Richard Sussman, past president of Mr. Steam and co-chairman of Sussman Automatic, Mr. Steam’s parent company, has donated $1 million to his alma mater, Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in memory of his late wife Lila.
The generous gift will be dedicated to creating an endowment for leadership education, and to renovating one of the most-used buildings on campus, the Bulldog Theater.
“We have always believed that the principals of our company should do things that help society,” said Sussman. “Drake was very important to me, and I wanted to do something lasting to honor my wife,” Sussman added.
Sussman’s donation has funded the creation of the Lila and Richard Sussman Endowment for Leadership, which will provide ongoing sponsorship of the fall and spring leadership conferences attended by students enrolled in the Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute, as well as by students in the overall University community.
“This is such a transformative gift, it allows us to do new things and to move leadership education at Drake to another level,” noted Paul Secord, Director of Development, Kinne Center, Drake University.
The private, fully accredited university has more than 3,500 undergraduate students and more than 2,100 graduate students.
The conferences will be named The Lila and Richard Sussman Conferences on Leadership Education. They draw keynote speakers who foster panel discussions, small group breakout sessions, and ample networking time for students who are seeking to expand their training in leadership far beyond the classroom and into practical application in daily life.
In addition, The Lila and Richard Sussman Endowment for Leadership funds will be used to enhance and expand the program offerings of these conferences.
Sussman’s gift will also fund the first renovation in 30 years of Bulldog Theater, which will be renamed The Richard and Lila Sussman Theater. One of the most used facilities on campus with room for 500 people, the theater will enjoy a complete renovation with new seating and all new AV equipment.
Sussman graduated in 1951 from Drake University and joined Mr. Steam full time in 1954, after serving in the Korean War. He led the company during its expansion from industrial steam boilers for the garment industry into residential steam showers. Mr. Steam still supplies commercial steam boilers for demanding customers such as the U.S. Navy as well as hospital operating rooms.
Sussman is still proud of the fact that Mr. Steam continues to manufacture all its products in Long Island City. “Through good engineering, we found ways to be competitive with people who are manufacturing elsewhere in the US or off shore,” he noted. “We have a highly experienced workforce and the quality is very good. We believed we had to protect what we had.”
And he is equally bullish on the future of residential steam. “My feeling is there are a lot of industries that will not come back after the recession, but anything that has to do with health and wellbeing will. Health will be a major industry as things get better, and we’ll benefit from that.”