Casey’s founder gives $2.9 million to Buena Vista University for rural entrepreneurship center

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at Gravitate Coworking about Buena Vista Univeristy's newly announced Center for Rural Entrepreneurship.

Don Lamberti, founder and CEO of Casey’s General Stores, has donated $2.9 million to Buena Vista University (BVU) to establish a rural center for entrepreneurship at the Storm Lake school.

Gov. Kim Reynolds joined Joshua Merchant, President of Buena Vista University at Gravitate Coworking in downtown Des Moines Wednesday night to announce The Donald F. and Charlene K. Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship at BVU.

“Putting a visionary entrepreneur like Don Lamberti together with an academic leader like Buena Vista University, both champions of rural Iowa, can’t help but create a world of new opportunities for people of all ages across Iowa,” said Reynolds.

Iowa business and education leaders and BVU alumni gather at Gravitate Coworking in downtown Des Moines.

Programming and real-world business applications within The Lamberti Center curriculum will provide students and professionals opportunities to sharpen their skills.

“Don’s leadership, in concert with a number of dedicated donors, puts us on a track to offer support for business start-ups while providing a creative space for social entrepreneurship, additional collaborative efforts, and even an inclusive entrepreneurship minor aimed at students of all majors who desire to turn their passion into a career,” said Merchant, who was appointed by Gov. Reynolds to serve on the Empower Rural Iowa Initiative Task Force in 2018.

The center will also be a resource for existing businesses across the region, allowing those enterprises to develop and fine-tune marketing campaigns and business plans with the assistance of BVU faculty members and students enrolled in related fields.

“If students want to live and grow in rural areas, or anywhere in Iowa, this center is for them,” said Merchant.

The Lamberti gift, coupled with an anonymous $500,000 donation, allows Buena Vista University to move ahead in offering innovative courses and programs while developing a minor in rural entrepreneurship available to all BVU students.