La Sierra University to hold groundbreaking for Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business building


February 3, 2012

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( La Sierra University’s School of Business officially opened in 1986, a bright new chapter in the university’s offerings. Next week, the business school, which posted record enrollment this year, will celebrate another developmental milestone in its progression as a key player in the life of the university and the region.

On Feb. 9, 2012 at 4 p.m., La Sierra University will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, a two-story, 60,200-square-foot building and conference center that will provide students, faculty and the community with a state-of-the-art learning environment. Fullmer Construction in Ontario is general contractor for the $16 million project with architectural design by Thomas Riggle, president of TR Design Group in Riverside.

Watch the groundbreaking ceremony live!

The ceremony will take place near the front of the university’s Administration building and will include the announcement of a seven-figure financial donation to the school with special recognition of the gift’s contributor who will be in attendance.

“The School of Business has developed a reputation among its stakeholders as an outstanding provider of rigorous and relevant business education. Our new facility will allow us to build substantially upon that foundation by providing an integrative learning environment for the next generation of La Sierra students,” said business school Dean John Thomas. “The new building will help the school live out its dream of fostering transformative business education, and it can be expected to serve as a powerful draw for new students, faculty members, and staff members,” he said. Thomas is a 1988 graduate of La Sierra’s business program, holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University and is the School of Business Bassir Hasso Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship. His efforts include initiation of the school’s international award-winning Students In Free Enterprise team.

The School of Business offers eight undergraduate degrees and nine Master of Business Administration degrees, including a new MBA concentration in healthcare management. It houses the Center for Philanthropy, the Edward C. Allred Center, and the Center for Conflict Resolution.

“The School of Business is poised to again move forward, to take the next step toward solidifying its role as the premier provider of business education for the world Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as in the Inland Empire,” said university President Randal Wisbey. La Sierra University is an institution of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. “Students who come here cultivate a commitment to global Christian service, and become well-rounded lifelong learners. We are passionate about seeing a new School of Business building on our campus—one that will meet the needs of the present as well as serving us well into the future,” he said.

The Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business will be prominently situated near the front of the campus, on a hillside just south of the Glory of God’s Grace sculpture. A center rotunda will provide views of the broader Riverside area. A central gallery running the length of the building between two wings will have portions open to the entire height of the second floor which has a 30-foot high ceiling and clerestory windows. The building will have eight classrooms, 27 faculty offices, three large lecture rooms, four seminar rooms, offices for the school’s centers, business club, accounting club, and for the award-winning Students In Free Enterprise, or SIFE team, two computer labs, and a digital media center.

The 541-seat auditorium and conference center will be open for use by businesses and community organizations. The center will have four breakout rooms of 400 square feet each to respectively accommodate 20 people. The center will have audiovisual presentation capabilities, a 1,362-square-foot raised platform area and green room for guest speakers, Wi-Fi Internet access, catering kitchen and sound room.

The building will be constructed with a number of green materials including several with recycled content such as the carpet, vinyl flooring, ceiling tiles, window frames and roof. Additionally the building will have high efficiency heating and air conditioning, water-conserving landscaping, lighting controls, windows in all offices, low-emissivity glass in dual-paned windows, and daylight through upper clerestory windows along the entire center gallery just below the contemporary winged roof of the building.

The new business school building is seeded with a $5 million donation from Seventh-day Adventist philanthropists Tom and Violet Zapara who are also La Sierra University alumni. The Zaparas founded Zee Medical Inc. in 1952, an occupational first aid, safety and training products company that grew to serve more than 400,000 manufacturing plants, construction firms, restaurants, hotels and other organizations in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The Zaparas sold the company 30 years later.

“Vi and I have dreamed about this new business school building for the last few years and we’re just delighted that God has blessed it,” Tom Zapara said. “God has a great plan for that school. The challenge is for us to tune in for what God has in mind.”

The Zaparas decided to contribute to the business school’s advancement largely because of the precedent-setting success of its SIFE team. Based in the School of Business and comprised of students from various academic majors, the team has won six national trophies and two world cups in annual SIFE competitions, making the team one of the most successful and prominent in the global SIFE organization.

“We’ve been so impressed with the La Sierra business school SIFE team over the years,” Tom Zapara said. “SIFE put La Sierra on the map. SIFE is still a very key component of that school. It became so obvious, if this [business school] is going to progress, they need more space.”

The Jack Shewmaker SIFE World Headquarters in Springfield, Mo., holds regional, national and international competitions annually involving 1,400 SIFE teams from colleges and universities in 40 countries. The teams prepare multimedia presentations that describe economic empowerment projects they developed to aid those in need in their communities and in other countries. Top executives of large corporations including Walmart, Campbell’s Soup, KPMG and other powerhouses judge the competitions which are held in major metropolitan convention centers.

La Sierra SIFE’s current projects include the construction of a school in India and assistance with classes and curriculum; a Business Success Audit program for Riverside area companies to assess energy usage, marketing, online identity and other activities; and a local program in conjunction with Family Services Association called Riverside Eating And Living Healthy, or REAL Healthy, that helps families identify simple and cost-effective ways to live healthy lives.

This month’s groundbreaking festivities fall during a record-setting, 25th anniversary year for the School of Business. The institution jumped ahead to reach an enrollment high of 442 students, the largest pool of registrants in its history.

The number includes 292 undergraduate and 150 graduate students who arrived at La Sierra from around the globe to study business. Thomas plans to sign up more than 600 students over the next five years and to hire five or six new faculty as enrollment increases. To learn more about the School of Business go to


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  February 09, 2012