Southern Arkansas University on Monday celebrated the opening of its First Financial Bank Poultry Education Facility on the north side of its Agriculture Center.
Officials with First Financial Bank of El Dorado and Farm Bureau Insurance, as well as SAU alumni, faculty and staff, were in attendance.
Arkansas Business reported on the $300,000 project in 2018. It was funded by private sources, including a $100,000 grant from First Financial Bank.
Fundraising for the project was also part of the university’s Love and Loyalty Campaign that is its fifth and final year and seeking to raise nearly $22.3 million.
“This day is not only about a building, but also our students and our future,” SAU President Trey Berry said in a news release. “This building represents many things to SAU, including the dedication and vision of several great education partners. It also represents our commitment to agriculture education. That dedication will not slow down. You see it right now all around you. The future of agriculture education is bright.”
Chris Hegi, CEO of First Financial, added, “We have been making poultry loans for 30-plus years, and I can tell you, there is nothing else like this facility. Hats off to all for a job well done.
“We hope to find additional partnerships moving forward. I am convinced that this investment will pay dividends for years to come for the poultry industry.”
David Lanoue, SAU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the university is uniquely positioned to create a trained workforce that will serve the poultry industry.
“Our poultry science degree option expands our offerings while meeting the needs of the industry,” he said in the release. “Our students will have the kind of individualized training they won’t be able to get in a larger program … We’re going to produce great leaders, and we are going to do great things for economic development right here in south Arkansas.”
Larry Daniel, an SAU alumnus who recently retired from Pilgrim’s Pride, added, “We often have to train new employees on the technical side, but this program will allow us to hire graduates who can hit the ground running.”
The dedication concluded with an “egg cracking” by donors, trustees and administrators followed by tours of the facility.