Drew Elegante (MBA '12)

Spring 2013

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"In one of my classes we talked about having moral imagination, which is the ability to see beyond the immediate future and know that you need to sacrifice to get to those goals."

You wouldn’t call it a blank canvas, more like a vacant cave.

Drew Elegante (MBA ’12) calls it “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Before he began his MBA program, Elegante, who has lived in Texas and Utah, says he came out and looked around South Bend. “I was really intrigued by the history. I loved the beautiful historical buildings.”

Last year, while completing his degree, he and a classmate decided to enter a contest to come up with ideas for resurrecting downtown’s historic State Theater, built in 1921 as a vaudeville house. Their entry finished third, but Elegante ultimately convinced the building’s owner, an Israeli investor, to put him in charge of the redevelopment effort.

That required his passing on a much more lucrative job opportunity, with a boutique consulting firm in Seattle. But he thought, “When else in my lifetime will I have the opportunity to take a historic building like this and bring it back to life?”

Now, as the building’s general manager and only employee, he’s begun forging ties, refining plans, creating buzz and raising money to give the dilapidated facility new life. Advice and assistance have come from Mendoza faculty along with students in micro-venture and business and sustainability classes and a Notre Dame graphic design course.

One of his first efforts has been to open a store that sells home-brewing and wine-making supplies in one of the retail spaces flanking the theater’s entrance. In April, the theater hosted a Circus of Art event promoting local artists. It’s all part of his vision for the facility to evolve into a space usable for many different purposes. For the latest on the project, visit www.thestatesb.com.

A former software developer, Elegante says he decided during his MBA career that he wanted to focus on sustainability development. “I want to be an agent of change.”

At the State Theater, he’s getting the chance to raise the curtain on his ideas.