by Janet Kacskos
The “Lombardo Welcome Center” at Millersville University, a Net-Zero Energy Building currently in the design stage, was named in honor of two lifelong Lancastrians: Samuel N. Lombardo and his wife, Dena.
Sam graduated from J.P. McCaskey High School. Dena graduated from Ephrata High School.
“I’m flattered that our name will be on the building.”
“We both come from very modest family environments growing up. I had an immigrant family. My mother was born in Italy, and my father was first-generation American,” explained Sam Lombardo. “We have been very successful, and we’re financially blessed. I like giving back. We want to share our blessings and success.”
To that extent they have graciously given Millersville University a $1.2-million gift to help build a Net-Zero Energy Building on campus. The building will serve as the Welcome Center for the University, hosting thousands of prospective students and visitors each year.
Sam is a well-known insurance entrepreneur and is the chairman and CEO of the Lititz-based Benecon Group, which develops and administers self-funded health insurance products through the brokerage market in 15 states. His companies gained national recognition when they were listed four different times by Inc. magazine as one of the “500 Fastest Growing Companies in America.”
“Sam and Dena are not only extraordinary friends of the University, but they have the foresight to see how their investment will impact thousands of people each year,” said Dr. John Anderson, president of Millersville University. “What a meaningful way to invest in a building that will promote the importance of sustainability and seeing it put into practice.”
“Having spent my early adult professional life in the Millersville area, I became very familiar with the college,” said Lombardo. “And, I served on the Lancaster Symphony Board with Jerry Eckert [retired vice president of advancement at MU]. Jerry got me involved with Millersville during the renovations at McComsey Hall and the plans for the performing arts center. When John Anderson came on board, he told me about the new Net-Zero Energy Building coming into play, and the whole idea of the welcoming center intrigued me. I’m flattered that our name will be on the building.”
The Lombardos are also sharing their belief in the feng shui system—a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment. Their feng shui consultant is helping with the design of the Lombardo Welcome Center, which will impact everything from the positioning of the building, to space layout and location of entranceways.
“We’ve had a consultant involved with our residence here and in Florida, as well as our office,” explained Lombardo. “It stems from China and is a way of life there dating back to ancient times. We believe it’s worth the practical application not to take any chances. Let’s put our best foot forward. Let’s take advantage of all the tools we have.”
The Lombardos have been generous contributors to Millersville’s Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center and the renovation of McComsey Hall. Additionally,the couple have been benefactors of other programs involving children and education in the region, giving to the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, Schreiber Pediatrics, the Clinic for Special Children and Franklin & Marshall College.
In 2007, the University presented Sam with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. “I’d like to think I received the honorary degree for being more than just a donor,” said Sam. “I believe they appreciated my entrepreneurial spirit. I’m a businessperson who started with nothing; I’m three generations in one. A typical success story starts with the granddad, then the father and then the son takes over. I’m all three. I started this from scratch, built it into a boutique and grew it into an enterprise.”
Sam’s advice for college students who want to be entrepreneurs? “Get a mentor and start reading books on business. I would recommend The Purple Cow and The Big Moo, both by Seth Godin, and Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck by Anthony K. Tjan, Richard J. Harrington and Tsun-Yan Hsieh.”
Sam is considering writing a book about mentoring. “I love the idea of being able to mentor people. Some people are close to the vest—not free to helping people. Dena and I are both very free and love to help people. The more people we help, the better it gets for all of us.”
“We’re financially blessed. I like giving back. We want to share our blessings and success.”
Sam has two grown children, a son in Los Angeles, Gregory, who is a senior vice president at Fox Entertainment, and a daughter, Megan, who lives in Savannah and works as a first assistant director with movies, TV programs and commercials. The Lombardos have three grandchildren and three golden retrievers—Clare, Bo and Tes, named after cars.
When they’re not working or traveling with family or playing with their dogs, you can find Sam on the golf course or driving his cars at track events at Palm Beach International or Daytona Speedway, and Dena behind a tennis racquet.
The goal of the Net-Zero Energy Building (NZEB) is to produce as much energy as it uses over the course of a year.
This is achieved by implementing efficient construction techniques, installing renewable technology and low-energy appliances, and educating the public on how the facility should be used.
The $7.5-million, 15,000-squarefoot building will incorporate solar panels, water conservation and renewable materials. It is scheduled to be ready by January 2017 and will be constructed near the new residence halls on the south side of campus.
The building will showcase Millersville’s commitment to sustainability and will relocate the Welcome Center for prospective students to a more centralized location on campus. The new building will also house the admissions office, administrative offi ces and will feature a sustainability-focused educational atrium, which will annually host more than 10,000 visitors.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial and residential buildings consume 40 percent of primary energy and 72 percent of electricity in the United States. The key to improving these statistics can be found in the creation of NZEB.
Many of these buildings incorporate passive solar technology to heat and cool the building through channeling sunlight, solar heat and wind to create stable indoor temperatures. NZEB uses high-quality windows and insulation to allow natural sunlight to permeate through the building, creating daylighting. NZEB utilizes water conservation techniques, including rainwater harvesting—the collection, storage and use of rainwater which is often used to irrigate the lands