On August 16, 2018, at 11 a.m., East Georgia State College held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Jean A. Morgan Student Activities Center Expansion Project.
“This campus is your campus, and it is always a great day when we can all come together as a community,” said Dr. Bob Boehmer, EGSC President, in his opening speech. “Today is just one day short of one year following the day when we all stood together to celebrate the expansion of our Academic Building. The Spring before that, we gathered in the lobby of Bobcat Villas to celebrate the opening of our newest residence hall. Today, our East Georgia State College family gathers once again to celebrate three more important leaps forward: the expansion of our JAM Center, the generous gift to our Foundation by the Gambrell family of 138 acres of land, and the 30th anniversary of the Georgia Youth Science and Technology Center.”
The invocation was given by Rev. Bennie Brinson, Emeritus Vice President of Student Services. The Pledge of Allegiance was given by EGSC student Teiana Green, an active member of the National Guard.
In attendance were Senators Jack Hill and Jesse Stone, Representative Butch Parrish, University System of Georgia Chancellor Dr. Steve Wrigley, former EGSC Presidents Dr. Willie Gunn and Dr. Foster Watkins, GYSTC Chair Tanya Blalock, Regent Allen Gudenrath, and representatives of the Emanuel County Board of Commissioners, Board of Education, and the Swainsboro City Council.
The expansion project will add approximately 15,000 square feet to the existing facility and will provide much-needed student activity space, including a large multi-purpose room, digital gaming, larger game room, offices and a meeting room for the Student Government Association, Student Publication offices, and Student Life administrative space. The stated cost limitation for construction is $3.8 million. The existing portion of the JAM Center will be vacated by Student Activities and repurposed for a larger College Bookstore, as well as open computing space and student group study nodes. The construction is expected to begin in October of this year and be completed in Fall of 2019. Cogdell-Mendrala Architects, Savannah, is the architect of record for the project.
“This building was named in honor of Jean Anderson Morgan, a long-time benefactor of the college. Jean now lives in Tennessee, and she would be proud to see this dramatic expansion of our learning and student activities space, because the success of all of these students that we see here today was Jean’s passion in life,” Dr. Boehmer said. “This expansion was made possible by the visionary leadership of the Chancellor of the USG, Dr. Steve Wrigley, by the support of our Board of Regents, the support of our government representatives, by the vision of college presidents preceding me and by the belief of our community leaders of the importance of our students to the economic and social vitality of this community.”
In addition to the Groundbreaking Ceremony, the Gambrell family’s recent land gift was recognized. The Gambrell family has been a faithful benefactor to the college, most notably with the initial donation of 220 acres of land in 1974 to establish Emanuel County Junior College. In 2017, the family of Luck Flanders Gambrell again made a generous gift to the EGSC Foundation of 138 acres of land adjoining the campus on Lambs Bridge Road. Immediate plans for the property include a strategic timber management plan to focus on sustainability and the replanting of long leaf pine where cutting is necessary. This will enable EGSC to utilize the property in academic pursuits, especially in the area of biology, as well as allowing the native wildlife species to return to their natural habitat. The long term plan for the property is to fully integrate it into the current campus master plan for strategic growth.
In recognition of GYSTC’s 30th anniversary, Chair Tanya Blalock spoke, recognizing the event. “Thank you for allowing us to participate in this exciting time for East Georgia State College, and thank you for recognizing GYSTC’s 30-year history of providing quality programs for teachers and students. We’re all about promoting interest and achievement in science and technology, especially in under-served areas of the state.”
“We have provided services for over 83,000 students and 18,000 educators in this area,” continued Blalock, describing the Magnolia Midlands GYSTC partnership with EGSC which began 20 years ago. “A 30-year celebration of our history is also an expectation for the future, much like this groundbreaking. We are committed to bringing innovative programs to make science and technology relevant in our students’ daily lives, connect them to promising careers and secure Georgia’s place as a leader for a science and technology educated workforce.”
Representative Butch Parrish spoke, saying “The reason we’re here is because of you and your belief in the school and what it can be. I’m assuming we’ll be here next year for another groundbreaking or something similar. This is a great partnership between the school, the community, and the citizens’ involvement. We celebrate the generosity of the families that have made the effort to participate in making this school better.”
Senator Jack Hill followed, saying, “These are great days, and they remind us what it is all about: the students. Everything that we do as the Board of Regents, as legislators, and as citizens is to support the students and to be sure that your time here at East Georgia is beneficial to you. If we achieve that goal, we are succeeding.”
Senator Jesse Stone then spoke, adding, “It is really an honor and a privilege to have witnessed the growth of this institution of higher learning. I look out on the crowd and see people that were here at the beginning, and how amazing it is to see how far East Georgia has come. This is such a worthy project, and I want to thank all those who were involved in the planning of this. I’m looking forward to coming back for the ribbon cutting.”
Adding his thoughts was Swainsboro Mayor Charles Schwabe, who said, “There are a lot of people we need to thank for the vision and foresight to invest in this college. The dividends from this investment are very important to this locality. In the spirit of renewing vows, the City of Swainsboro and Emanuel County is still in love with East Georgia State College. We think this is a great place. It continues to pay dividends and I want to say that, in the future, we want to make sure that this relationship stays strong and we want to keep the romance burning. This city commits to doing whatever we can to make that happen. Let’s keep it up.”
Chairman of the EGSC Foundation Denny Key then spoke, adding his thoughts: “The Foundation is extremely proud to play a small part in the mission of this college. It is a true mission, affording many young people the opportunity for a college degree, many of whom would not otherwise have this door open to them.” He went on to thank the government representatives and Chancellor Wrigley for their support of the college, as well as thanking Dr. Boehmer for being a huge part of the college’s mission.
“I’m so proud of this project and I am so excited to see how it is going to blossom. I hope you will all celebrate with us,” said Krystal Perry, President of the EGSC Student Government Association.
Chancellor Steve Wrigley then spoke. “We are very committed to East Georgia State College,” he said. “The Board of Regents has three goals: graduate more students, be more affordable and be more efficient. A student activities center is very important to help students round out their educational experience. That’s part of our student success effort—to keep them on campus and remain in that academic environment. I’m very pleased to support this project and I’m looking forward to coming back to cut the ribbon.”
“The amazing way that the various public bodies in this community work together on everything is just really impressive,” said Dr. Boehmer in his concluding speech. “If you look at the Emanuel County Schools, the Emanuel County Board of Commissioners, Southeastern Technical College, or the Swainsboro-Emanuel County Joint Development Authority, it is amazing what happens when a group of local folks decide to work together instead of finding ways to compete with one another. Thank you to this community for making this expansion of East Georgia State College possible.”