Sunderland Foundation Pledges $1M for UCM Airport Development

WARRENSBURG, MO (Feb. 11, 2019) — The Sunderland Foundation has pledged a $1M gift to the UCM
Foundation toward construction of a state-of-the-art terminal and flight education facility at UCM’s Max B. Swisher
Skyhaven Airport. These developments will position UCM’s nationally known School of Aviation to better meet
academic and public aviation needs while contributing to area economic growth.
“Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport is a unique asset for UCM, and for 50 years, our aviation program has
been instrumental in preparing individuals to serve in the aviation industry,” said UCM President Roger J.
Best. “Skyhaven also serves the community and flying public at large, a critical component for economic
development in the region. We are extremely grateful to the Sunderland Foundation for this generous gift, which will
enhance both our ability to attract and educate students in aviation as well as serve a stronger role in fulfilling the
economic development needs for the region.”
Established by Lester T. Sunderland in 1945, the Sunderland Foundation is dedicated to funding construction
projects in the Kansas City region and areas traditionally served by the Ash Grove Cement Company, where
Sunderland was president for 33 years. Leadership of the foundation has passed from generation to generation, and
Lester’s great-grandsons, Kent and Charles Sunderland, were named Ingram’s 2018 Philanthropists of the Year for
their current stewardship. The foundation gives generously to nonprofit charitable organizations to support health
care, human services, arts and culture, and higher education. In 2017 the foundation awarded more than $10 million
to more than 45 educational organizations.
“One of our key funding areas is higher education, and specifically brick-and-mortar projects for new or
improved facilities,” said Kent Sunderland, president of the Sunderland Foundation. “As a pilot myself, I understand
how valuable UCM’s airport is to both the university and the larger community. We are happy to support this
renowned School of Aviation’s growth and preserve its legacy through renovations that reflect our foundation’s
commitment to constructing a better quality of life from the ground up.”
The Skyhaven airport was donated to the university in the 1960s by Max B. Swisher and his family. From
that generous donation grew the UCM School of Aviation, which currently serves nearly 500 students pursuing
bachelor’s degrees in one of four undergraduate programs or a master’s degree in aviation safety. Enrollment is
growing every year, and Associate Professor Terry Hunt, who serves as chair of the School of Aviation, attributes
this growth to the program’s reputation for excellence and a global shortage of aviation professionals.
“Our program has exploded in enrollment,” Hunt said. “After 50 years of continuous operation and the
significant growth in the program, there is an acute need for new facilities at the airport. We are very excited that the
Sunderland Foundation chose to invest in our students and invest in the future of the UCM School of Aviation, and
we are grateful for their gift.”
UCM is the only public university in Missouri, and one of only a few in the nation, to own and operate a
general aviation airport. Regional pilots lease hangar space for private or corporate aircraft at Skyhaven Airport, and
there is currently a waiting list for space. Pilots also land at the airport to fuel up, use maintenance facilities or head
into Warrensburg for dining, entertainment or an overnight stay.
Part of the School of Aviation’s multiphase master plan to better serve both the flying public and its aviation
students is construction of a terminal. Phase 1 of the 20-year master plan was completed in 2012 and included
grading for the terminal, improvements to the apron and taxiways, new T-hangars, an access road, and property
acquisition for a safety zone for landing and departing aircraft. In 2018 a $7M project joint venture helped realize a
total reconstruct of the ramp, taxiway and runway areas. Phase 2 focuses on acquiring external funding for the $3.1
million terminal, parking facilities and relocation of Hangar 2. When completed, the terminal will house offices and
instructional space for the school’s 30 flight instructors and 165 students currently on the flight schedule. It will also
include a student lounge, a dispatch office and a flight planning room, as well as accommodations for public use.
The Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport serves not only as a teaching laboratory for students pursuing careers
as pilots, maintenance managers, airport managers and more, but also as a catalyst for economic and workforce
development within the region. The Sunderland Foundation’s generous gift will fund improvements that will greatly
enhance the learning experience for students while also serving the larger community’s aviation needs.
“The Sunderland Foundation’s significant support for this project is a testament both to the importance of
this project to the economic development of the region and to the high-quality benefit UCM’s aviation program
provides to the students it educates and to those whom they ultimately serve as aviation professionals,” said
Courtney Goddard, associate vice president for university advancement and director of advancement services. “The
University of Central Missouri is so honored to have the support of the Sunderland Foundation for this
transformative aviation terminal renovation project.”
To learn more or donate to the airport renovation project, please contact Goddard at