Photo: Pictured above, Gadsden State Community College faculty, staff and supporters celebrate Allen Hall’s completed renovations with a ribbon cutting to commemorate the event on Jan. 7.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
The Chamber of Gadsden and Etowah County hosted a ribbon cutting for Gadsden State Community College’s Allen Hall on the Wallace Drive Campus on Jan. 7. Gadsden State’s oldest building, Allen Hall was recently renovated with upgraded bathrooms, electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems. Allen Hall now provides faculty, staff and students with 22 classrooms, labs and student lounges.
Gadsden State President Dr. Martha Lavender introduced the ribbon cutting and connected the college’s mission to the renovations developing on the campus. While Gadsden State’s goal has always been rooted in providing its students with quality education, innovative workforce development and inclusive community and global engagement, the college emphasizes improving its students’ overall educational experience. Most courses taught in Allen Hall are geared towards freshmen and with the new renovations, students will experience a college atmosphere that equals the quality of instruction offered.
“Those of you who know what we’re about at Gadsden State know that we have an open-door policy,” Lavender said. “With that we mean that there is an opportunity for every student that walks through these doors. No matter their income or race, no matter what they’ve had in education, we want to give them an opportunity to succeed and achieve their career goals.”
Dr. Lavender addressed the crowd clustered in Allen Hall’s lobby, honoring faculty members, Cardinal Foundation board members, recent retirees and the current administrative team. She recognized individuals involved throughout the renovation process, thanking lead architect of current Gadsden State renovations and vice president of Goodwyn Mills Cawood Construction Freddie Lynn, project supervisor Chuck Jones and interior designer Michelle Morton.
Gadsden State partners with Gadsden legislative leaders to create a workforce in Etowah County and surrounding communities. State Senator Andrew Jones, State Representatives Gil Isbell and Craig Lipscomb, Gadsden City Council members Kent Back and Dr. Cynthia Toles supported Gadsden State in attending the ribbon cutting.
Former probate judge and Cardinal Foundation board member Bobby Junkins remembers when tuition at Gadsden State was $45 per quarter and the campus had no paved sidewalks. In 1965, when then Gadsden State Junior College opened, Junkins enrolled in the college’s first class of students. Junkins discussed how 150 to 175 students were expected to enroll in 1965. Instead, Gadsden State instructed 740 full-time freshmen in its first fall term. Junkins, who began his career at the Gadsden Public Library as a page while attending Gadsden State, fills with pride each time he visits Allen Hall. As he walks past the newly renovated classrooms, Junkins recalls every course he took and every professor who taught him. From the moment he set foot on the campus to the ribbon cutting at Allen Hall, Junkins witnessed the evolution of a college that helped transform him into the man he is today.
“Gadsden State saved my life,” said Junkins. “I just don’t know if people realize the impact Gadsden State has. Families spend money to go to Auburn or Alabama and sacrifice everything they have for their children. There are doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers and scientists who went to school [at Gadsden State]. Gadsden State gave the average person a chance to go to school.”
Allen Hall’s completion marks the second ribbon cutting for Gadsden State in 2020. Earlier, the Cheaha Center on Anniston’s Ayers Campus completed an addition that includes eight classrooms, six offices and a 140-seat lecture hall that doubles as a tornado shelter. With all the recent renovations, Dr. Lavender welcomes any further improvements the future might hold.
“Gadsden State is about building a future of northeast Alabama, and we do it one student at a time and it impacts one family at a time,” Lavender told the faculty, staff and Gadsden State supporters attending the ribbon cutting. “Those are the very individuals that create our community, improve our society and grow Gadsden and the surrounding area to be a vibrant, great place to live. That’s what we want for all our family and children. And for our faculty and staff, that’s what we want for our students.”
Following Allen Hall’s completion, Gadsden State hopes to host a ribbon cutting for its new East Broad campus science building in February.