Wildcats remain competitive in Pac-12's finance race

2013-12-22T00:00:00Z Wildcats remain competitive in Pac-12's finance raceGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Arizona has been able to stay competitive in the Pac-12’s game of high finance because three donors recently contributed a total of more than $30 million to athletic facilities.

Their backgrounds couldn’t be more fascinating.

David Lowell, a 1940s UA grad in geological engineering, who grew up near Nogales, made a fortune in gold and copper mines, mostly in South America. His wife, Edith Lowell, graduated in anthropology from the UA.

Jeff and Sharon Stevens met at the UA in the early 1980s. Her father was the athletic department’s dentist for almost 30 years. Jeff Stevens made his money in oil; if you see a Western Refining tanker truck on the highway, it belongs to him.

Cole and Jeannie Davis met while working at the YWCA in Dayton, Ohio. She earned a law degree at Notre Dame.

They got married, had two children, and Cole left the YWCA, starting in the RV business. “I took a pay cut,” he says with a laugh. At 42, he started over, a sales trainee. By 50, he owned Keystone RV.

The Davis’ extended family still lives in Elkhart, Ind. — “that’s the world capital for the RV business,” he says — but they’ve lived in Tucson for 15 years, drawn mostly by the weather and the city’s feel as a college community.

Much like the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, the Davis’ name will be displayed prominently when the ambitious, $80 million McKale Center makeover is completed, but UA athletic director Greg Byrne says the McKale name will “always be part of the title.”

The Davises have become difference-makers. They have contributed $10 million to UA basketball during a period Oregon, Cal, Oregon State, Washington, Stanford, USC and UCLA rebuilt and refurbished their basketball plants.

Here’s some perspective: Until the Lowells, the Stevenses and the Davises became the largest donors in UA athletic history, Bill Hillenbrand was the department’s most notable donor. He supplied the money to build Hillenbrand Stadium for softball and the Hillenbrand Aquatics Center. Those 20-year-old projects cost about $3 million total.

Hillenbrand, who came by his fortune via the family funeral-services business in Indiana, was a college dropout and former Army MP who moved to Tucson for the weather.

Mining. Oil. RVs. Caskets.

At Arizona, that’s what it takes to keep the athletic department paying the bills.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More Video Notebook

Archive

Greg Hansen's Video Notebook ... on DirecTV vs. Pac-12 and George Raveling's copy of MLK speech

Star columnist Greg Hansen and sports editor Ryan Finley talk about the economics of DirecTV's battles with…

Greg Hansen's Video Notebook ... final words on the NCAA tournament

Greg Hansen's Video Notebook ... final words on the NCAA tournament

Star columnist Greg Hansen and sports editor Ryan Finley talk about the winners of the NCAA …

Greg Hansen's Video Notebook ... on Arizona's 2013-2014 basketball season

Greg Hansen's Video Notebook ... on Arizona's 2013-2014 basketball season

Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen joins reporter Daniel Berk in the Star Studi…

Greg Hansen's Video Notebook ... on the path to the Elite Eight

Greg Hansen's Video Notebook ... on the path to the Elite Eight

Star sports columnist Greg Hansen and Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates join Madis…



Most Popular

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Video