Arkansas Tech University and local elected officials celebrated the addition of 84 acres to the ATU campus in Russellville during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, Feb. 4.
The land, formerly a sod farm located in what is now the 1600 block of North Phoenix Avenue, will be utilized by the ATU Department of Agriculture.
"It was a movement by the Farmers’ Educational and Cooperative Union that led to the creation of four agricultural boarding schools in Arkansas," said Fritz Kronberger, chairman of the ATU Board of Trustees, during Monday's ceremony. "Signed into law by Gov. George Donaghey on April 1, 1909, Act 100 of the 37th General Assembly established schools that would eventually be located in Jonesboro, Monticello, Magnolia and Russellville. The Second District Agricultural School in Russellville has grown and evolved to become Arkansas Tech University.
"With more than 12,000 students, we are the third-largest institution of higher learning in the state," continued Kronberger. "Our diverse curriculum represents the modern, comprehensive university that we are today. And yet, we remain connected to our origins by maintaining strong academic programs in agriculture business and agricultural education. We do this not out of nostalgia, but because 110 years later, agriculture remains the backbone of our state’s economy."
Local elected officials in attendance included Russellville Mayor Richard Harris and four members of the 92nd Arkansas General Assembly: Rep. Rick Beck of District 65, Rep. Mary Bentley of District 73, Rep. Stan Berry of District 68 and Rep. Joe Cloud of District 71.
"I have so many great memories of the ag department, Dr. (Mack) Rainey and all the students there," said Bentley in remarks during the ceremony. "I've met so many of them as I have worked across the state, and I've been very, very impressed with the program here and the students they are putting out. I can tell you that you can be very proud of the students that are coming from Arkansas Tech. Today, we are excited about new things moving forward and Tech's commitment to the ag department. As we get to the legislature and look at the budget, without agriculture we'd be done for. It's a backbone of our state. There are opportunities across the state. As a state legislature, we are committed to keep (Arkansas Tech) going strong and we are committed to get some funding here. I can tell you all of us are working together to make that happen."
Secretary Wes Ward from the Arkansas Agriculture Department and Phil Sims from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service were in attendance.
The ATU Board of Trustees was represented by Kronberger, Stephanie Duffield of Russellville and Jim Smith of Fayetteville.
Misty Lumpkins of the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce and representatives of the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce Red Coat Ambassadors committee assisted in the ribbon cutting.
Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president, served as master of ceremonies and Dr. Judy Cezeaux, dean of the ATU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, spoke on behalf of her college while students and faculty from the ATU Department of Agriculture listened from the audience.
"The Department of Agriculture is a vital part of the college and embodies the university vision statement...where students succeed, innovation thrives and communities flourish," said Cezeaux. "On behalf of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, I would like to thank Dr. Bowen and the university administration for their ongoing support of the Department of Agriculture."