President and First Lady Welcomed to Canyon Center


JSU’s 12th President Dr. John Beehler with his wife Dr. Pamela Beehler at Canyon View Overlook.

During a week at JSU’s Little River Canyon Center in Fort Payne - where thousands of visitors were on hand to experience concerts, classes, autumn colors and spectacular waterfalls at the 7th Annual CanyonFest - there was also a very special reception for JSU President John Beehler and First Lady Dr. Pamela Beehler. The Beehlers had not been to the JSU Canyon Center and so JSU staff and people from around the region decided to welcome them, Canyon style!

While the morning had begun in clouds, the fog lifted just in time for them to see and hear the roaring falls and river. They also toured the facility, met JSU’s National Park Service tenants, shopped, watched the feature film “Little River Canyon CENTER: of the Universe,” and then met with local schools system officials to explore new and expanded partnerships.

Then the real fun began with exceptional food prepared by the Fort Payne High School Culinary Arts program and heartfelt welcomes from JSU’s Canyon Center Director Pete Conroy, Fort Payne Mayor Larry Chesser, Superintendent Jim Cunningham, State Senator Steve Livingston, Representative Richard Lindsey, neighbor and marketing expert Darlene Rotch, Rural Development Director Ron Sparks, and JSU Trustee legal counsel Charlie Waldrep, who introduced President Beehler.

JSU Trustee Randy Owen and his wife, Kelly,  detailed the significance of the Canyon Center’s accomplishments as well as some of its history including his effort to involve Congressman Tom Bevill, who arranged to have over 100 wrecked cars lifted out of the canyon by helicopters and later led efforts to have the canyon designated as a National Park. Conroy added that, “studies show that the canyon now creates a regional economic impact exceeding $15 million annually.”

At the moment all believed the event to be over, it was announced that “something special” was waiting next door. Immediately, lights went dark, but in the theatre next door, there was the thunderous sound of opera. It was the famous basso profundo K.B. Solomon performing Grande Dio Sol. Lured by the music, nearly 100 guests entered the venue to hear world class opera, so inspiring that Randy Owen then took the stage to cap the evening off with his #1 hit song, “My Home’s in Alabama.”

“Between Solomon and Owen there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” said Ron Sparks. “I’m delighted that the Beehlers now have a sense of the advanced partnerships, regionalism and support this beautiful place enjoys every day.”