JANE, Mo. —
Crowder College officials on Friday celebrated a grand opening of James B. Tatum Hall, the Neosho college’s McDonald County location.
The building is a mile from the Arkansas border.
Nursing classes begin Monday and other classes begin there Jan. 20.
There are 100 students enrolled at the location, which offers the nursing program and several general education courses.
Pam Hudson, director of Crowder’s McDonald County campus, said she was asked in the past few days if there was a lot of Northwest Arkanasas money in the building.
“I said ‘no, there’s a lot of McDonald County money in this building,’” Hudson said, adding that private donations paid for $1.65 million of the total construction cost of just over $6 million. Other funding sources were $3 million from refinancing a 2011 bond and about $1.5 million from the college’s capital projects budget. The cost of the property was $750,000.
She was the first of the speakers to refer to the “heartbeat of McDonald County” being felt in the building.
“This building is perhaps the best example I’ve ever seen of a community coming together,” said Kent Farnsworth, interim Crowder president. He recognized major donors, including Neosho banker Rudy Farber. He also acknowledged Hudson’s hard work.
James Tatum, the 50-year member of the Crowder Board of Trustees for whom the building is named, also was on hand, seeming to bask in the day. His resignation from the board becomes effective with a formal dedication of the building on Sunday, Jan. 19.
During the ceremony Friday, he said that the words “awesome” and “amazing” were overused, but he was going to use them anyway.
“This is amazing — awesomely so,” he said.
He said the desire was to allow students to seamlessly move from one level of education to the next.
During an interview after the ceremony, Tatum, of Pineville, said the opening of the location was the fulfillment of a longtime goal for him and the college.
“It’s all a question of access,” Tatum said. He said a difference of 20 or 30 miles can make the difference between a person deciding to go to college or not.
“I already know students who take classes at three different locations,” he said.
He said when the college was formed, it was because parents who never went to college wanted their children to go to college. Tatum said it was the same kind of attitude that people have about the McDonald County location.
“It’s a source of pride for the county,” Tatum said.
Alan Marble, interim president at Missouri Southern State University, Joplin, was president of Crowder College during the planning phase of the McDonald County location.
“I’m really happy to see this happen,” Marble said. “It’s a tribute to the people of McDonald County.”
He said graduates from Crowder College in McDonald County may continue on to MSSU to earn their bachelor’s degrees.
Andy Wood, president of the Crowder Board of Trustees, echoed the sentiments.
“This is great for Crowder, great for McDonald County,” Wood said. “Location and access means everything for giving people an opportunity to go to school.”
Stephanie Wheeler, of Bentonville, Ark., will start her final semester in Crowder’s nursing program in the new building on Monday. She had moved to the area from Iowa and selected Crowder after researching nursing schools.
“I’m really excited to be in this building for its opening,” she said. “It’s so incredible.”
Jennifer Cobb, of Neosho, also will begin nursing classes in Tatum Hall on Monday.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “There’s so much more room than the old building.”
She was referring to the interim campus, a former lumberyard in Pineville.
“It’s just amazing,” Cobb said. “It’s a beautiful building. And we get it first.”
Gene Hall, of Anderson, is a former Crowder board member who attended the grand opening.
“We’re just so happy to have this here,” Hall said. “It’s a dream come true for people in McDonald County.”
Hall said people in McDonald County especially appreciate Tatum’s lifetime of contributions.
In the Russell and Sally Davidson Nursing Skills Lab, J.B. and Dianne Dill, of Anderson, were surveying the high-tech equipment. They are the daughter and son-in-law of the Davidsons, who are dead. The Dills made a donation in their honor. J.B. Dill said it was money well spent.
“There’s amazing technology here,” he said. “It’s a very high-tech training facility.”
Their son, Brandon Dill, is an adjunct criminal justice instructor in the Arvest Bank McDonald County classroom, across the hall from the lab that bears the names of his grandparents.
“I know they’d be tickled,” he said.
He said the location would expand Crowder’s presence in the area.