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The concept of ‘paying it forward,’ popularized by a book and movie with the same title, can be transformative. For the University of Arizona Management Information Services (MIS) department, a gift by MicroAge founder Jeff McKeever is doing just that— transforming a dated computer lab by upgrading everything, from technology to furnishings. The McClelland Hall MIS lab space at the University of Arizona is mission-critical, as Paulo Goes, head of the MIS department at the Eller College of Management, attests, “This is where we teach computationally-intensive advanced software. It’s also going to become the hub of our distance education.” With the rapid speed of technology change it was time for a major upgrade of the laboratory and to create a plan to maintain it as a state-of-the-art laboratory. The need was to not only to upgrade the technology in the lab, but to ensure it will remain a leading-edge facility by continuing to refresh the equipment in the future.

The MIS Lab IT upgrade included the powerful Dell EqualLogic SAN with extended storage.

That’s where Jeff McKeever, a member of the Eller College National Board of Advisors, ‘paid it forward.’ On a recent tour of the MIS laboratory, Jeff recognized the opportunity to update the technology in the lab. “Paolo took me on a tour of the lab, and I realized there was a lot we could do to help,” notes Jeff.

Earning both his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Arizona, Jeff knows firsthand how generosity can make a difference. As an entering freshman unable to pay his tuition, he was helped by then-Dean Slonaker, who was so impressed by his desire to attend the U of A, that he loaned Jeff the money for tuition.

With the late dean’s gesture in mind, Jeff engaged Chris Pirwitz, MicroAge Solutions Expert, to provide a complete technology solution. “The equipment was ready to be updated; the servers were being overloaded and the disk speed and storage couldn’t accommodate growth,” says Pirwitz.

Pirwitz reached out to longtime technology partner Dell to supply 60 workstation computers, core switching, servers, and SAN storage units, with three-year professional support warranties.  The upgraded equipment included a powerful EqualLogic SAN with extended storage. “The EqualLogic SAN will give the lab long-term flexibility and scalability to grow as its environment does,” said Chris Floyd, Dell Channel Account Manager.

Delivery, set up and implementation were rapid and seamless—today the lab is serving hundreds of students every day. As Jeff says, “The University of Arizona MIS program is one of the nation’s top five programs…the faculty is excited to have a leading technology lab that supports its high standards.”

Jeff has never forgotten Dean Slonaker’s kindness and feels that the new MicroAge MIS Lab is a meaningful way to express his appreciation to the dean’s memory and to the university. “It goes to show how one man’s generosity can change a person’s life.” says Jeff. “There’s a lot of emotion tied up in the U of A for me; I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to give back by paying forward.”

An inaugural reception acknowledging Jeff and MicroAge took place in October 2012.

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