Southern Breaks Ground for Ruth McKee School of Business


Community members joined Southern Adventist University’s Board of Trustees along with students, employees, alumni, and donors to break ground for the new Ruth McKee School of Business facility on September 29 in Collegedale, Tennessee.

Located just off University Drive in front of Mabel Wood Hall, the site is the first thing visitors see when arriving on Southern’s property. 

“This location sets the tone for the professional, quality education that all enrolled students receive,” said Ellen Hostetler, vice president for Advancement. “With 50,000 square feet, the new building will provide nearly five times the current space for this academic area and is set to be completed by 2025.”  

“Lives are going to be changed,” said board member Jim Davidson, executive secretary of the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, who welcomed the audience and opened the service with prayer. “That ripple effect will go on and on for eternity.” 

Flanked by a backhoe, forklift, bulldozer, and excavator, Davidson joined Southern’s President Ken Shaw and Stephanie Sheehan, dean of the School of Business, in lifting up golden shovels of dirt to mark the beginning of construction. 

“For students, this ceremony is the symbol of opportunities that lie ahead,” said Roman Johnson, senior management major. “Space to gain knowledge, cultivate creativity, and prepare ourselves for the competitive business world.”  

With a 10% increase in enrollment over the past five years, the School of Business—the second-largest academic discipline on campus—welcomed its largest class of 133 new students this fall. Currently, there are more than 450 business and applied technology majors within 16 graduate and undergraduate degree programs. 

“The new name for the School of Business honors the co-founder of McKee Foods, best known for Little Debbie snacks, who embodied integrity, wisdom, acumen, and beneficence—the same qualities we strive to instill in each of our graduates,” Sheehan said. “We are equipping the next generation of top-tier business leaders and fostering an environment for Christian business principles to be experienced and practiced.”

Southern alum Brittany McKee East explained how her great-grandmother was “ahead of the times” as a well-rounded female entrepreneur with a powerful voice and a legacy that lives on through the family and the company, as well as the university.
The four-story structure will house a spacious auditorium, an innovation lab, and an investment lab with computers for analyzing real-time financial market data—all to enhance cross-departmental innovation, entrepreneurship opportunities, and networking between the community and students.

More than 80% of the campaign goal of $20 million, which also includes a program endowment, has been raised through donations and commitments. Ground preparation is underway, with construction soon to follow. See for ongoing developments.

The views and opinions of campus guests do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Southern Adventist University. An individual's or group's invitation to speak or present on campus should not be regarded as a university endorsement of their philosophies and beliefs.