“We know for certain that when we hire a Southern Polytechnic graduate that we’re getting the best of the best, the best and the brightest, and so for that I thank you,” said Cooper, addressing about 100 faculty, staff and community donors.
The event marked the first annual “Polyday,” celebrating the school’s contributions to the community and the support of the community for the school.
SPSU President Dr. Lisa Rossbacher said the month-long campaign that culminated in Polyday raised $146,510, just shy of the $150,000 target.
“We’re declaring success,” Rossbacher said. “Since today was a postal holiday, I’m sure there is just going to be this sack of mail tomorrow.”
Of the $146,510 raised to date, $59,910 came from faculty and staff.
Rossbacher singled out Scott Larisch, a professor in the university’s electrical and computer engineering technology department.
“I always appreciate Scott’s participation in the faculty/staff campaign because several years ago he had a shirt made up that said, ‘I upped my contribution. Up yours.’ It’s a very effective T-shirt,” Rossbacher said to laughter.
The remaining $86,600 was raised from area business and industry partners.
Lockheed’s Cooper, who served as keynote speaker, said she could talk for hours about the terrific partnership between Lockheed and the university, mentioning her friendship with Rossbacher in particular.
“And let me tell you why that’s so special to me,” Cooper said. “It’s special to me because she is someone I can sit down, I can talk to her about our business challenges and what I need in terms of workforce development, and she’s quick to respond. As a matter of fact, she’s proactive, constantly asking me, ‘Shan, what more can we do? What more can we do to support Lockheed Martin’s success?’ And I tell you, I appreciate that.”
Lockheed is the No. 1 employer of SPSU graduates, Rossbacher said.
“When I think about what you all are able to do for us at Lockheed Martin, you send to us and guarantee us a workforce that is knowledgeable, that is prepared, that is creative, that is innovative, and I have to say that is committed to critical problem solving, and that’s a very unique skill that you don’t often find coming out of universities,” Cooper said. “So I wanted to stop by this afternoon, this evening and thank you all, one, for the great partnership, and to encourage my faculty friends out there to keep up the great work. We’re going to be well at Lockheed Martin, no worries there. But I wanted also just to have this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for being a great neighbor, a great partner, and I can tell you, I would not want to do this job, this work without Southern Poly. And we’re going to continue to hire students.”
Rossbacher said the university’s foundation has raised about $2 million annually over the last few years. The Polyday monies will add to that sum.
“We’re also raising money with people making requests in their wills and specific projects and giving money to the endowment. So this is the annual fundraising piece,” Rossbacher sad.
Dr. Han Reichgelt, dean of the school of computing and software engineering, said the money would help with student scholarships.
“A lot of kids who would otherwise have to drop out of school or take fewer classes than they would normally be willing to take get the support, and because the support we get from the business community, which translates into scholarships, and that translates into graduates, which then make contributions to the local economy, so it’s a kind of cycle,” Reichgelt said.
In the last fiscal year, Southern Polytechnic’s economic impact on Georgia was calculated at nearly $200 million, Rossbacher said.
Cobb Chamber of Commerce CEO David Connell said the university has always been important to the business community.
“They offer a technical curriculum that you will not find in any other school in our community,” Connell said. “They have provided educated graduates for companies all over the Southeast. My previous employer, Georgia Power, hired a lot of graduates from Southern Poly. They produce a really fine technology graduate. Beyond that they are incredibly involved in our community. They are a strong partner of everything that goes on in Cobb County. We’re really glad to have them here.”