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Calhoun marks its 60th
Dignitaries congregate to dedicate building

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

When Kentucky native Bill Dukes came to Decatur for an interview with Chemstrand (now Solutia) in 1957, he drove his 1942 Ford by what is now Calhoun Community College.

“I thought it was an Army training center,” Dukes said of what was then Tennessee Valley Trade School.

Dukes, two-year college system Chancellor Bradley Byrne and other dignitaries helped the college celebrate its 60th anniversary Friday with the dedication of the Health-Science Building.

Much has changed for Dukes and the college in those 50 years.

Dukes is now a state representative after a long tenure as Decatur’s mayor, while the college has gotten a major face lift in the past decade.

Fite Construction of Decatur completed the $13.5 Health-Sciences Building in November 2006.

The architectural style of the 1960s, when the college built most of its buildings, is history. College President Marilyn Beck didn’t want to duplicate the ultra-metallic style of the Aerospace Training Center building in the late 1990s either.

The Health-Sciences building blends the old-fashioned academic look of wood panel walls, fancy light fixtures and marble floors with the modern assets that will allow the Natural Sciences-Health Division to provide the latest in education.

Military barracks

Dukes, just out of college after attending on the GI Bill, said the school’s buildings looked like military barracks. He said thought the airport was for training military pilots. The students learned trades like welding, auto mechanics, upholstery and other technical, hands-on jobs.

The college finished the $22 million Math-Science Building this summer, and the two buildings are a part of a $44 million building spree.

“I never dreamed we’d have buildings this nice and I would be here participating in the college’s history like this,” Dukes said.

Byrne is so impressed with Calhoun’s new Health-Sciences Building that he plans to build three more at Wallace State Community College in Dothan, Faulkner State Community College in Baldwin County and Lawson State Community College in Birmingham.

“A building like this is just a big, physical thing in which to take class,” Byrne said. “This is tangible evidence on what we should be doing for students. Alabama is becoming known around the country as a leader in medical and health care education.”

Beck, who recognized Byrne and state Board of Education member Mary Jane Caylor with a Medallion of Recognition for Distinguished Service, said she was delighted with the new building. She is “never finished” with her plans for the campus. The college is working on a campus walkway and landscaping plan, and several buildings like the Harris Hall, Chasteen Student Center and the Shelton Fine Arts need renovations.

Byrne toured Calhoun’s Huntsville campus in Research Park on Friday morning. He said that Alabama College System officials must decide what to do with that campus, which is in a warehouse. The growing enrollment, up more than 600 to 3,200, will soon fill the campus, which is landlocked with limited parking.

“We’ve got to decide whether to work with the existing facility, find another location in Research Park or find another location in Huntsville,” Byrne said.

Beck said the college is just in the evaluation stages on its Huntsville campus. She said it’s growing because a recent desegregation agreement allowed Calhoun to begin offering day classes in Huntsville. She expects enrollment to continue growing there as more Huntsville area citizens find out about the day classes.

Byrne said he also plans to meet with Gov. Bob Riley, who is out of the country this month, sometime in November to make a decision on a proposed robotics center. Calhoun and Wallace State Community College in Hanceville are the two candidates for the center.

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