TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A $2 million commitment from alumnus Ari Deshe and his wife, Ann, kicks off The University of Alabama’s $4 million fundraising campaign to renovate Mary Hewell Alston Hall, home of the Culverhouse College of Business.
The campaign to renovate Alston Hall will modernize the more than 30-year-old building, providing UA business faculty and students with facilities matching their success.
The Deshes’ commitment includes $1.1 million to the Alston Hall renovation, $400,000 to scholarships for first-generation business students and $500,000 to the Bloom Hillel Student Center, a gathering place for UA Jewish students.
“Through the steadfast support and generosity of the Deshe family, we will continue to provide cutting-edge facilities, resources, technology and scholarships that shape the futures of business and rising business leaders,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell.
Ari Deshe, who was an international student from Israel, graduated from UA with a bachelor’s degree in insurance in 1977 and a master’s degree in finance in 1978. In 1993, he founded SafeAuto Insurance Company, a Columbus, Ohio-based auto insurance company that served 18 states. He subsequently sold the company to The Allstate Corporation in 2021.
As a student, Deshe recalls coming to UA specifically to learn insurance and finance, which were not available at the time in his home country of Israel.
“My father was also in the insurance field, and he was very pleased when he found out that there was a world-renowned insurance professor at UA, Dr. John Bickley,” Deshe said. “During my first two years at the University, the local Jewish community was very kind to me and to my Israeli friends, who all lived at the Hillel House for free.
“I’m very appreciative of all that The University of Alabama has done for me. I feel very strongly that the University really helped to advance my career and gave me the tools to understand the insurance business. I’m very fortunate to be in a position to give back.”
The Deshes’ gift to Alston Hall sets the foundation for the building’s fundraising campaign.
“Alston Hall is, for all intents and purposes, the heart of the Culverhouse College of Business,” said Culverhouse Dean Kay Palan. “It’s where our alumni gather for our fall tailgate picnics, where students converge for lectures, and where many of our faculty and staff work.
“On behalf of the entire team here at Culverhouse, we are grateful to the Deshe family for helping initiate a much-needed renovation of the building.”
The Alston Hall renovation project will include a complete overhaul of its fourth floor, home to the dean’s office suite, as well as the development, alumni and corporate relations, and marketing and communications teams. The plan for the rest of the building includes the addition of collaboration spaces and a revision of the ground floor commons and lobby.
While Deshe spent most of his time as a UA student in nearby Bidgood Hall, upon a recent visit to the University, he saw an immediate need and priority in helping to renovate Alston Hall, and he was happy to be part of the project. Pending approval by the UA System Board of Trustees, the Deshes’ gift will name the dean’s suite and conference room and parlor on the fourth floor of Alston Hall while providing key funding to support renovations throughout.
There are additional opportunities available for donors interested in naming spaces in the building.
“My dream was always to have my own insurance company, and I achieved it in the early 1990s,” Deshe said. “After 27 years in business, I had been approached by The Allstate Corporation, which offered to buy my company, and I thought it was the right time and opportunity to sell. My only regret is that it took me over 40 years since I graduated to give back to the University, but I guess better late than never. I’m very fortunate to be able to give back to the place that helped develop my career.”
Pending UA System Board of Trustee approval, Alston Hall renovations are scheduled to begin in summer 2023 and be finished by fall 2023.
For more information about the Alston Hall fundraising campaign and naming opportunities, visit giving.ua.edu/alston-hall.
Stephanie Kirkland, UA Division of Advancement, firstname.lastname@example.org, 205-348-7654