By Jeff Murphy, February 11, 2019
WARRENSBURG, MO — The Sunderland Foundation has pledged a $1M gift to the UCM Alumni Foundation toward construction of a state-of-the-art terminal and flight education facility at UCM’s Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport. These developments will position UCM’s nationally known School of Aviation to better meet academic and public aviation needs while contributing to area economic growth.
“Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport is a unique asset for UCM, and for 50 years, our aviation program has been instrumental in preparing individuals to serve in the aviation industry,” said UCM President Roger J. Best. “Skyhaven also serves the community and flying public at large, a critical component for economic development in the region. We are extremely grateful to the Sunderland Foundation for this generous gift, which will enhance both our ability to attract and educate students in aviation as well as serve a stronger role in fulfilling the economic development needs for the region.”
Established by Lester T. Sunderland in 1945, the Sunderland Foundation is dedicated to funding construction projects in the Kansas City region and areas traditionally served by the Ash Grove Cement Company, where Sunderland was president for 33 years. Leadership of the foundation has passed from generation to generation, and Lester’s great-grandsons, Kent and Charles Sunderland, were named Ingram’s 2018 Philanthropists of the Year for their current stewardship. The foundation gives generously to nonprofit charitable organizations to support health care, human services, arts and culture, and higher education. In 2017 the foundation awarded more than $10 million to more than 45 educational organizations.
“One of our key funding areas is higher education, and specifically brick-and-mortar projects for new or improved facilities,” said Kent Sunderland, president of the Sunderland Foundation. “As a pilot myself, I understand how valuable UCM’s airport is to both the university and the larger community. We are happy to support this renowned School of Aviation’s growth and preserve its legacy through renovations that reflect our foundation’s commitment to constructing a better quality of life from the ground up.”
The Skyhaven airport was donated to the university in the 1960s by Max B. Swisher and his family. From that generous donation grew the UCM School of Aviation, which currently serves nearly 500 students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in one of four undergraduate programs or a master’s degree in aviation safety. Enrollment is growing every year, and Associate Professor Terry Hunt, who serves as chair of the School of Aviation, attributes this growth to the program’s reputation for excellence and a global shortage of aviation professionals.
“Our program has exploded in enrollment,” Hunt said. “After 50 years of continuous operation and the significant growth in the program, there is an acute need for new facilities at the airport. We are very excited that the Sunderland Foundation chose to invest in our students and invest in the future of the UCM School of Aviation, and we are grateful for their gift.”
UCM is the only public university in Missouri, and one of only a few in the nation, to own and operate a general aviation airport. Regional pilots lease hangar space for private or corporate aircraft at Skyhaven Airport, and there is currently a waiting list for space. Pilots also land at the airport to fuel up, use maintenance facilities or head into Warrensburg for dining, entertainment or an overnight stay.
Part of the School of Aviation’s multiphase master plan to better serve both the flying public and its aviation students is construction of a terminal. Phase 1 of the 20-year master plan was completed in 2012 and included grading for the terminal, improvements to the apron and taxiways, new T-hangars, an access road, and property acquisition for a safety zone for landing and departing aircraft. In 2018 a $7M project joint venture helped realize a total reconstruct of the ramp, taxiway and runway areas. Phase 2 focuses on acquiring external funding for the $3.1 million terminal, parking facilities and relocation of Hangar 2. When completed, the terminal will house offices and instructional space for the school’s 30 flight instructors and 165 students currently on the flight schedule. It will also include a student lounge, a dispatch office and a flight planning room, as well as accommodations for public use.
The Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport serves not only as a teaching laboratory for students pursuing careers as pilots, maintenance managers, airport managers and more, but also as a catalyst for economic and workforce development within the region. The Sunderland Foundation’s generous gift will fund improvements that will greatly enhance the learning experience for students while also serving the larger community’s aviation needs.
“The Sunderland Foundation’s significant support for this project is a testament both to the importance of this project to the economic development of the region and to the high-quality benefit UCM’s aviation program provides to the students it educates and to those whom they ultimately serve as aviation professionals,” said Courtney Goddard, Courtney Goddard, associate vice president for university advancement and director of advancement services. “The University of Central Missouri is so honored to have the support of the Sunderland Foundation for this transformative aviation terminal renovation project.”
To learn more or donate to the airport renovation project, please contact Goddard at firstname.lastname@example.org.