Saturday night’s celebration of Sheridan College, through the dedication of the new Edward A. Whitney Academic Center, reaffirmed the college’s core place in Sheridan’s educational, economic and social life.
Tom Kinnison, president of the college’s primary benefactor, Whitney Benefits, and Dr. Paul Young, president of Sheridan College, led the evening with illustrative presentations of the college’s humble beginnings in the 1950s, to its most recent dedication, the Whitney Center. The new facility is mostly classrooms and labs committed to computers, engineering, math and other disciplines. It also includes a college bookstore. Part new construction, part renovation of existing college facilities, the Whitney Center was financed through funds from the state and from Whitney. Some notes and quotes from the evening:
• The six-minute slideshow about the college’s development had Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as a background melody. No doubt careers were launched, dreams were nourished and lives enriched with a start in a Sheridan College classroom.
• The atrium is a stunning welcome point for visitors and will continue to be used by conventions and conferences to show off Sheridan’s potential. (Last week, it was the third annual Sheridan Biotech Conference therein; this week, it’s the FAB Women’s Conference.)
• There were three dedicatory features in the evening, besides the building itself.
1. One was an attractive display about the life and legacy of E.A. Whitney, the building’s namesake.
2. A portrait of Whitney by Kathy Sabine. It hangs under the main fireplace and features a young Whitney overlooking his property which would eventually evolve into the college.
3. Caesar, the dinosaur. Caesar’s a “local” dinosaur, an Allosaurus, first discovered in 1993 by Michael Flynn and through years of preparation, reconstruction and molding by Bill Matteson and the Michael Holland Studio, was unveiled as well. Caesar, it was noted, wasn’t a “sissy” dinosaur, not an animal that fed on greenery and plants, but a bona fide predator and carnivore. Would believe field trips from area grade school students — dinosaurs never lose their appeal — are being planned already.
• The funding for Caesar was through private donations. School children donated coins; First Federal Savings Bank wrote the big checks. Inside the bookstore is a section of Caesar-related clothing; the T-shirts, for example, ramp up the “cool” factor.
• The Sheridan College Jazz Band, led by its music director, Dr. Michael Flynn, entertained with standards and jazz for the evening. Why, they even played requests, including an obscure and difficult jazz song, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” by Charles Mingus.
• Architects, contractors and vendors were recognized as were state legislators, SC trustees and SC foundation members; and trustees from Whitney Benefits as well. Also appreciated with applause was the distinctive metal work of Lonnie Wright on the two staircases that lead to classrooms and labs.
• Neltje’s mural inside the Whitney Center was a “first” in a couple of ways: the first time she painted “live” in front of others and the first time she painted a mural on a curved wall. She made a short speech about her art and what the area means to her.
While the college and its vision for the future were recognized, the evening was never far from its central character: E.A. Whitney. Imagine a city without its college, its YMCA, its Whitney Commons, its local ice rink. Imagine how the social fabric here would significantly differ from what it is today. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. Rather, some $34 million in interest-free loans has been granted to more than 5,400 Sheridan-area students for education and another $47 million donated to build and renovate the aforementioned facilities.
It’s easy to be a booster when there’s so much to cheer about.