UPDATE: A few weeks after the initial gift announcement, the Lombardos donated an additional $200,000, bringing the total gift to $1.2 million. 

ORIGINAL STORY: 

A Lancaster County entrepreneur and his wife are donating $1 million to Millersville University toward the construction of a state-of-the-art campus center for prospective students and other visitors.

The $7.5 million Lombardo Welcome Center, named for Samuel and Dena Lombardo, will be a “net energy zero” building — one that produces as much energy as it consumes.

The Lombardos’ gift equals the $1 million donated by Dr. Charles Winter in 2007 toward the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center.

The two private donations are the largest in Millersville’s history.

Samuel Lombardo is chairman and CEO of the Benecon Group, an insurance agency, benefits administration and consulting firm based in Lititz.

“My companies have been very successful, and we are financially blessed.  I like giving back. We want to share our blessings,” Lombardo said.

Benecon has been listed four times in Inc. magazine’s annual tabulation of the 500 fastest-growing U.S. private companies. In 2014, Inc. reported Benecon had revenue of $26.7 million and growth of 53 percent.

'Extraordinary friends'

The university’s president, John Anderson, announced the donation at Millersville’s convocation Friday.

“Sam and Dena are not only extraordinary friends of the university, but they have the foresight to see how their investment will impact thousands of people each year,” Anderson said.

The 15,000-square-foot welcome center will be built near Millersville’s new complex of residence halls on the campus’ south side.

It will house the admissions office and administrative offices and will feature an atrium with educational displays about environmental sustainability. It is expected to host more than 10,000 visitors a year.

The building will incorporate solar panels, advanced water-conservation systems and renewable materials.

Construction is slated to begin in May 2016 and wrap up in January 2017, though that schedule is subject to change, the university said.

The $7.5 million budget includes $6 million in construction costs and $1.5 million in architects’ and engineers’ fees, furnishings and so on, university spokeswoman Janet Kacskos said.

Besides the Lombardos’ gift, another $500,000 will be provided through private funding, Kacskos said.

Of the remainder, $3 million will be educational general reserve fund money, which derives primarily from state funding and tuition; and $3 million will come from the auxiliary fund, which derives from student housing.

Lombardo said he became familiar with the university in the early part of his professional career, which he spent in the Millersville area.

Jerry Eckert, the university’s now-retired former vice president of advancement, got Lombardo involved with the building of the Winter Center and renovation of McComsey Hall, home to programs in business, foreign languages, geography, history and philosophy. The Lombardos helped underwrite both building projects.

“When John Anderson came on board, he told me about the new net zero energy building coming into play, and the whole idea of the welcoming center intrigued me,” Lombardo said. “I’m flattered that our name will be on the building.”

In 2007, the university awarded Lombardo an honorary doctorate.

The Lombardos have donated to other area philanthropic causes involving education and young people, including Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center, the Clinic for Special Children and Franklin & Marshall College.