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News Release

Feb. 15, 2023

Iowa couple extends support of Northwest with gift toward McKemy Center renovation

By Kourtnie Stenwall, communication assistant

Don and Jody Athen are supporting further development of Northwest Missouri State University’s School of Agricultural Sciences through a gift to the Agricultural Systems Management Fund, which supports renovations to the University’s McKemy Center for Lifelong Learning.

As a result of their most recent $75,000 gift, the entry to the McKemy Center will be renamed the Athen Family Entry.

Jody and Don Athen

Jody and Don Athen

“We consider ourselves friends of the University, and that opens up opportunities for students,” Don said. “We like to see advancements in education across different fields. Our business is always looking for the right employees, and we feel that Northwest is able to supply many different disciplines.”

Although the Athens did not earn their college degrees at Northwest, their bond with the institution inspires them to support the University’s focus on student success and help advance the careers of graduates interested in agriculture-related fields.

“It’s just more of a family atmosphere at Northwest Missouri State,” Don said. “We’ve always felt welcomed even though neither of us attended the University.”

Don earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Iowa, while Jody is an alumna of the University of Montana. Yet, the Hamburg, Iowa, couple built a connection with Northwest through AgriVision Equipment Group, which formed in 2014 through a merger of four family-owned John Deere dealerships. Athen Implement had been supporting farmers in southwest Iowa since 1941.

“Don and Jody are true friends of Northwest, and their passion for supporting the School of Agricultural Sciences – whether it be for students, facilities, faculty or programming – is a testament to their belief that Northwest is making a positive difference in the lives of many,” said Mitzi Marchant, vice president of university advancement and executive director of the Northwest Foundation. “Northwest is fortunate to have the Athens in the Bearcat family.”

During Northwest’s highly successful Forever Green campaign, which raised more than $55 million for a variety of initiatives impacting the University, the Athens provided $100,000 to help fund the Agricultural Learning Center as well as a $25,000 gift to establish the Don and Jody Athen Scholarship. Their gift to the Agricultural Learning Center designated the Don and Jody Athen Family Lobby.

The Don and Jody Athen Scholarship is available to full-time Northwest students majoring in an agriculture field and who hail from counties in southwest Iowa or northwest Missouri. Priority is awarded to students who exhibit academic excellence and financial need in addition to education at a rural high school.

The couple’s most recent gift, Jody said, further supports Northwest’s mantra of preparing students to be “career ready, day one.”

“The University has a great ability to change or develop courses at a much more rapid pace than a lot of larger institutions,” she said, adding, “A number of the employees for AgriVision Equipment Group have come through Northwest. They have proven to be well-rounded and very good employees.”

The above image depicts a metal shop in the McKemy Center after renovations are complete.

The above image depicts a metal shop in the McKemy Center after renovations are complete.

When complete, the remodeled McKemy Center will become home to revised and expanded programming with welding booths, laboratory space and safety and infrastructure upgrades. The University is developing coursework in the areas of welding, precision measuring, electronics and electricity, mechatronics, personal protective equipment and safety, robotics and other industry-standard certifications.

Additionally, Northwest is purchasing classroom equipment and plans to implement a Systems Management Academy for high school students and teachers. The reimagined McKemy Center will feature Power Wave C300 portable multi-process wire feeder welders with high-end functionality capable of Stick, DC TIG, MIG, Pulsed MIG and Flux-Cored welding as well as a VRTEX virtual reality welding training simulator that promotes the transfer of welding skills and body positioning while reducing waste associated with traditional welding training.

By offering comprehensive systems management training and skill development, as well as certifying those skills with industry-recognized stackable credentials, Northwest will help increase the labor force for the manufacturing and agribusiness industry clusters.

To make a gift to support Northwest and its School of Agricultural Sciences, contact the Northwest Foundation at 660.562.1248 or visit


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
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