Opening Doors to Excellence

Steve & Nancy Sheetz dedicate, officially open entrepreneurial center at Penn State Altoona

ALTOONA, Pa. -- With a ceremony and ribbon cutting, Penn State Altoona Chancellor Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry, board of trustee members, students and, of course, Steve and Nancy Sheetz, officially dedicated the Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence and Rossman Park in Altoona, Pa., on August 18.

Altoona Mayor William Schirf read a proclamation and declared August 18 "Penn State Altoona Entrepreneurial Excellence Day."

A $3 million gift from Steve and Nancy Sheetz helped purchase and renovate the former Meyer Jonasson building in downtown Altoona, now the Sheetz [image-nocss] Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, as well as Rossman Park. The building will support academic research, education and community engagement in entrepreneurship, and serve as the home for the Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization.

Bechtel-Wherry also presented Steve and Nancy Sheetz with a replica of the building rendering carved out of limestone.

Steve Sheetz said that the Pennsylvania convenience chain's growth would not have happened without his older brother Bob's mentoring. It was a relationship that bestowed a confidence that allowed for taking risks and weathering mistakes, including "stupid" ones, reported The Altoona Mirror.

Established in 1952 in Altoona, Pa., Sheetz is a family-owned and -operated convenience store chain, with more than $4.9 billion in revenue for 2010 and more than 14,500 employees. The company operates more than 395 convenience locations throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina.

For the first 15 years of its existence, the "chain" only had two stores, said the report. It did not begin its explosive growth until the end of the 1960s, when now-chairman Steve Sheetz joined Bob Sheetz, the founder, as general manager. There were three stores then, but by the end of 1972, there were 14. That same year, they said to one another, "Let's go for 100," Steve Sheetz said.

And Steve Sheetz had his brother's mentoring in mind when he and his wife decided to donate the funds for the project, the report said. He was already working with the entrepreneurial program at the college, liked what he saw and wanted to give the kids a better opportunity for the kind of guidance and encouragement he had received from his brother.

The students will receive that from instructors, each other and business leaders in the community, including Sheetz himself, said the report

The center came into being because Bechtel-Wherry had noticed Steve Sheetz's interest and his engagement with the students, and she knew of his business success, so she "started a conversation" with him. "It's not about asking people for money," she told the newspaper. Rather, it's about offering "an opportunity to become part of a larger vision ... an opportunity to feel good about their success."

It gave Steve Sheetz and his wife an opportunity to support their home town of Altoona and his alma mater, Penn State, as well as for the students and for entrepreneurship, "the lifeblood of the country," Steve Sheetz said.

Faculty members began working in the building Thursday, and students will attend class there for the first time Monday, Bechtel-Wherry told the Mirror.

Click hereto view a slide show of the event and the facility.