Dedication, ribbon-cutting held for KC Vandalia Campus

‘I am pleased to say that now, Vandalia is truly a college town.’

Speaking at the dedication of the new Kaskaskia College Vandalia Campus last Friday, KC President Dr. James Underwood said that the new facility on West Fillmore Street became a reality only because so many people in the community worked toward that goal.

The vision to reality, this project, has occurred because of the partnership of local citizens, business leaders, educators and many others who have shared the dream of higher education for this area through the development of this branch campus, Underwood said.

College officials set a goal of serving 1,500 students each year at the Vandalia Campus, and we will surpass that goal this year, he said.

Many of these students will immediately enter the job market, or be promoted or move up (in employment status), Underwood said, and many others will go on to four-year colleges.

The Vandalia Campus campaign, which generated about $3 million of the total $7 million campus project costs, has been just a phenomenal success because of the people who embraced this whole notion of economic development and a higher quality of life through education.

Jim Beasley, who served as president of the KC Board of Trustees until last month, concurred. As a result of this new campus, 1,500 people (each year) are going to have a better life.

Education is a continuing thing, and because of this Vandalia Campus, we are going to change the economic structure of this entire area, Beasley said. Education is the key to success, and we are turning that key.

Vandalia Mayor Rick Gottman said the Vandalia City Council voted in 2004 to make a $250,000 contribution to the project to build a dream that Vandalia needed to help move Vandalia forward in higher education and to continue growth in the economic development world.

Without the college, we could not be able to retain (what we have) and continue to grow our community, Gottman said.

In his address, Underwood noted that as it begins using KCs new Vandalia Campus, it will continue is relationships with such entities as the Vandalia School District, Okaw Area Vocational Center, Regional Office of Education and Lake Land College.

The relationship with Lake Land College was also mentioned by state Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville).

During the observance of Community College Week in Springfield recently, Watson said, he spoke with Lake Lands president about that teamwork.

I asked him, How does this happen, Watson said, noting that he remembered when community colleges worked to preserve their boundaries.

Watson said the LLC president told him that the colleges are now committed to doing what they can to provide the best opportunities for everyone, regardless of which district they reside in.

Thats great to have that cooperation, said Watson, the Illinois Senates minority leader. This air of cooperation thats going on helps people, giving them an opportunity to succeed.

Watson also spoke of the cooperation shown by local people in the Vandalia Campus project.

This is remarkable to see the local effort that went into this, Watson said. This doesnt happen in most communities and most counties throughout the state.

You saw a need, you rallied behind it, you got it done and this is the result, he said.

Its phenomenal what youve done, and I am also thankful for the vision of Dr. Underwood, Watson said.

State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Greenville) said he is so proud and honored to be associated with winners like you.

The things that are going to take place in this room and on this campus, and as we continue to work hard to grow opportunities thats what this place is all about, Stephens said.

Ernie Chappel, who co-chaired the Vandalia Campus campaign with Jack Johnston, praised the team captains who made the campaign a success, as well as those who have contributed to it.

Many individuals and businesses made five-year pledges back in 2003, and the good news is that they are following through. Its one thing to come forward with a pledge; its another thing to follow through five years later, Chappel said.

Chappel also noted the sizeable contributed by the estate of Hazel Simma Kelly and the leadership of Underwood with the campus project.

Tonya Odum, KC dean of corporate training and continuing education, served as emcee for Fridays dedication ceremony. Among those she introduced were Mary Carroll, Vandalia Campus coordinator, and Janice Eischens, assistant coordinator.

They are so committed to our mission and our students and our communities, Odum said.

They work very hard to successfully provide the programming that we need in our area, she said.

Participants in the dedication program included Braxton Denton, a Vandalia resident who has served as the president of KCs Phi Beta Kappa chapter and the Vandalia Campus representative on the KC Student Congress. Denton led the large crowd in the pledge of allegiance.

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