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31 October 2008

McWhorter Family Donates
Historic Victoria Inn to University

An Anniston landmark will soon have a new owner and Jacksonville State University will venture into the hotel business while gaining a facility for hands-on education, thanks to a generous donation from a local businessman and his family.

Earlon McWhorter, president of McWhorter and Co., Inc., along with his wife Betty and daughters Brenda Aughtman and Elizabeth Casey, this week announced that they are donating Anniston's premiere bed and breakfast, The Victoria Inn, to Jacksonville State University in an estimated $3 million package that includes all the hotel's antique furnishings.

Although the property has not yet formally exchanged hands, JSU President Dr. Bill Meehan confirmed on Friday that the details are being finalized for what he calls "a wonderful opportunity for JSU to integrate our academic programs with real world experience.

"This very generous gift is the second gift of real estate the McWhorters have provided to the University, the first being the Jax Apartments which we received in 2000-2001," Meehan said.

"This gift of the Victoria includes everything-- the rugs, the paintings, even the beautiful piano-- and we are very grateful that they have entrusted us with this extraordinary property. Our plan is to continue to operate the hotel with as much care as the McWhorter family has given it in the past."

In addition to revenue that will go toward scholarships and the university's general fund, Meehan added that ownership of The Victoria Inn will also provide JSU an additional lab for students majoring in business, family and consumer sciences and recreation.

Earlon McWhorter said Friday that is exactly what he and his family envisioned when they decided to donate the inn to the University. "It's made us very happy to know that the Inn will be in good hands. Thatís what we wanted to see-- The Victoria in the hands of someone who'll take care of it and see some benefit come from it. We are pleased that Jacksonville State University will be able to benefit academically and financially from our gift."

The McWhorters are not new to offering generous donations to universities. McWhorter and his wife, Betty, have donated several million dollars to fund buildings and programs at Auburn University, where McWhorter is a trustee. The family has also funded more than $100,000 in scholarships at JSU in addition to gifts of real estate and sponsorship of the Earlon and Betty McWhorter Outstanding Teacher Award, which is given annually to a deserving JSU faculty member.

McWhorter, a Jacksonville native, attended Jacksonville State University for one year but left school to begin his business. He later went back to school and graduated from Auburn University. Since 1971, he has run McWhorter and Co., Inc., a construction and real estate management firm that has developed property in more than 30 states. His commercial construction projects to date include more than 200 Lowe's stores, including the new Anniston location.

McWhorter said his family has been fortunate and he is grateful that the family is able to share that good fortune with institutions of learning. Dr. Rebecca Turner, JSU's vice president for academic and student affairs, said that JSU is "overwhelmed" by the generous donation and she is very excited about the opportunities the university will gain as caretakers for Annistonís "most beautiful and historic property."

"We look forward to offering internships and educational experiences there, and using it as a laboratory for learning. We also want it to be a destination place for families who visit their children at JSU, and we want it to be a conference hotel for those having conferences at the Anniston City Meeting Center and on our campus."

She added, "The Victoria is well-known, and for years we have had visitors to our campus who have requested the opportunity to stay there. We know that we'll continue to need the services of other hotels to host visitors for all the events that JSU sponsors, but we'll certainly enjoy having this lovely facility that we can call our own.

"We look forward to having visitors stay there as our honored guests."

Clint Carlson, JSU's vice president for business and administrative affairs, said that the university is still working on its plan for managing and promoting the hotel, and that more details are forthcoming.

(For more information about the Victoria Inn, please visit the website.)

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