Roy Richards Sr. – founder of Southwire and 1931 alumnus of Fourth District A&M School, the institution that became the University of West Georgia – believed strongly in Thomas Edison’s words, “If there’s a way to do it better, find it.”
UWG continues to find the “better way,” particularly after cutting the ribbon last Friday on Roy Richards Sr. Hall, the new home for the Richards College of Business. More than 700 days after ground was broken on the 68,696-square-feet facility, the university hosted members of the Richards family, dignitaries and influential donors for the hall’s grand opening as part of Homecoming.
“My father, an iconoclast who upended cherished beliefs and turned industries on their heads, said he owed everything to his education,” said Jim Richards, son of the late Roy Richards Sr., who represented the family along with his brother, Roy Richards Jr., at the ceremony. “He did things faster and better, pushing the envelope on what was generally deemed impossible. He attributed all of that to his education, frequently saying, ‘My education made me who I am.’”
In 1950, Richards founded Southwire, which has become North America’s leading manufacturer of wire and cable. The Carrollton-based company employs more than 7,000 people and generated more than $5.5 billion in revenue last year.
Dr. Brendan Kelly, UWG’s president, said Richards Hall, built amidst the global pandemic, is emblematic of its namesake’s persistence and progress.
“While we are in a time of great fluidity and change, the building kept rising from the ground until it was finally finished, a symbol that there is always a future to come despite the fact that it will be driven by a time of change,” Kelly said. “We are launching a new era in the Richards College of Business today: one that will embrace the 21st century, the same way this building symbolizes our embracing the future for the past two years.”
Following remarks, UWG Student Government Association President Sydney Severin cut the ribbon surrounded by speakers and other leaders. Attendees took tours of the building, starting in the David A. Johnson Commons, which serves as the main entrance to the facility.
Teresa MacCartney, acting chancellor of the University System of Georgia, said Richards Hall represents a “continuing commitment” to the state’s investment in communities and business.
“The Richards College of Business has a significant impact on the economic development of our state, connecting its more than 2,000 students to careers in the economy,” she said. “The next small business owner, marketing executive, or entrepreneur will gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need right here.”
Sen. Mike Dugan ’86 ’89, who represents west Georgia communities as the majority leader in the Georgia Senate, invited attendees to look 20 years into the future at the Richards College of Business.
“I know the next generation of faculty and administrators here will teach those students – even in 2041 – to find the better way and to lead them into what they want their lives to be,” Dugan said. “The commitment Roy Richards Sr. made to education will help generations of people not only all over our state but around the world. Because of that commitment, they will learn in a facility that will ensure they have success for years to come.”
Marty Smith ’87 – Georgia’s state property officer, UWG alumnus and Carrollton resident – spoke on the power of community in bringing a project like Richards Hall to fruition.
“As we continue to lead Georgia as the No. 1 state in the nation to do business in, we know that everyone coming together is how projects like this get done,” Smith said. “When my father worked for Southwire, he heard Mr. Richards say that it’s always better to have a friend than a dollar. It takes a partnership like this – between the University of West Georgia, the Richards family, Southwire and many others – to make something tremendous like this happen.”
Kelly said the work on Richards Hall – a $24.5 million investment with more than $6 million in private, philanthropic gifts – was driven by gratitude.
“Any time we endeavor into a project like this, building a beacon of learning, optimism and promise, it is a team sport,” Kelly said. “UWG would not be what it is today without the support of the Richards family and Southwire. Every student in the Richards College of Business deserves a world-class learning experience, and Richards Hall will deliver upon that expectation.”
Rep. Randy Nix, who represents west Georgia communities in Georgia’s House of Representatives, reiterated Kelly’s comments on Richards Hall being the product of a great “team effort.”
“This didn’t happen overnight, in one meeting or all at once. It was a process that took a real team effort to put it all together,” Nix said. “Institutional leadership, community support, the generosity and vision of the Richards family, and state support: when you bring all of these things together, you can have a great day like today.”
Dr. Christopher Johnson, who began as dean of the Richards College of Business in July, said it has been an honor to start his time at UWG in Richards Hall.
“There is a debt of gratitude owed to many who have paved the way for the space we are now fortunate to occupy,” Johnson said. “I thank each person who has dedicated their energy, support and effort to bring us to this space today, and I look forward to educating future generations of Richards College of Business students here.”
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