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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Alum Donates $3 Million for Football Stadium Renovation

By Harry Minium

Richmond native Barry Kornblau has quietly supported his alma mater for decades, donating millions to Old Dominion University athletics and tirelessly serving on numerous academic and athletic boards.

"Barry Kornblau has flown under the radar a long time," athletic director Wood Selig said." Not a lot of our fans know who he is."

That will change tonight, when Kornblau will be honored in a very public way for his latest contribution - a $3 million gift to help fund the $67.5 million renovation of S.B. Ballard Stadium.

It is the largest gift ODU has received for athletics in 13 years, and it brings the University closer to the $40 million fundraising goal for athletics announced last year by President John R. Broderick.

ODU has raised $29 million for athletics since fundraising began 16 months ago.

ODU officials, including Broderick, will honor Kornblau with about four minutes left in the first half of the men's basketball game with William & Mary.

According to Drew Turner, associate athletic director for development for the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation, Kornblau has donated more to ODU athletics than any other alumnus, and has donated each of the last 40 years.

"And he may have donated longer," Turner said. "We don't have records that go back any further."

He called Kornblau's latest donation "a transformational commitment."

A 1971 graduate, the 69-year-old Kornblau said President Broderick and Alonzo Brandon, vice president for university advancement, helped convince him that the University needed his help with the stadium.

"It's difficult to say no to President Broderick," Kornblau said. "He's done so much for this University. If I was listing my accomplishments to ODU, being on the Board of Visitors when we made the decision to hire him would be at the top. That was the smartest decision we ever made.

"Old Dominion has made a lot of progress athletically under President Broderick. But it's also made tremendous strides academically. I can't imagine where we would be now if it weren't for John."

Broderick said Kornblau has been selfless in his devotion to ODU.

"Barry has done so much to help Old Dominion, not only with his generous financial support, but with his time. And time is a very valuable commodity," Broderick said.

"Barry truly loves Old Dominion. And he's never sought recognition. He just wants to help the University become a better place."

Kornblau hasn't limited his philanthropy to athletics - he also has an endowed scholarship in the Strome College of Business for Real Estate

He has done much to help ODU athletics anonymously.

When ODU's Board of Visitors approved football in 2007, he donated $500,000 to endow the first football scholarship. Thomas DeMarco, Taylor Heinicke, Ray Lawry and Ronnie Cameron all benefitted from Kornblau's endowed fund.

"Barry Kornblau supported Old Dominion football even before we had a program," coach Bobby Wilder said. "He's steadfastly been there to help at every stage of our development and has never asked for anything in return."

He has contributed more than $2 million to ODU's baseball program, and asked that two facilities he paid to build be named for others.

The indoor hitting facility is named for ODU alumnus and former VCU coach Paul Keyes, who died in 2012. The "Rally Alley" party deck at the baseball stadium is named for former Norfolk Catholic basketball coach and longtime ODU fundraiser Ed Fraim.

Kornblau also has long sponsored the ODU Baseball Banquet.

When senior associate athletic director and ODU radio voice Ted Alexander proposed an ODU Radio Sports Network, to include new stations in Richmond and Roanoke, Kornblau volunteered to fund the effort.

After he learned baseball players would not receive full funding for the NCAA's so-called "full cost of attendance," Kornblau ponied up $35,000 per year to pay for it.

Even though he acknowledges he's not a huge soccer fan, he volunteered to pay for rings for coach Alan Dawson's players after the Monarchs won the Conference USA title in 2017.

"He told me he'd raised $500," Kornblau said. "So I gave them $7,800 so the kids could have rings.

"I underwrote that and will do so for any men's or women's team if they win a championship. I want these kids to have what they deserve."

Raised in Henrico County just west of Richmond, Kornblau enrolled after graduating from Douglas Freeman High. ODU was then largely a commuter school.

"ODU wasn't nearly as large as it is now," he said. "But I got an outstanding education, and I credit that education for my success in life."

He graduated with a degree in political science, but Kornblau broke into the family construction business shortly after graduation. He had a long career in apartment development and acquisition before retiring a few years ago.

In 2004, the alumni center just off 49thStreet was named the Barry M. Kornblau Alumni Center.

"That's really important to me because it's where alumni come no matter whether they are into athletics or not," he said.

Kornblau played intramural sports, including softball, at Foreman Field. While he has fond memories of the stadium, he agrees with ODU that it needs updating.

"I'm doing this for our alumni and our student-athletes," Kornblau said of his donation. "I want our team to have a decent place to play and a place for our alumni and students to attend games with bathrooms and concessions stands that are up to modern standards."

Kornblau has served on the ODU alumni association, educational and athletic foundation boards, and also served three terms on the Board of Visitors.

As a member of the Board of Visitors, he also helped with planning of the University Village, including the Ted Constant Center.

He has spent less time at ODU recently. His wife, Mary, was diagnosed with cancer 4½ years ago. She is in a skilled nursing home, receiving treatments.

"He's really had a difficult time the last few years," Selig said. "But even though we don't see him as much as we used to, he's one of the most knowledgeable people I know. He's well read about sports and athletics. There have been a number of times when he has called me or texted me with something I didn't know, something I hadn't heard of."

Kornblau said he cares less about wins and losses than he does for ODU athletes' academic success.

"I sat with Ray Lawry at a scholarship luncheon, and the first thing I wanted to know was what was he studying, his GPA and will he graduate," Kornblau said of ODU's all-time leading football rusher.

"I told him, 'I know you want to go to the NFL, but you have to get your degree.' I was happy to learn that he was going graduate on time.

"Any athletes I know, I'm always on them about their education first. I don't care whether they fumble the ball or catch a touchdown pass, the most important thing is their education."

Turner called Kornblau "one of the most generous, loyal and supportive people that I have ever met.

"His steadfast love for his alma mater is unmatched."

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