An $85,000 gift in honor of Mrs. Lela Sarrell, widow of the late cardiologist and Sarrell Dental founder Dr. Warren Sarrell, has retrofitted the auditorium in JSU’s nursing building to better serve a tech-savvy generation of students.
The space, renamed the Lela Sarrell Learning Center, is located in Room 200 of Lurleen B. Wallace Hall on the JSU campus. Dozens of nursing students and faculty were on hand on Friday, September 26, 2014 as JSU administrators and Mr. Jeffrey Parker, chief executive officer of DentaQuest Healthcare Delivery that provided the donation, made the presentation to Mrs. Sarrell and her family.
In addition to new seating and furnishings the refurbished space features state-of-the-art technology such as smart boards, computers, cameras and projectors that will enable students on the back row of the 215-seat auditorium to closely observe and participate in even the smallest tasks taking place at the lectern. Nursing faculty member Donna Etheredge demonstrated this technology at the dedication, using a small webcam and a large projection screen to show attendees how to draw precise medication measurements into a syringe.
“This is a wonderful gift that we’ve received,” said JSU President Dr. William A. Meehan of the technology. “Students today don’t learn like they did when I was a student many years ago… today’s gift of this learning center will help engage our students of today.”
Dr. Rebecca Turner, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, expressed gratitude for the gift and its role in helping JSU achieve its goal to become a learning-centered university.
“To have spaces like this is exactly what we had in mind,” she said. “Our goal is to graduate students who are prepared for 21st Century careers in healthcare; this helps us achieve that goal.”
Speaking for DentaQuest Healthcare Delivery, Parker said, “As a leader in oral health care, we are pleased to honor the Sarrell family, JSU and the college of nursing. We are proud to be able to give the nursing students a world class learning environment.”
Dr. Warren Sarrell and Lela Sarrell, a registered nurse, assisted the university in finding qualified instructors prior to the establishment of the Lurleen B. Wallace College of Nursing in 1967, according to Mrs. Sarrell. In addition to his cardiology and internal medicine practices, Dr. Sarrell worked with JSU’s wellness program and in 2004 established Sarrell Dental Center, which has been instrumental in bringing healthcare to low-income families, including nearly a half million children.
“I am not a graduate of JSU; I’m sorry about that,” Mrs. Sarrell said shortly after accepting the resolution from the JSU Board of Trustees naming the facility in her honor. “But my husband and I worked to establish a scholarship for this college. I applaud Jeff Parker and DentaQuest Healthcare Delivery, who made this possible, and JSU, for a fine job of restoration of this learning center.”
Also expressing her gratitude was Dr. Christie Shelton, dean of the college of nursing, who recognized the gift as the largest single contribution in the program’s history.
“Times have changed and we looked at the various needs in our college. We looked at our budget and there was no change foreseen. I remember the day that the opportunity that we’re celebrating today came to us. My heart was just flooding with joy at the opportunity to make change, to transform something for our students.”
One of those students is Andrew Shelton, a second semester nursing student not related to Dr. Shelton. At the dedication, Shelton shared educator Ken Graetz’s perspective on the correlation between learning and space:
“Environments that elicit positive emotional responses may lead not only to enhanced learning but a powerful emotional attachment to that space. They may become a place where students love to learn, a place they seek out when they wish to learn, and a place they remember fondly when they reflect on their learning experiences," he quoted.
Shelton added that he has never felt more comfortable or more at home in any learning setting than at JSU.
At the conclusion of the program, Dr. Meehan, Dr. Rebecca Turner, Dr. Shelton, Mrs. Sarrell and Mr. Parker cut the ribbon dedicating the center.
Photo: Lela Sarrell, second from right, cuts the ribbon naming the Lela Sarrell Learning Center in Wallace Hall in her honor. Assisting are, from left, JSU President Dr. William A. Meehan, JSU Provost and VP for Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Rebecca Turner, JSU College of Nursing Dean Dr. Christie Shelton, and DentaQuest Healthcare Delivery CEO Mr. Jeff Parker. (Steve Latham/JSU)