Long before anyone ever heard of K-Mart, there were S.S. Kresge stores in cities throughout America. These popular “five-and-ten” stores, founded by Sebastian S. Kresge, a contemporary of Henry Ford in Detroit, Michigan, were the precursors of the modern discount stores we know today. Mr. Kresge gained enormous wealth from his marketing success and chose to share it by establishing a charitable foundation, primarily for higher education, that became the repository for much of his estate.
Mr. Kresge’s son, Stanley S. Kresge, became a trustee of the Kresge Foundation and made it his goal to see that the wishes of his father were fulfilled in the administration of the foundation’s largess. The Kresge Foundation has given millions of dollars to colleges and universities for construction and continues to operate today as a benefactor for worthy institutions of higher learning.
Oklahoma Christian’s first encounter with Stanley Kresge was by extending an invitation for him to come to Oklahoma City to honor his longtime friend, Dr. Walter H. Judd. Dr. Judd was a congressman from Minnesota, and Oklahoma Christian had chosen to honor him on the occasion of his 75th birthday as an expression of gratitude for the many times he had spoken on behalf of the college and its American Citizenship Center. J. Terry Johnson, then executive vice president, extended the invitation to Mr. Kresge and promised to provide a private jet if he would attend. His promise eventually cost the college $3,000, but it was an investment in a friendship that paid huge dividends. Over the ensuing years, Oklahoma Christian received several million dollars from the Kresge Foundation and from Stanley and Dorothy Kresge personally.
In 1978, Stanley and Dorothy Kresge came to Oklahoma City for the opening of the Garvey Center and the east wing known as Kresge Hall. They made a personal gift in honor of Dr. Judd so that the small auditorium in the new wing could bear his name: Judd Theatre. A few years later, they made one of the seven gifts of $1 million or more to build Enterprise Square USA. Sebastian S. Kresge was included as one of the six heroic-sized figures in the Hall of Giants.