October 21, 2014  

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Southern Miss Alumnus Donates $5 Million to New Business Building

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Southern Miss alumnus Chuck Scianna and his wife, Rita, with University President Martha Saunders and Dr. Lance Nail, dean of the College of Business.
Southern Miss alumnus Chuck Scianna, far left, and his wife, Rita, admire an artist's rendering of the College of Business building that will bear his name alongside President Martha Saunders, second from right, and Dr. Lance Nail, dean of the College of Business. (Submitted photo)

With a gift commitment of $5 million to The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, Southern Miss alumnus Charles “Chuck” C. Scianna Jr. is making an investment in the future of education by providing the gift that will also name the proposed College of Business building Scianna Hall.

The commitment is the largest one-time gift to the USM Foundation by a Southern Miss alumnus.

“We are touched and deeply grateful for this amazing gift,” said Dr. Martha Saunders, University president. “Chuck Scianna is a wonderful role model for our students as a man with an unwavering commitment to integrity and hard work. It’s an honor to name this building for him.”

Scianna’s gift significantly accelerates the progress of the $10 million fundraising campaign that, along with $26 million from state bonds in 2010 and 2011, will fund the construction of a new business school facility on the Hattiesburg campus and ensure its maintenance in perpetuity.

With “Building Better Business” as its goal, the 90,000-square-foot structure, at a total estimated project cost of $33 million, will stand next to the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship and will benefit 2,200 College of Business students, more than 65 faculty members and 17 staff members.

A native of Bay St. Louis, Miss., Scianna earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Miss and a master’s degree from the University of Houston. Scianna credits his education at Southern Miss for much of his success as president of Sim-Tex, L.P. in Waller, Texas, one of the leading suppliers of API-certified oil country tubular goods.

“I am where I am today because of my education at Southern Miss,” said Scianna. During his time at Southern Miss, Scianna focused on his education and full-time position as co-manager of A & P Food Store in Bay St. Louis, Miss. With an average class load of 23 hours per term, Scianna worked 110 hours a week to both pay for his education and apply the knowledge he attained in the classroom to real-life management situations.

“I had the unique opportunity to work in the field I was majoring in and was able to discuss my experiences openly and challenge my professors on their lessons,” recalled Scianna. “Fortunately, my professors welcomed the opportunity to learn from real-life problems.”

While a student at Southern Miss, Scianna also served in the United States Marine Corps and served in Vietnam. After graduating from Southern Miss in 1975, Scianna moved to Texas to take advantage of the many opportunities the oil industry provided.

 “I worked in a place full of graduates of the Harvard MBA program and the ‘good ol’ boys’ from University of Texas and Texas A&M. When I began working there, they would all ask me where I went to school and how a boy from Mississippi ended up working with them,” said Scianna. “After three or four years, they would ask, ‘Where is that place you’re from? And how are we working for you now?’ I’ve always said I’d put a business degree from Southern Miss up against any other degree in the country.”

In 1978, Scianna decided to take business matters into his own hands and started Oilfield Pump and Equipment. In 1982, the oil industry crashed, leaving Scianna mired in debt at age 29. “I spent every penny I had trying to stay afloat without having to lay off any of the 1,700 employees in the company,” said Scianna.

After selling the company to pay off his debt, Scianna seized an opportunity to build the multimillion-dollar business, Sim-Tex. While doing consulting work for local banks, he turned a potential major financial loss problem for Hyundai Corporation into a profit for the company. In return, Chung Ju-yung, founder of Hyundai, gave Scianna exclusive distributorship for Hyundai Hysco Pipe Co. products in North America.

Sim-Tex is now also the mill representative for Benteler Group, Husteel, Dongbu, Borusan and A-Ju Besteel OCTG products. Scianna’s success with the company allows him to support the philanthropies for which he and his family have a passion.

The choice to help fund the College of Business building was a family decision made not only by Scianna, but also by his wife, Rita, and daughters, Ashley and Stephanie.

“When we talk about charitable donations, we decide as a family what to give to, and everyone has an equal say,” explained Scianna. “The girls are very involved in these decisions. They are as excited about this as I am, and they aren’t even Southern Miss graduates.”

Scianna views his gift as an investment in the future of business education at Southern Miss.

“I am interested in making an investment that the University and the state will benefit from,” said Scianna. “Dr. Saunders and (dean of the College of Business) Dr. (Lance) Nail are committed to making the College of Business at Southern Miss the number one business school in the country, and I want to be a part of that. We will get a greater return on this investment than on any other in the quality of education, curriculum and graduates we produce.”

The Southern Miss College of Business is fully accredited by AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Over the past three years, College of Business faculty have generated more than 50 publications in ranked high-citation journals – equaling or surpassing the quality research productivity of doctoral-granting colleges in the region. In 2010, the College of Business entered the U.S. News & World Report rankings for business programs for the first time, placing it in the top 15 percent of business programs in the United States.

Scianna and his wife, Rita, are active community volunteers in Houston. Scianna has served as president of the Waller Economic Development Corporation and is a member of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation American Patriots Campaign, the Knights of Columbus Council in Bellville, Texas, and The Commandants Circle of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.

Both he and Rita have worked with Boys and Girls Country, a home providing children from families in crisis with security and opportunities to prepare for a successful life, and numerous other charities both on a local and national level.

Scianna’s daughters, Ashley and Stephanie, both reside in Houston and work for Sim-Tex. Scianna and Rita enjoy working on their ranch, fishing and spending time with their family, including their granddaughter, Claire.

“We are honored to receive this transformational gift from Chuck and Rita Scianna. Knowing their philosophy on philanthropy is one of both benevolence and investment makes this gift even more special,” said Nail. “The Sciannas treat their giving as an investment where they seek the highest return on the positive impact on society. For Chuck and Rita to invest in us means that they expect great things from Southern Miss and the College of Business – an expectation that we will more fully realize with our new state-of-the-art facilities.” 

The $5 million gift from Scianna brings the Building Better Business Campaign to 75 percent completion. USM Foundation and University officials are working to raise the remaining $2.5 million so that construction can proceed in spring 2012. For more information on the Building Better Business Campaign, contact the USM Foundation at 601.266.5210 or visit www.usmfoundation.com/businessbuilding.

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