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Manchester alum returns ‘seeds’ in $2.5 million gift

Mike and Sandy Jarvis

A $2.5 million gift from a 1968 Manchester University business graduate and his wife will benefit his alma mater’s plans for the future.

The donation from Mike and Sandy Jarvis will help underwrite Manchester’s $9 million Academic Center, which houses more than half of the university’s academic programs.

The Academic Center opened in 2012 and includes the business and accounting, social sciences, English, peace studies and modern language programs, according to the university.

The couple, who live in Franklin, have been married for 48 years and have two sons – Tony and Troy.

“Manchester planted the seeds for my growth and success,” Mike Jarvis said in a statement.

“We want to help continue that environment for future students. We want each student to know that you have to have an open mind and a curious outlook. I learned that at Manchester.”

The couple said they are timing their gift to encourage other Manchester graduates to help complete the $100 million “Students First!” campaign during the 2013-14 school year and to honor President Jo Switzer, who is retiring June 30.

Mike Jarvis is a member of the university’s Students First! campaign cabinet.

The Students First! campaign began in October 2011 as a way to raise money for the university’s endowment, scholarships, faculty support and several building projects.

About $5 million remains to be raised in the campaign for new learning spaces, endowed scholarships, a new administration building, Chime Tower, the College of Pharmacy and The Manchester Fund, university officials said.

Mike Jarvis is an international entrepreneur who founded Franklin Power Products in 1983 and was president and manager of the Powertrain Division until 2004.

Under Jarvis’ leadership, Franklin Power – which provides engines, transmissions and electrical systems for Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and others – grew to 2,700 employees in 16 locations in the United States and Canada.

In 2004, Jarvis established Jarvis Enterprises with companies involved in telecommunications, automotive technology, real estate, farming and health technology.

The Jarvises have supported a variety of programs at Manchester, including environmental, accounting and athletic programs and The Manchester Fund, officials said.

Although the gift is not the largest in the university’s history, it is one of the largest cash gifts from living alumni, university spokeswoman Jeri Kornegay said.

The largest gift in the university’s history was a $35 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. in November 2010.

The largest alumni gift was from Dr. Harry Keffer and his wife, Dr. Jan Keffer, who gave 90 percent of their estate, valued in the millions, in September 2010.

A number of Manchester University trustees have also given gifts of $1 million or more, Kornegay said.