St. Ambrose names business college after VanBruwaene

University alum leaves record gift for alma mater

A Quad Cities woman who had a “charge-any-mountain” spirit has given St. Ambrose University, in Davenport, the largest gift in school history.

The St. Ambrose University College of Business will be named the Patricia VanBruwaene College of Business. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

The university, in turn, is naming its business school the Patricia VanBruwaene College of Business to honor the donor for her generosity to the school and her record of community leadership.

St. Ambrose University President Amy Novak announced the gift and name change during a brief ceremony on Thursday, April 7, in the university’s McMullen Hall. The expanded and renovated hall now is home to the university’s College of Business.

The university did not release the donation amount. “But, it’s big, my friends,” Ms. Novak said during an Innovation Summit meeting held earlier Thursday on the campus.

Much of the brief ceremony centered around praising and remembering Ms. VanBruwaene, an East Moline native and St. Ambrose graduate who died Nov. 2, 2021.

This is McMullen Hall on the St. Ambrose campus. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

Ms. Novak said one of Ms. VanBruwaene’s friends described her as a strong and kind person who had a “charge-any-mountain nature.”

“For women currently in leadership roles such as mine, the Patricia VanBruwaenes of the mid-to late 20th Century were pacesetters,” Ms. Novak said in a news release. 

Other people associated with St. Ambrose remembered the former student as a strong, confident person who became an engaged alumna.

“Pat had an ability to articulate her ideas in a compelling way that convinced others of her perspective,” Edward Rogalski, St. Ambrose president emeritus, who was the dean of students when Ms. VanBruwaene enrolled in 1970, said in the release. “She was bright, articulate and poised.”

Patricia VanBruwaene

Ms. VanBruwaene received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1974 from St. Ambrose and a master of business administration degree in 1984 from the school. She worked for Deere & Co., holding numerous positions. She retired in 2001 as John Deere’s manager of pensions and benefits.

In addition to her accomplishments in the business world, she was also a community leader. In 1990, Ms. VanBruwaene became the first female president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and worked with others to help build John Deere Road.

She was also a founding member of what is now Visit Quad Cities, received the 1994 Rotary Club Golden Book of Good Deeds award for community service, and was a longtime John Deere Classic volunteer. She was also a past president of the St. Ambrose Alumni Executive Committee and a St. Ambrose Alumni Award recipient.

“Through her estate, she contributed the largest gift in university history, a multimillion (dollar) donation that will bolster scholarship funding that makes SAU’s faithful, student-focused classroom and campus experience accessible to students across the economic and learning spectrum,” according to information from St. Ambrose.

The university added that Ms. VanBruwaene’s gift is allocated to the school’s Annual Fund, College of Business and the H.L. McLaughlin Masters of Business Administration Program.

Get the free QCBJ email newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the people, companies and issues that impact business in the  Quad Cities area.