the formation of our first entrepreneurial center in 1987, to the most recent launch of our Business Gateway in 2010, ODU has been at the forefront."

That effort will continue when the university launches a new Entrepreneurial Center later this year, an innovative co-curricular program that will empower ODU students to create economic and social value in Hampton Roads and beyond.

"Over the last few years, regional leaders have recognized the need to diversify our economy in response to an ever-changing defense budget. National statistics clearly show that areas spurring job creation are moving far ahead of places where innovation is not encouraged," Broderick said at the luncheon.

"This gathering is testament to the enthusiastic regional support for a vision shared by Old Dominion University and the Strome Family Foundation to nurture entrepreneurship."

Mark Strome, a 1978 ODU graduate in civil engineering, is chief investment officer for the Strome Group and Strome Investment Management, L.P., based in Santa Monica, Calif. He told the luncheon audience that entrepreneurship can create a "virtuous circle," where investors, a great educational system and financing work together to spark one successful business startup after another.

"You want to create that virtuous circle in this area," Strome said. "Entrepreneurs are the people who solve the problems of the world, and that is going to continue."

During a visit to the campus Tuesday morning, the Stromes stopped at the future site of the Entrepreneurial Center, a "storefront" location facing Kaufman Mall.

Jim Lant, a 27-year veteran in private-sector enterprises who specializes in entrepreneur "launch camps" and teaches management in the business college, will serve as the interim director of the Entrepreneurial Center.

"We have many students, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, who are ready to engage in serious thinking, research and analysis toward setting up their own business or bringing innovation to a currently operating business," Lant said. "I suspect there are also students who don't yet know that they are, indeed, cut out to be entrepreneurs and that this career choice is actually the best one for them."

The ODU Entrepreneurial Center will guide student entrepreneurs across the entire life cycle of the entrepreneurial process - from idea and on through the planning, research, analysis, startup and initial operations stages.

Broderick said the Strome Family Foundation gift will "inspire a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators by creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem at the university."

As part of developing a campus-wide culture, an Introduction to Entrepreneurship course will be offered through the College of Business and Public Administration, but available to ODU students in every college.

Provost Carol Simpson is leading a multidisciplinary committee to foster that culture on campus. Faculty members from each college have been selected to participate in a summer fellowship program at the Price-Babson Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators in Massachusetts.

ODU alumnus Lee Entsminger has pledged $100,000 to support six new fellows for the next four years. Broderick said Entsminger is one of several prominent business leaders and alumni who have stepped forward to support the entrepreneurial initiative:

  • Nancy Grden, general manager of Genomind, and founder of Avenir LLC, will donate $25,000 to support student entrepreneurs in their commercializations plans;
  • Alumnus Drew Ungvarsky, founder of multimedia design studio Grow Interactive, has committed $10,000 annually to support student entrepreneurial clubs;
  • Alumna Marsha Hudgins, CEO of Hudgins Contracting Co., has committed $50,000 for a women entrepreneurs in business speaker series;
  • Board of Visitors member and ODU graduate Luke Hillier and his foundation, Hillier Ignite, have committed $90,000 to support a business plan competition over the next three years; and
  • Alumni Scott and Jeanine Trainum have pledged $250,000 to sponsor an entrepreneurial lecture series. He is CEO of ICG Communications Inc.

The ODU Entrepreneurial Center is scheduled to open in early fall.

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