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Andrew Stephenson ’72

Andrew Stephenson ’72

Andrew Stephenson in front of Stephenson Hall on the day it was dedicated. The dedication also served as the capstone of the Residential Revival, IUP’s housing replacement project.

Was it fate that brought Andrew Stephenson ’72 to the Foundation for IUP board table in 2004, or was it luck?

Stephenson was no stranger to construction projects. At the same time, the Foundation for IUP, the university’s charitable partner, was on the cusp of starting the Residential Revival, the $245 million, multiyear housing replacement project that has been described by Engineering News Record as the largest of its kind in the nation.

“When I was asked to serve on the board, I had been looking for a way to be more connected to IUP despite the great distance between Washington, D.C., and Indiana. At the time, I had no idea a master plan had been undertaken nor that the master plan envisioned the possible replacement of some of the dormitories,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson, a partner in the law firm Holland & Knight, specializes in construction law and has led his firm’s construction industry practice group. He has been involved in numerous large-scale projects—multibillion-dollar ones. For example, he served as lead counsel for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Improvement Project.

“I couldn’t escape the conclusion that I was a logical choice for this position. So, I accepted the job not really knowing where it would lead,” he said of joining the Foundation’s volunteer leadership team at that time.

“From my perspective, it was serendipity.”

The catalysts behind the Residential Revival were a demographic study and surveys of current and prospective students and their parents. The data proved that IUP would have a difficult time competing with peer and other institutions and had to act fast to correct what would have been an irreversible dilemma—losing students to other universities that offered housing more to their liking. The university needed to act swiftly and turned to the Foundation. Stephenson was appointed by his fellow board members as head of the Foundation’s Residential Revival committee.

“Keep in mind that the Foundation was essentially a money-raising entity that, up until that time, had never so much as built a privy or a treehouse,” Stephenson said. “So, we began the enterprise. We sought a development team, we developed pro formas and unit mixes, we surveyed the entire university community for input on the type of housing that was desirable, we embraced the living-learning concept presented by Dr. Rhonda Luckey [vice president for Student Affairs], and we had the support of Diane Reinhard [IUP’s interim president at that time] and her successors in all our efforts.”

Not everything was smooth sailing, however. Each of the new buildings is different in design and material composition, which required a strenuous approval process between architectural designers and contractors.

“The financing was definitely the most challenging. We had good financial advice, but a lot of that was not within our control,” he said, referring to financial market’s uneven performance and eventual plummet.

Despite market conditions, Stephenson and his committee found a way to press on. The project culminated earlier this month, on October 8, 2010, when the final building of the Residential Revival was dedicated in Stephenson’s honor, in recognition of his leadership and years of volunteer guidance. Stephenson, however, is quick to credit many people with the project’s success—other board members and those within the university who worked daily with the students and programming, and especially IUP’s construction personnel and the contractors and journeymen who took great care of the details.

Andrew Stephenson ’72 with car and Roxy

In leisure time, Stephenson hacks around in a 1967 Chevy Camaro with his dog, Roxy.

“Whenever we faced a challenge or a roadblock that looked insurmountable, we would say out loud, ‘If we cannot do this right, we are not going to do it all.’ By that we meant that if we could not, despite our very best efforts, build living and learning residence halls in which we would be willing to have our own children reside, and in which we could take great pride, then we would just as soon not build them at all and live with what we had.”

Seven years later, after three years of planning and four years of involvement in constructing living-learning centers, Stephenson, the consummate volunteer, is now serving an unprecedented third term on the Foundation board and is turning his attention to developing a hotel that will be associated with the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, the convocation center along Wayne Avenue that opened in 2011. The hotel presents a different set of problems, he said, largely dealing with land ownership.

“If you look at just the dollar value of the hotel, it should be a shrug in comparison to what we just did,” he said. “It’s more of a commercial undertaking. We don’t have access to the land. The land isn’t held by PASSHE [Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education]. We’re working on that now with Senator Don White, who sponsored legislation that would enable us to obtain the land [from the Department of General Services].”

Once the land is conveyed to PASSHE, IUP will be granted access to the property in order to structure a long-term ground lease to allow the use of the site by a hotel developer for the purpose of building and operating a hotel.

“The hotel will happen,” Stephenson said. “I have this theory. It’s called the Necessity Theory. If something doesn’t have to happen, then the Necessity Theory simply won’t kick in. If it has to happen, then Necessity Theory will most definitely kick in. The Kovalchick Complex won’t be what it can be without [the hotel]. The Wayne Avenue corridor is not going to look like it does now in five or ten years.”

Andrew Stephenson ’72 Collage

Stephenson’s immediate family consists of his wife, Cyndi, and daughter, Meghann, shown in this collage Meghann created for her father several years ago when she was an aspiring artist. Today, she is studying graphic design and illustration in New York.

Profile published on 10/18/10

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