The University of West Georgia broke ground Friday on what Interim President Dr. Micheal Crafton called a “life-changing beacon of higher learning.”
With Homecoming 2019 in full swing, the Richards College of Business celebrated connections at the highly anticipated groundbreaking of Roy Richards Sr. Hall, named after Southwire Company LLC’s founder.
“This is an appropriate time,” Crafton said in his opening remarks. “Homecoming is a return—a return to values, friends, and colleagues.”
UWG and Richards College of Business administration have spent the last year planning and designing its new home. Richards College of Business Dean and Sewell Chair of Private Enterprise Dr. Faye McIntyre explained that the new building will help the faculty and staff achieve their mission in ways that are not possible today.
“We’re in the business of transforming lives through education, engagement and experiences,” said McIntyre in her opening remarks. “The classroom and learning spaces in Richards Hall will be second to none. It will include collaboration rooms and space for both formal and informal interactions between our faculty and our students. Opportunities for experiential learning will also be enhanced as we move forward into this amazing facility.”
The late Roy Richards Sr., alumnus of then-Fourth District A&M School, founded Southwire Company LLC, North America’s leading manufacturer of wire and cable. The company provides jobs for more than 7,500 people and generates more than $5.5 billion in sales each year.
Richards’ sons, Jim and Lee Richards, along with Jim’s son Chase, represented the family at the groundbreaking.
“It’s hard to be a hero in your hometown, but for us, Roy Richards was simply our dad,” Jim Richards said. “He was a strong believer in a good education. But we knew him as a regular guy.”
Georgia Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan – a 1986 and 1989 graduate of then-West Georgia College – was one of the speakers who touched on the impact that the Richards College of Business had on him and his family.
“I can’t express enough what you and your faculty and staff have done for the community, the state, the nation and even the Caribbean,” he said.
Dugan was referring to Cane Bay Partners VI, LLLP a company with a location in the Virgin Islands co-founded by fellow alumnus David Johnson. Johnson, the initial donor of Richards Hall, was at the ceremony and spoke of his connections to the university.
“One of the best decisions I made was to Go West,” he shared. “I’m really pleased to be in the financial position to make the lead gift and get the ball rolling. I have always wanted to repay what I have benefitted from.”
Georgia State Property Officer Marty Smith noted that UWG contributed more than $604 million to the region’s economy during the state’s 2018 fiscal year, and the continued growth is something everyone should charter.
“Georgia has been named the top state for doing business six years in a row,” he noted. “How are we going to maintain the momentum if we don’t offer quality educational opportunities to tomorrow’s workforce?”
Kelley Park, executive vice president of human resources at Southwire, noted that nearly 100 UWG students currently serve in an internship program at the company and more than 300 employees are proud alumni.
“Our partnership began nearly nine decades ago,” she said. “We’re thrilled to see this legacy continue, and we’re proud to continue our partnership. Our alignment with UWG has never been more satisfying as the institution is stronger and better than ever and perfectly suited to support much of the talent needed at Southwire.”
Rep. Lynn Smith mentioned to those in attendance that she could make a life circle for everyone there. Her husband, a Vietnam veteran, was able to earn his master’s degree from UWG thanks to the GI Bill.
“Thanks to the outstanding leadership at UWG, a lot of students who’ve had the dream of getting a higher education have been able to do that,” she said.
One of those students is Richard Dobbs II, a current MBA student studying cybersecurity and business intelligence. He is also on the planning committee and said he welcomes the new era of innovation that UWG will now encounter in the future.
“I’ve gained a great deal of experience I can put back into the classroom and give knowledge to those I get a chance to mentor,” he shared. “I’ve learned how to be creative and work on a team. Who else could put on their resume that they helped start a new building?”