October 27, 2016
Barbara Sobko, left, and Karen Buckner October 27, 2016 | by Amy Bickers

Ron McAbee grew up watching the hard work his grandfather put into his work as a cotton farmer and the dedication his father put into his work as a battalion chief of the Birmingham Fire Department. Their examples motivated him as he took another path – one not taken before by a member of his family – and became the first person in his family to graduate from college.

“UAB was basically an extension center when I attended,” McAbee recalls. But even though UAB was small, McAbee says the education he received at UAB was excellent. He decided to express his gratitude for that by making a gift to support the UAB Collat School of Business Facilities and Technology Fund and to name the Ronald G. McAbee Classroom in the School’s new building.

“If the school hadn’t given me the education it gave me, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be able to give back,” he says.

College degree in hand, McAbee was hired by Birmingham-based Vulcan Materials Company in 1973. During his nearly four decades with the company -- the nation's largest producer of construction aggregates and a major producer of asphalt and ready-mixed concrete – he rose through the ranks to become one of the most senior executives on staff, serving as president of two divisions. He worked in locations across the country, from North Carolina to California, traveling extensively. Retired since 2011, McAbee lives with his wife, Renate, in their homes in Nashville and Naples, Fla.

“I am proud of Renate's great work in raising our two daughters: Stephanie, who became a medical doctor, and Kristina, who became a PhD in English literature,” he says. “Renate as well supports this contribution.”

McAbee has a long history of involvement with the Collat School of Business, serving as a dean’s advisory board member. He says the new building, scheduled for completion in 2018, is a powerful and positive move for the School. “It will be a state-of-the-art facility for students to learn in,” he says. “And I believe it will attract more students to UAB.”

The new building will consist of approximately 109,000 gross square feet of space to house administrative and student function space for the Collat School of Business and Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as the Center for Sales Leadership, the Healthcare Leadership Academy and the Regions Institute for Financial Education.

The plans include multipurpose learning spaces with breakout rooms for team projects, engaging space for entrepreneurial projects, classrooms designed for team-based learning, a state-of-the-art trading room, labs for behavioral research and sales presentations, a three-story atrium optimal for social interactions and leadership activities, career services space, and study rooms for students.

“It’s important for graduates, when they get in a position to contribute, to give to places that are important to them,” McAbee says. “For me, it felt important to do something for UAB.”

To support the Collat School of Business and the B.L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship: David I. Allen, 205-996-5399 diallen@uab.edu.