“It is another great day at Kaskaskia College,” stated Bill Hawley, Board of Trustees chairman, as the Agriculture Education Building was dedicated on Saturday, November 15. The Agriculture Education Building is located on the main campus of Kaskaskia College and was formerly the State of Illinois’ Animal Disease Lab.
In December 2013, through an inter-government agreement, the State of Illinois turned over the building at no cost to the College. The 48,000 square foot building provides the College with exactly what it needed, space to expand current programs as well as to offer career training in new fields.
Dr. Jim Underwood, President of Kaskaskia College, was among those who pushed to have the Animal Disease Lab remain open, but when the State continued with its plans and closed the facility, he recognized an opportunity. The College had a new agriculture building planned as part of its capital development campaign, and rather than allow the former Animal Disease Lab building to sit vacant and deteriorate, he, along with area legislators, began a successful campaign to put the vacant space to good use. “We were planning to build a new $8 million building to house the growing agriculture department,” Dr. Underwood said. “This facility is four times the size of that proposed building, and allows us to use those funds to accelerate some of the other projects such as the Nursing Education Center, the Nashville Education Center, and the Crisp Technology Center.”
Among those in attendance was Robert Flider, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, who first came to KC last December to sign the agreement that turned the building over to the College. “This building and the visionaries behind it are making sure that the next generation of students can receive a great education at KC. In the next 40 years, the world population will increase from 6.9 billion to 9.6 billion. That’s a lot of people to feed,” Mr. Flider told the students in attendance. “There will be problems to solve, and that starts here with you.”
State Representatives John Cavaletto and Charlie Meier were also in attendance. Rep. Cavaletto praised Dr. Underwood for his leadership. He related that he fought hard to keep the Animal Disease Lab open, but called KC’s use of the facility a win-win situation. Rep. Cavaletto was very instrumental in having the building turned over to the College, and expressed pride that he had “a small part to play.”
Rep. Meier addressed his comments to the students, some of whom wore FFA jackets to the event. “4H and FFA were my education,” he said. He told the students that they had a bright future ahead. He cautioned them to be ready for times changing and to take advantage of this opportunity.
George Evans, Dean of Career and Technical Education for KC, gave an update on the state of the facility, walking the guests through a layout of the labs and classrooms that occupy the first floor of the building. He noted that the second floor of the building, in which the ceremony took place, was a great meeting space for larger groups, and encouraged the public to take advantage of the opportunity to use it for organizational meetings. Evans also pointed out that Parker Timmons, President of Southern Illinois Ag Solutions, will have space in the building to conduct water testing, a need vital to the area.
Suzanne Christ, Director of Institutional Advancement for the College, took the podium to announce the public phase of the fundraising campaign underway to raise $500,000 for equipping the building with the educational equipment to be used by students. She announced a gift of $25,000 from the Maschoffs, making the total raised so far $50,000, or ten percent of the goal. She emphasized that every penny raised goes directly into the project. All donors, regardless of donation size, will have their names inscribed on a plaque in the building, and naming rights for labs and classrooms are available.
Dr. Greg Labyak, Vice-president of Instruction for the College, gave closing remarks and emphasized his hope that the community will take advantage of the spaces in the building for public use.
After the ceremony, an unveiling of the dedication plaque and a ribbon cutting took place. A light lunch was provided in the student commons area, followed by tours of the classrooms and labs. A number of guests commented on the welcoming atmosphere and cleanliness of the entire facility.
Pictured are: Parker Timmons, Sothern Illinois Ag Solutions, Dr. Jim Underwood, President of Kaskaskia College, Cliff Schuette, Ag Steering Committee, Robert Flider, Director of Illinois Department of Agriculture, State representative John Cavaletto, Jim Walters, Jack Mays, KC Board of Trustees, State Representative Charlie Meier, Bill Waggoner, KC Ag Faculty, Dr. Dee Boswell, Vice-chair of KC Board of Trustees, George Evans, Dean of Career and Technical education, Jenn Heinzmann, KC Ag Faculty, Bill Hawley, Chair of KC Board of Trustees, Aaron Heinzmann, KC Ag Faculty, Bob Kelsheimer, Director Centralia Chamber of Commerce, Chuck Simpson, Ag Steering Committee, and Bob Fix, Clinton County Board.