BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The centennial celebration in 2020 for the Indiana University Kelley School of Business sadly was muted by the Covid-19 pandemic. But 2022 offers something of a reset, given that IU offered its first classes in commerce in 1902.
This fall provides two major milestones – the 120th anniversary of business education at IU Bloomington and the 20th anniversary of the William J. Godfrey Graduate and Executive Education Center.
In 1920, the IU Board of Trustees established a School of Commerce and Finance, but the initial foundation for business education was laid by IU presidents William Lowe Bryan and Joseph Swain, who identified the need for the university to expand and provide more professional areas of study. Commerce courses were introduced into the economics curriculum in 1902.
In 2002, retired Kelley professor Joseph Waldman published a book, “The First One Hundred Years of Education for Business: 1902-2002,” which highlighted the important role that the Godfrey Center – also opening that year – would play in the business school’s future.
When it opened, the $34 million, 180,000-square-foot building was praised for its technological features, including “innovations” such as wireless Internet and more than 2,600 data ports for computers. Kelley also became the first business school to use “smart whiteboards” that allowed students and faculty to apply hand-written notes to Web-based presentations in the center’s conference rooms.
Today, the Godfrey Center continues to serve its original purpose, housing offices for several master’s level programs, including the Full-Time MBA Program, Kelley Direct Programs, Master of Science in Information Systems, Kelley Executive Education, Executive Degree Programs and Graduate Accounting Programs.
“This is a building that has served us very well, always enabling the Kelley School to evolve and innovate to meet the needs of students and faculty in our growing and respected graduate programs,” said Ash Soni, interim dean of the Kelley School, SungKyunKwan Professor and professor of operations and decision technologies. “One of things we teach at Kelley is how to build value, for our students and the people they serve. The Godfrey Center is a building we highly value.”
The Godfrey Center remains a vibrant hub for all kinds of activity at Kelley, which is evident to those entering the building and its Subhedar Forum and atrium on the first floor. Students frequent gather there for informal meetings as well as for special gatherings such as an annual multicultural night. Classrooms on the first and third floors are in constant use, including during the summer months.
According to the book, “Indiana University Bloomington: America’s Legacy Campus,” by former IU vice president J. Terry Clapacs,” the now familiar bridge over Fee Lane that connects the Godfrey Center with the Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center, initially was opposed by the campus administration.
“The university architects had always believed that connecting links above grade was an urban solution not in keeping with the natural, bucolic environment of the campus,” Clapacs wrote. “Nevertheless, (architect John) Belle convinced IU administrators and trustees that the bridge was appropriate in that location and would be seen as a symbolic unifying element, particularly if the offices of the dean were placed there, thus bonding the two major components of the school.”
Offices for faculty in the Department of Business Law and Ethics moved from Hodge Hall into Godfrey Center this summer, reflecting the growing size of the student body and the faculty needed to deliver quality degree programs to them.
On Sept. 9, IU dedicated the new $10 million Brian D. Jellison Studios – created through an overall gift of $16 million in 2020 from Brian and Sheila Jellison Family Foundation. Located on the ground floor of the building, the immersive, state-of-the-art studios are helping faculty to enhance delivery of their course content. They also provide an even more dynamic experience, with faculty and students being together virtually as if they were in an in-person classroom.
The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Institute for Entrepreneurship & Competitive Enterprise are located on the building’s second-floor atrium. Each supports the dreams and ideals of those exploring entrepreneurship as a catalyst of a competitive free enterprise system.
Building also honors a successful Kelley graduate and entrepreneur
The building is named for one such entrepreneur, William J. “Bill” Godfrey, a self-described “kid from Fish Lake, Indiana,” who raised and sold tomatoes as a young boy. After the death of his father, he worked full-time in a factory while still in high school and entered IU as a “resident scholar” in 1960. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business four years later.
After serving three tours of duty with the U.S. Army in 1965-67, Godfrey returned to IU and received an MBA in 1968.
As a student, Godfrey proved himself to be a successful entrepreneur. As an undergraduate, he sold boxes of fresh fruit to the parents of IU freshmen (and later to those at four other Big Ten schools) and arranged for other students and off-duty firemen to deliver them to sons and daughters shortly before winter finals.
Shortly after earning his MBA, Godfrey was working part-time for a Chicago-based charter airline company and organized what he proudly said in an interview was then “the largest civilian airlift in history,” sending about 18,000 fans from Indiana and the Chicago area to southern California for the 1969 Rose Bowl.
He later achieved success in the pharmaceutical industry and in real estate. After turning 40 in 1982, Godfrey went into business for himself and bought an interior design company headquartered on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Later, he operated a portable toilet business to serve the area’s burgeoning construction industry.
He also bought land in the area and created a large mixed-use real estate development near Bluffton, S.C., located about 20 miles west of Hilton Head.
“As president of Acorn Industries, Bill Godfrey owned and operated Bluffton Business Park,” said his obituary. “He enjoyed the entrepreneurial life of buying, selling, creating, and imagining businesses, properties and commercial interests, all the while looking for the ‘deal!’”
He also assisted and mentored other business professionals with business plans and startups and was active in volunteering to support community interests. He was an early member of the Greater Island Committee, the Bluffton Historic Preservation Society and the Greater Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
In October 2005, IU announced that Godfrey had bequeathed his estate – then valued at $25 million – to the Kelley School of Business. $20 million was to be used for need-based scholarships for Kelley students and the remaining $5 million for the graduate education facility that bears his name.
During the naming ceremony, IU Bloomington Chancellor Kenneth Gros Louis reflected how Godfrey’s generosity would open a door for many students to a “limitless world.”
“Mr. Godfrey’s gift means the most to me – the possibility of opening up this world to students who might not otherwise avail themselves of the many treasures of the Bloomington campus,” said Gros Louis, who passed away in 2018. “Here, if we do our job right, these students, especially those coming from small towns and rural areas of Indiana, will visit new worlds, receive new inspiration, hopefully arrive at a new and better understanding of the society in which we live.”
Godfrey said those were his exact intentions. “I’ll never forget what a difference that resident scholarship made to me, a kid from Fish Lake,” he said in a 2005 interview. “I came to Indiana University with nothing, and the university opened up the entire world of possibilities to me. Everything I have is because of IU.”
Godfrey passed away at his home on July 3, 2020, at the age of 77. He and his legacy will be remembered with an event from 2:30 to 3:30 pm on Sept. 21 in the Subhedar Forum, as the Kelley School this fall celebrates the 20th anniversary of the building that bears his name.