For this entry, I am going back to the community college sector. I have opined that community colleges are an important and yet frequently under appreciated part of the overall higher education system in the U.S. and I want to give equitable space to these fine institutions and their campuses. Today’s post is of Arkansas State University Mid-South, with all of the photos having been taken this month.
The institution is currently in its fourth iteration. The state of Arkansas approved the creation of a new vocational school in West Memphis in 1979 on a 30-acre site. Groundbreaking for the then named Mid-South Vocational Technical School (MSVTS) was on October 30, 1980. Bill Clinton was governor of the state then and he showed up for the groundbreaking ceremony. The institution formally opened its doors on March 2, 1982. The school consisted of two buildings and for the first few years of its existence it had an enrollment of less than 100 students per year. Arkansas passed the Two-Year Postsecondary Education Reorganization Act in 1991 meant to transform vocational schools into full-fledged community colleges. MSVTS was one of the schools chosen for the conversion. On July 1, 1991, the institution changed its name to the Mid-South Technical College (MSTC). Just over a year later in October 1992, the college completed the change to become a full-service community college and changed its name once again to the Mid-South Community College (MSCC).
Mid-South Community College was subsumed into the Arkansas State University System in July 2015. The ASU System is anchored by its namesake institution in Jonesboro, AR, a small east Arkansas community just over an hour from Memphis. In addition to ASU Mid-South, the system includes four other 2-year colleges: ASU Beebe (which itself has multiple sites), ASU Mountain Home, ASU Newport, and ASU Three Rivers. The ASU System also acquired Henderson State University in 2019 (which obviously has not assumed an ASU moniker). Today, the school offers associate’s degrees in fifteen areas and several dozen certificate programs and the campus has grown to an excess of 90 acres. The campus is bisected by U.S. Route 70 into a north and south campus.
The college is in West Memphis, Arkansas, about 18 miles or so from my office here at the University of Memphis. It is also about 55 miles from ASU’s main campus in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The college participates in two intercollegiate sports: men’s and women’s basketball. The school mascot is the greyhound and the teams are known as the Greyhounds.
Prior to becoming part of the ASU System, the college was led by a president. Dr. Glen Fenter was named president in 1992. After becoming part of the ASU System, the campus chief executive assumed the title of Chancellor. Since 2015, ASU Mid-South’s Chancellor has been Dr. Debra West, a two-time alumnae of the University of Memphis. Dr. West is of no relation to me; however, my sister-in-law shares the name and is also in upper administration in higher ed as well.
The photo below is of an entrance on the west side of the South Campus. You can just see a Boeing 727 in FedEx colors in the background. The campus sits adjacent to the West Memphis Airport, a general aviation facility. In March 2010, the college was awarded a $3.3 million Department of Labor grant to create an aviation technology program. Subsequently, FedEx donated the aircraft as part of its Aircraft Donation Program wherein it gives planes to institutions with aircraft technology programs. The plane was given to ASU Mid-South in 2012. The 727 sits adjacent to the 22,000 square foot FedEx Aviation Technology Center on the grounds of the airport. FedEx donated $250k for the construction of the building. FedEx also selected ASU Mid-South to receive funding as part of its Purple Runway Aviation Scholarship program in 2018. You can read more about the building here and the scholarship here.
The first set of photos below are of the Donald W. Reynolds Center on the South Campus. Donald Reynolds was a Texas-born businessman who made his fortune in the media business. He founded the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in 1954 and over its lifetime the philanthropy has donated more than $1.8 billion, much of it to colleges and universities. The Foundation gave $8 million of the $12 million needed to construct the facility. The front of the building, seen in the first eight photos, faces north. To the east of the building is Magruder Hall (see below) and to the west is the University Center. The building houses admissions, the library, a bookstore, and other student services. The ninth photo is of the rear of the building looking northward. The interior is arranged in a cross with a large atrium with a skylight which can be seen in the eleventh photo. In the center of the building is a dedicatory piece seen in photo twelve. A bust of Donald Reynolds sits just inside the main entrance, see here in photos fifteen and sixteen (the sun coming in the front of the building caused the glare on 15). The main entrance has its own glass ceiling (photo 16). The last photo is the Sandra C. Goldsby Library located in the building.
The first two photos below are of Magruder Hall which sits directly adjacent to the Reynolds Center (east of Reynolds). Campus security has an office in the building and it has other offices and classrooms. The third through sixth photos are of the Jenkins Garden which sits between Magruder Hall and the Southland Greyhound Science Center. The Jenkins Garden and the statue "Self Made Man" were made possible by a gift from Forrest "Joe" Jenkins and his wife Linda. Jenkins was president of the Citizens Bank in Marion, Arkansas and Evolve Bank and Trust's Arkansas operations. He was a graduate of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. I was not able to capture a good representation of the size of the space or how pleasant it actually is. The statue in the eighth and ninth photos is a casting of Self Made Man by BYU trained and Loveland, Colorado based sculpture Bobbie Carlyle. The eleventh photo is the Southland Greyhound Science Center. Although the ASU Mid-South mascot is the greyhound, the name for this building comes from a donor to the college and a major employer in West Memphis - the Southland Casino. The casino began its life as a greyhound race track in 1956. It still hosts races, with more than 6,000 races per year in the pre-COVID era. The building sits just south of Magruder. The last photo is the Allied Health Center which is situated just south and slightly west of the Greyhound Science Center. All of the buildings in this set are on the South Campus.
The last set of photos is from the North Campus. The first photo is the Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center, a 35,120 square foot facility that houses a biofuel testing center, labs, and other related facilities. The building is at present the furthest northern structure on the campus. The second photo is view of the Workforce Technology Center building across a small lake on campus. You can just see Jeremy Jacobs Hospitality Center off to the right in the photo. Jeremy Jacobs was the CEO of the Delaware North Companies, the parent company of the Southland Casino and former chair of the board for the National Hockey League. The last photo is the Arkansas Workforce Center.
University Grounds is a blog about college and university campuses, their buildings and grounds, and the people who live and work on them.
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