(Photo by Flickr user Ron Cogswell, used under a Creative Commons license)
And that path involves getting the University of Delaware into the city.
It’s an idea McConnell has called his “number one goal” — a necessary step toward better connecting the university with the city’s thriving business community, its startups and its own graduates. But McConnell doesn’t want some crummy, measly little satellite extension of the university, he wants an “active, vibrant” campus.
“It’s got to be [something like] a Lerner School,” said McConnell, referencing UD’s business college. “It has to be a serious presence. It has to be for real. It will be tremendously successful — mark my words. Then, we need another university.”
After Wilmington University made the decision to construct its new campus in northern, suburban Wilmington rather than help grow an educational cluster inside the city, McConnell might be the right guy with the right amount of pull to get UD to capitalize on an opportunity.
From his involvement with the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship to his recent appointment to the university’s President’s Council, he’s always on the periphery of the university. The real estate developer himself said if anyone doubts his commitment to innovation, they can take a look at the steadily growing activity that’s been happening around coworking space 1313 Innovation (which McConnell cofounded).
McConnell said everything he has ever accomplished has always boiled down to two principles: education and economic development.
“The cross section between education and economic development? These great cities of the world have gotten that,” he said. Institutions of higher learning are also major economic engines.
So, McConnell continues his fight to lure the university into the city. For him, it’s the difference between innovation and stagnation for Wilmington.
“Wilmington will not be successful without the University of Delaware,” he said. “Without the university giving us their seal of approval, we just can’t flourish.”
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