Some people graduate from college and never look back. Others, like Ron and Connie Romain, look back by paying forward.
University of Southern Indiana alumni Ron and Connie Romain earned their degrees, built a group of companies, and donated a $5 million leadership gift to their alma mater’s latest capital campaign. Over the years, they’ve also been active in a long list of university and philanthropic missions. Now, the university has named the College of Business in their honor. The building is located in the Business and Engineering Center in the back of the USI campus.
“Connie and I have a long history with USI, dating back to 1969,” Ron Romain says.
“We both grew up in Evansville, were educated in the public school system, and certainly understand the value and need for high quality education in our community. We are honored with the naming of the College of Business but are even more excited about what USI can become if we realize a successful campaign outcome.”
Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence aims to raise $50 million to support the university’s strategic goals and to fund specific projects and programs in five areas. These areas include enriching the student experience, enhancing the academic environment, elevating athletics, strengthening community partnerships, and providing vital ongoing annual support for USI. The campaign ends in 2015, which will be the 50th anniversary of the university’s founding.
Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence already has raised roughly $28.8 million as of May 24, much of it with the Romains’ help. That support is not unusual for Connie and Ron Romain, who have long supported education. Ron Romain graduated from USI in 1973 with a degree in marketing. He is the owner, president, and CEO of United Companies, which include Professional Transportation Inc., the Romain Automotive Group, and United Leasing Inc. Connie Romain graduated from USI with a degree in education in 1974. Since then, the Romains have been a mainstay in the university community. Both have served on several campus organizations. Connie was the president of the alumni association and was a board member of the Southwest Indiana Higher Education Corp. Ron has been a trustee of USI since 2010 and has served on the board of advisors in the College of Business since 1992. He also is the chairman of the capital campaign. Additionally, the Romains were active in USI’s first capital campaign in 1995.
“There are numerous aspects of the campaign that are compelling,” Ron Romain says. “I am especially interested in seeing the growth in our student learning opportunities via additional internships and scholarships, as well as endowed faculty professorships, designed to further enhance their professional skills.”
The promise of this new campaign will strengthen the university and the entire community. USI has been engaged in the community since its establishment nearly 50 years ago, and Romain says community involvement is essential.
In 2008, for instance, USI earned the prestigious Carnegie Foundation “Engaged University” distinction for curricular engagement and outreach and partnerships. Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence seeks to enhance that distinction.
“USI is such an important part of this region, both in terms of economic benefits and opportunities to impact the lives of students, that we must all take ownership of success,” Romain says.
Meanwhile, the Romains’ $5 million leadership donation to the campaign will have a “game-changing” effect on the future of the College of Business, says USI Dean of the College of Business Mohammed Khayum.
“This donation will have a transformational impact on USI’s College of Business,” he says. “It will enhance our capacity to develop relevant competencies for our graduates, increase the utilization of faculty expertise to benefit our region, and strengthen the contributions of the College of Business to the advancement of business knowledge and best practices.”
Khayum adds that Ron Romain has astutely identified new business opportunities that have benefited the Tri-State area. Job creation, expanded networks, and stronger economic relationships with regions beyond this area represent some of those benefits, he says.
“The evolution and expanded footprint of United Companies represent a remarkable story of business success for our Tri-State area,” Khayum says. “I have a deep admiration for Ron as a person and for the distinctive ways he applies his business acumen to expand and extend his business ventures.”
Linda Bennett, president of USI, agreed.
“Ron Romain is one of those rare individuals who has had tremendous success and yet has maintained a humble sense of self,” she says. “He wants to give back to his community and, fortunately for USI, to his alma mater. His articulate leadership in Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence is an inspiration to those of us working on the campaign. He lives the values he talks about, and that makes him an authentic voice for the values of our community.”
Meanwhile, portions of the Romains’ gift will give global entrepreneurs from the business world an opportunity to share their knowledge and to promote critical thinking among students, faculty, and the public.
In fact, the inaugural speaker at the April 4 public launch of the campaign was T. Boone Pickens, an oil and gas entrepreneur, energy expert, and philanthropist.
“Mr. Pickens helped to launch the campaign and make it a special night for USI,” Ron Romain says. “We felt it was important to bring attention to the university, to showcase our campus, but also to allow students and faculty to learn from one of the very best minds in American business.”
The Annual Speaker Series is just one example of how USI and its Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence will make a difference.
“The resources generated from the campaign will help USI grow to another level in terms of quality, reputation, and facilities,” Ron Romain says. “I am very excited to have the opportunity to help shape the future. It is a rare and special honor.”
For more information about the University of Southern Indiana’s capital campaign, visit www.usi.edu/giving/campaign.