The forward-reaching sweep of the silhouette of Hempstead Hall that has evolved on the campus of the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope over the past three years is the latest part of the span of UACCH as “your bridge to the future” which Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey referenced in dedication ceremonies here Thursday.
Addressing a crowd of some 600 local residents, state and local officials and education leaders from across Arkansas, away from a cold, blustery day inside the comfort of the expansive 1,600-seat main auditorium, dedication speakers marveled at the project which was the result of a tax initiative passed by the voters of Hempstead County.
Architect Ricco Harris, of Hot Springs, who has designed most of the structures on the UACCH campus, agreed with Ramsey's assessment of the sweep of Hempstead Hall.
“I think the only one we weren't involved with was the original administration building and the library,” Harris said. “I was with another firm, and have been on my on since then. The way we design is we interpret what our client is saying and we try to follow that direction. So, all of these buildings are tied together with common threads, but they are different, because the vision of this campus and this community has progressed.
“They have gone from pure function in buildings and programs and organization to a progressive approach that keeps up with technology and the world,” he said.
In dedication and ribbon cutting ceremonies Thursday morning, Ramsey credited the vision of former chancellor and current Arkansas State University System President Dr. Chuck Welch for the inception of the project and the tenacity of current UACCH Chancellor Chris Thomason with the completion of the facility, and the generosity of the voters of Hempstead County for the ability to do all of that.
He said the facility is not simply an educational asset for UACCH.
“It's an economic development facility for the business conferences that will be held; and, by the way, it's an entertainment facility, and, now, we have another facility besides what we have at Hope Fair Park,” Ramsey said. “You are to be congratulated.”
Thomason repeatedly thanked the voters of the county for their confidence in UACCH in what he said was the fulfillment of a dream begun with the tax election in 2007 to fund the construction and operations of the $10 million facility.
He said the facility represents, not only a commitment to UACCH, but to the economic development of Hempstead County and Southwest Arkansas, the cultural engagement of the entire region, and the community partnerships that it has engendered. Thomason said Hope and Hempstead County genuinely understand the need for and the concept of community partnership.
“Although I am proud to be here to welcome you as the chancellor of UACCH, I am more proud to join you as a citizen of Hempstead County,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Thomason thanked the Hempstead County Quorum Court, Hempstead County Judge Wallace Martin, Ramsey, and the Hope City Board of Directors for lending their civic support to the bond issue which created the project.
He thanked the UA System and System President Dr. Donald Bobbitt for their support of the educational asset Hempstead Hall will become, and the UACCH Board of Visitors and UACCH Foundation for their support.
Thomason also thanked State Senator Larry Teague, D-Nashville, and former State Representative David “Bubba” Powers, D-Hope, for their help in the legislative process to gain state approval of the project. And, he thanked Hope Water and Light General Manager Jim Kirchhoff for HWL's technical expertise in the design and construction oversight of its utilities.
Thomason also referred to Welch's role which paved the way for his later involvement.
“Chuck did a lot of the groundwork,” he said. “All of the partners just mentioned and countless others have made Hempstead Hall a reality for generations to come.”
Bobbitt said the recent dedication of the UACCH-Texarkana outreach campus, and the construction of Hempstead Hall evidenced that UACCH is “an institution on the move.”
“I look on UACCH as a model of what should be done,” he said.
Bobbitt said the trust between the citizens of Hempstead County and UACCH is another model for the remainder of the state's higher education institutions.
Arkansas Department of Higher Education Director Shane Broadway, who stood in for Governor Mike Beebe, agreed with Bobbit's assessments, noting that his familiarity with all of the 33 state colleges and universities in Arkansas has left him with an unqualified opinion of UACCH.
“This is one of the best facilities I have ever been in,” Broadway said of Hempstead Hall. “This is truly a jewel for this college and all of Arkansas to celebrate. You, truly, have put the word 'community' in community college.”
The 64,000-square foot auditorium/conference venue will host its first event, a free, community concert by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the event were completely subscribed by 2 p.m. Thursday.