MacQueen Alumni Center, University of South Alabama

After accepting a $2 million gift from distinguished alumnus Julian MacQueen ’73, Founder and CEO of Innisfree Hotels and his wife, Kim MacQueen, the University of South Alabama will name its new Alumni Center in their honor. The Julian and Kim MacQueen Alumni Center is expected to open in 2018.

The Center will serve as a campus ‘home’ for visiting alumni while providing visibility for the alumni association to current students, according to Karen Edwards, Director of Alumni Relations and Executive Director of the National Alumni Association at USA.

“The new facility will be located in the heart of campus – our students will be going by that building every day,” Edwards says. “Because it will house facilities for meetings of student organizations, they will be integrated into the association with the hope they’ll stay engaged and involved as they become alumni.”

The MacQueens certainly have stayed engaged. When USA asked for their help with the project, they recognized the impact it would have on the young university.  

“Without them, this project would not have gotten off the ground. The naming gift is critical,” Edwards adds. “They were all in, right from the beginning. It has been a pure pleasure seeing the joy on their faces when we talk about the project and we see the renderings. Julian’s expertise has been so insightful.”

After graduating from high school with the second lowest GPA in his class, MacQueen was not accepted to the University of Alabama – where many, many extended family members had studied before him. (At the time, his family had the largest number of attendees of any other family at Alabama.)

MacQueen applied to South Alabama, and was admitted with the provision he would get his grades up.

“When I began school at USA, I was a terrible student,” he says. “So it’s ironic that I would be the big contributor for the Alumni Center.”

A self-described hippie who didn’t wear shoes and wore his hair down to his shoulders, MacQueen’s grades did improve – and he graduated and qualified for the Master’s Program.

“Ultimately I figured it out,” he says. “Psychology was my school, and it was a great one. I think it gave me a lot of the education I needed to make it in life, so this is a way of giving back.”

The University is also where MacQueen learned about the Baha’i Faith, in an experimental college where students were encouraged to take courses in non-credit subjects.

In many ways, MacQueen says, this gift honors The Faith that has shaped his life.

“All of that came as a result of attending South Alabama. It really opened my eyes to the philosophies of the world and broke me out of my cultural bounds,” he shares. “I think university took me outside of my limited world view and allowed me to investigate different cultures and religions, and the Baha’i Faith has been a pivotal part of my life ever since.”

Much of the corporate culture at Innisfree Hotels, the hotel company MacQueen would go on to found in 1984, is based upon Baha’i principles and virtues.

The naming gift to build the alumni center was made on the condition that USA will continue to be a learning center that encourages the investigation of truth. Edwards notes the principles that inspired MacQueen as a student will be incorporated into the design of the building.

A bronze plaque in recognition of the gift will also bear the following Baha’i scripture:

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgement, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguished all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.


“That was the impetus for me,” MacQueen says. “It wasn’t to put our name on a building.”

The University hopes to break ground in 2017 and to open the Julian and Kim MacQueen Alumni Center the following year.

– Ashley Kahn Salley

Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels