This year marks the 35th anniversary of Pittsburg State University naming its college of business in honor of Gladys A. Kelce. Kelce moved to Pittsburg with her family as a teenager and received her Life Certificate in teaching in 1916 from what was then the State Manual Training Normal School.
Gladys and her husband L. Russell Kelce, met in the early 1920’s and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they founded the Sinclair Coal Company. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Kelce donated large sums of money to several organizations and particularly to Pittsburg State University. She first gave $35,000 to the college in 1964 to build the L. Russell Kelce Planetarium located in Yates Hall.
In 1973 she donated $500,000 to renovate the old College High School building, which was rededicated as the Gladys A. Kelce Center for Business and Economic Development in 1975. Two years later, in 1977, the center became what is known today as the Gladys A. Kelce College of Business. She gave an additional $500,000 in 1981 for further renovations of the center and just before her death in 1985 she gave an additional $70,000 for equipment. Finally, in her will, she left $100,000 in a trust fund for the maintenance of the L. Russell Kelce Planetarium.
Dr. Paul Grimes, dean of the Kelce College of Business, was one of the first students to attend the university following the business college’s name change.
“I enrolled in 1978, one year after the name changed,” said Grimes. “I’m not certain anyone really understood what it meant to have a named college of business. It was a sign of our progress as a college and as a university.”