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A Future-Building Partnership

Apr 3, 2015
by Laura Smith, Photo by Zach Thomas, '00

When Flagler College Trustee and alumnus Richard “Rick” Groux, ‘79, first arrived in St. Augustine as an undergraduate in the fall of 1975, the college was less than a decade old and had been accredited for less than two years. Kenan Hall was still seven years away from being used as an academic building, and the library was housed — albeit tightly — in the Flagler Room, formerly the parlor of the historic Hotel Ponce de Leon. Groux took a chance on a college that bore little resemblance to the austere, sprawling campuses of his home state of Virginia.

But Groux, as it turned out, is all about taking chances. Intrepid since the day he surprised his mother by being born eight weeks early, Groux earned his undergraduate degree from Flagler and went on to follow a number of ambitious career opportunities, many in the risky waters of real estate development. Along the way, he became an Army veteran, an attorney, a successful builder, a Flagler College Trustee and a staunch supporter of his alma mater. “Flagler looked good to me at the time I arrived in 1975,” he said, laughing. “And it still does.”

Groux now makes his home back in Virginia, where he runs his company, Dominion Construction Group, and lives on a horse farm with his wife, LeighAnn, and his daughters Rosemary, 18, and Margaret, 14. Recently, he took another bold step with Flagler when he joined his real estate partner, Matt Iten, in closing out the Kenan Challenge, a fundraising campaign that was initiated to raise money for the 18,600-square-foot Pollard Hall academic complex on Cordova Street. Made up of three inter-connected buildings, it was completed in 2014 and houses the Communication Department, as well as other academic classes and functions. Nelson Pollard, a student in the college’s charter class, provided the lead gift for the construction. And last fall, in a generous show of support, the Groux-Iten partnership completed the challenge with a gift that brought the total funds raised in support of Pollard Hall to $1.5 million, which will now be matched by the Kenan Trust.

Groux is quick to praise the remarkable generosity of his friend and partner Iten, a man who built his life and his business in Virginia and who has no direct ties to Flagler other than friendships and acquaintances he made with a handful of college graduates and administrators in recent years.

“It’s a great story,” Groux said. “I met Matt about 10 years ago. At the time he knew very little about Flagler College, but over the years he discovered that — in addition to knowing me — he knew several other people who had graduated from Flagler. He was impressed with their integrity and their vision. Then, at a dinner gathering, Matt and Pam Iten met Bill and Susan Abare, and the friendship that resulted made him feel even more connected to Flagler. Last fall I got an email from Matt in which he said he’d like to do something substantial for Flagler College. That got me thinking, and got the ball rolling.”

Groux connected Iten with Dr. Beverly Carmichael, Flagler’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement. Together, the three developed a plan for completing the Kenan Challenge.
“As a Trustee and an alumnus, I’m committed to doing what I can for Flagler — that desire comes from my direct history with the college,” said Groux. “But for somebody like Matt, who has no personal ties to Flagler, to appreciate what’s happening at Flagler and what’s going to happen in the future, to the extent that he is motivated to help on this level, that’s a great achievement for Flagler College.” 

Iten is matter-of-fact about his support of the college. “I really like what’s going on at Flagler,” he said simply. “I drive from Virginia to Key West frequently, and whenever I do, I stop in St. Augustine and continue to make connections and friendships. I’m very pleased to be a part of the college’s growth. The more people I meet who are affiliated with the college, the more convinced I am that it’s a special place.”

Groux agrees. “The folks I’ve met at and through Flagler College over the last four decades have all helped shape my life. Flagler started me off, got me going on my career path. So for me, giving back was a natural outflow of my time at Flagler — it was easy to commit. I’m grateful and blessed to have a partner in Matt who — while not an alumnus — also sees the uniqueness of Flagler. It demonstrates that the world is really taking notice of Flagler College.”

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