CSU Receives $2 Million Gift

University Establishes Sales Institute And Begins Plans For Conference Center

Columbus, Ga. --- A retired local businessman has donated more than $2 million to Columbus State University for a new building that will be the first phase of a 60,000-square-foot conference center on campus.

The gift, the third largest in CSUs history, also will establish the John Cunningham Sales and Leadership Institute at Columbus State University, in honor of its benefactor. Officials say such a center is relatively unique to a university and will give CSU another niche in both the community and in the academic world.

The sales institute, which has already begun holding classes, will move to the new building. Eventually, the building will triple in size and possibly house a business incubator and technology assessment center for local industry. The John Cunningham Conference Center also will have meeting rooms that can serve as classrooms, auditoriums and possibly living spaces for visiting professors and other dignitaries, said Lon Marlowe, assistant to the CSU president and executive director of CSUs Foundation.

The generosity of John Cunningham will allow CSU to develop a unique building and institute that will continue our tradition of providing community and economic development to this region, said CSU President Frank Brown. Mr. Cunningham owes his success to a lifetime of hard work, and a sales career built on professionalism, integrity, ethics and hard work. We are delighted to help him pass along these attributes to the next generation of sales professionals.

The sales institute is based in CSUs new Office of Community Development and offers classes and seminars to specific industries as well as to the public. The curriculum will appeal to professionals such as real estate agents and those already in sales who want to enhance their skills. There also will be courses for people with little or no sales experience, but who are interested in entering the sales profession.

Cunningham is a life-long Columbus resident who started his sales career when he was 8 years old selling scrap iron to junk yards, magazines to neighbors, coke bottles to the grocery stores, among other things. He later started two businesses, John Cunningham Trucking and Radio Wholesale and a mail-order business that grew to serve an international clientele. After retiring in 1997, he began talks with CSU about establishing an institute to preserve his dedication to effective salesmanship.

Never able to finish school himself because of a need to work as a teen for money during the depression, Cunningham said he knows well the value of an education.

I studied all my life, Cunningham said. I decided to put this money into education because I think thats the best way to help people help themselves.

Heading the new institute will be Charles Aiken, a licensed realtor, former salesman and a marketing professor from CSUs Abbot Turner College of Business where he taught marketing and personal selling classes for several years. Aiken brings a masters of business administration degree to the classroom, as well as an extensive mix of sales experience that includes real estate, pharmaceuticals and home heating and cooling systems.

This is an exciting opportunity for me, the university and for our growing community, Aiken said. We will create an atmosphere of fun in learning, while raising the level of skills, professionalism and ethical behavior for anyone in any selling field.

Aiken said students will learn from a variety of instructors who are skilled and seasoned in selling, sales training and will include industry specific experts.

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Contacts: Lon Marlowe, (706) 565-3640
Charles F. Aiken, (706) 568-2286