Building the Future
Crawford Hall

Alumnus Supports New Building

Bob Archer, MBA, ’61 began his Kent State University journey as a result of a tuition assistance program that his first employer, The Hoover Company, provided as a benefit. 

“My career goal was to pursue management positions and someday own my own company,” said Bob. “Hoover’s program allowed me to attend night classes on the Kent campus to earn my MBA, which I did in 1961.”

His courses focused on business, economics and management, and the program included writing a thesis.

“I was fortunate to have good instructors and enjoyed spending time with them and fellow students after hours as well,” Bob said.

Following graduation, he was asked to teach night classes at Kent State University at Stark, where he was able to recruit some of his top students to work at The Hoover Company.

With a goal of owning his own company, Bob and a group of investors purchased Kent Watersports, the world’s largest manufacturer of life jackets, in 1981. Since then, Kent Watersports has acquired 35 companies and divested only three.

Bob’s philanthropic commitment to Kent State began with a $15 gift in 1976 as a result of encouragement from his company to support local colleges. He has supported the university for more than 40 years, culminating in his recent $1 million commitment to the new College of Business Administration building to name The Robert M. and Janet L. Archer/Kent Watersports Trading Lab. Bob recently offered a second donation in the form of a challenge. If the college reached its fundraising goal of $20 million by December 2021, Bob would contribute an additional $1 million to the building campaign. When this goal was achieved in November, as a result of the Crawford Family donation, Bob donated another $1 million.

“I have been fortunate to grow a profitable business, and giving back is the right thing to do!” Bob said . His gift to the new business building supports “a new environment which will encourage innovative and creative thinking.”

Donating time has also been important to Bob. He has been an active volunteer in the college, serving as a member of the College's National Advisory Board, judge in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (CEBI) Pitch Competition, presenter in the Michael Solomon Entrepreneurship Speaker Series and commencement speaker. “Leadership is all about being a good teacher, good coach and cheerleader. I enjoy teaching and sharing my entrepreneurial experiences,” Bob said.

He has bright hopes for the future of the college and its students.

“We need to invest in the future, do the right thing and help young people pursue opportunities and succeed,” Bob said. “We all need to work together to make the future better in more productive and cooperative ways, especially in politics!”