MARCH 16, 2005

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Gift to ECU to help create companies, jobs, wealth in Oklahoma


Bob Diamond

A prestigious gift to East Central University's School of Business has raised ECU's entrepreneurship program to an unprecedented level that can help create new companies, jobs and wealth in Oklahoma.

The gift from entrepreneurs Bob and Janice (Keefer) Diamond of McKinney, Texas, makes ECU the only university in Oklahoma with an active "angel investment" program, one that will provide a direct infusion of $10,000 in equity capital to start two new businesses annually for five years. The funds will be administered through the ECU Foundation Inc.

The Diamonds, who are ECU alumni, will fund ECU's annual Business Plan Competition prize of $750 and provide $5,000 in start-up capital for the competition's winning team. Another $5,000 will be available for an entrepreneurship student who creates a company in order to work his or her way through college.

"This is a great day," said Dr. William Mayfield, dean of ECU's School of Business. "This gift places the Center for Entrepreneurship and its degree program on a competitive basis nationally. It's a whole different world we're entering."

Mayfield, who directs the Center for Entrepreneurship, said the Diamonds' investment completes the program's infrastructure of coursework, mentoring, a hatchery and an angel investment network for new companies. He said it will help attract other investment capital as well as grant money and the brightest and best entrepreneurial students.

"This places us in a different grouping of universities," he said, "and it's a very small and exclusive club."

Bob Diamond will become a special adviser to the entrepreneurship program and an entrepreneur-in-residence.

"Dr. Mayfield has a great program," Diamond said. "It needs only one success to make it a tremendous program. I want to help him get there."


Janice Diamond

Bob and Janice Diamond were named ECU Distinguished Alumni in 2004. They completed bachelor's degrees in three years, graduating from ECU in 1969. They started and ran their business, Diamond Control Systems Inc., from 1986 until selling it in 1991. The company designs and installs comprehensive automation systems for pipeline storage facilities. Its customers include dozens of oil companies such as Citgo, Sinclair and Fina.

Janice Diamond started Diamond School Supply in Plano, Texas, to sell directly to school districts through catalogs and to teachers through a retail store. She later sold the business and returned to teaching.

The first business plan competition eligible for the Diamonds' prize will be held April 30.

"The true contribution of this kind of gift and program," Mayfield said, "is the creation of companies and jobs for our graduating students. This will place ECU at the forefront of the movement being pursued by Chancellor Paul Risser to make higher education the driver of economic development in our particular geographic areas."

Students winning the startup funds will be eligible for the entrepreneurship internship course which awards three hours' credit for starting companies. Additional help will be offered by the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce Rural Partnership Program.

Contact: Jill Frye, (580) 310-5650