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20 September 2005

Alfa Pledges $250,000 Toward JSU Education Annex

Alfa Insurance President Jerry Newby, left, presents a $250,000 pledge to Jacksonville State University President William A. Meehan during a campus luncheon on Tuesday. (Photo by Steve Latham)

Alfa Insurance has pledged $250,000 to Jacksonville State University toward the construction of an education annex adjacent to Ramona Wood Hall, JSU's College of Education and Professional Studies.

JSU President Bill Meehan said the Alfa gift will help construct a classroom/seminar building that will consolidate a number of education programs that are spread across campus due to a lack of space in Ramona Wood Hall.

"The new building will feature an auditorium large enough to hold meetings of more than 200 students," said President Meehan. "The building will relieve overcrowding and provide a major boost to one of Alabama's largest education programs."

"Jacksonville State's track record of graduating more teachers than any other state institution is a perfect match for Alfa's commitment to education," said Jerry Newby, Alfa president and chief executive officer. "We're excited about the prospects for future generations of teachers once the new education annex is operational."

The facility will also house faculty offices, additional classrooms, and space for tutoring and other programs. It will be built on the former site of Abercrombie Hall, a dormitory that was located on the northwest corner of the quad.

Alfa representatives presented a check to President Meehan in the amount of $50,000 — which represents the first of five yearly payments — on Tuesday, September 20, during a campus luncheon. Mr. Newby was joined by JSU graduate Wayne Hawkins, executive vice president of marketing; David Rickey, vice president of public relations, several Alfa district managers and agents as well as representatives of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Dr. Cynthia Harper, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, said, "We have been so cramped for space for so many years that we've had to teach outside this building. In the new building, we have plans for a large ascending classroom because we have a number of students who enroll in our internship every semester, and when we meet with those students we have to go away from Ramona Wood to find something large enough to accommodate 200 students."

Harper said the building will also feature a new technology lab. "We currently have one lab in Ramona Wood Hall, but we teach 35 percent of the university's population. All of our students have to take specific technology classes related to education, so we need the additional technology lab."

The building will provide relief for a community outreach program called the Teaching/Learning Center, which provides tutoring for area public school students.

"Each afternoon, the Teaching/Learning Center's students scatter throughout our building from 3:30 until 4:30 p.m., and we will be able to move some of those students to the new building as well."

Harper said current plans call for Ramona Wood to be upgraded and connected to the new building via a breezeway.

"I love Ramona Wood Hall — it is beautiful and has a rich heritage," she said. "To me, the halls just tell so much of our history. It is exciting to know that we will have the new facility coming and that we will be better able to accommodate our students. Professionalism is important, and we will be able to mirror that to our students. They will know that teaching is a respected profession because everything about the new building will exude that."

Harper said she is also proposing a videoconferencing room and asking that all classrooms be wired as smart classrooms to accommodate the latest technology.

"Every room in Ramona Wood is a smart classroom, so everything we do in the new building will need to be at least as good as what we have here in the old building," she said. A smart classroom is defined as a classroom that contains infrastructure and hardware for multimedia presentations, such as a teacher desk that houses a computer, VCR, and/or digital presenter unit attached to a digital or LCD projection unit.

As for the fate of Ramona Wood Hall, which was built in 1939 on the north side of the quad as the university's first library building, Harper said, "The historic building has served us so well for so many years. What I anticipate is that it will continue to serve those of us in teacher education, and we're just looking forward to a new facility for expansion purposes and just to present the best facility possible for our students."

Reflecting on what the new building will mean to JSU, Harper said, "I really am humbled because I have been here 30 years, and I've seen a lot of growth in teacher education. We are just humbled to know that the College of Education and Professional Studies is on a list to improve the facilities and the image of teacher education in our vicinity. Not only that, but we will be making sure that the programs we offer continue to be quality programs that will have a large impact on P - 12. We're all about P-12 - providing the best teachers to meet the needs of children."

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