Dale Coe Simons ’65 stood on a stage outside New Hall on Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by more than 325 students, faculty, staff and community members, as she recounted a conversation she had with her late mother, Helen “Miss Boo” Cates Neary ’38. “When we started talking about the vision for a multipurpose building,” Simons said, “her comment was, ‘if they had done that for me in 1937, I wouldn’t have had to go to business school in Houston, Texas.’”
Once Simons, Columbia College President Dr. Scott Dalrymple and others joined the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, New Hall was officially dedicated.
The $20 million facility, which houses the Robert W. Plaster School of Business on the ground floor and 76 residential suites on the three floors above it, opened to rave reviews from students, faculty and staff in mid-August following 17 months of construction. Among other amenities, New Hall offers 60,000 square feet of instruction space, six state-of-the-art classrooms, an event center, and a pair of conference rooms on its first floor. The college has raised more than $5.1 million in donations to date in support of the new building.
A wealth of technology infuses the building, which was one of the goals of the Board of Trustees as its members began formulating their vision. Simons, who serves as the board’s vice chair, remarked that to fulfill the college’s mission, it was the board’s duty “to project into the future and keep up with the world today, and to produce the quality of education that helps everybody that enters this wonderful facility have a better life.”
Dr. Raj Sachdev, assistant professor of marketing, has noticed other colleges and universities with modern business buildings, and he’s proud to teach in one on his campus now. “This building certainly makes a statement,” he said. “It says a lot of things about the college’s commitment to education. We’re very excited about the various opportunities that we can give our students through this facility,” he said.
The naming of the Robert W. Plaster School of Business took place in September 2018 thanks to a transformational gift from the Robert W. Plaster Foundation. Dr. Dolly Plaster Clement, the foundation’s executive director, shared her excitement about what the foundation’s gift means for Columbia College’s students. “This building is one part of a larger, complete package, providing students with the opportunity to leverage their hard work with an education; to help them create their own best futures that they choose for themselves.”
Following the Chamber ribbon-cutting, guests were invited to tour the first and second floors of the building. The residential floors mark the college’s first new student-housing construction since 1969.
Earlier that morning, as part of the day’s festivities, University of Louisville Professor of Economics Dr. Stephan F. Gohmann spoke on the Morality of Capitalism to a standing-room-only crowd of students, faculty and staff.
Natalie Caldwell, a senior majoring in marketing, was able to tie in some of Dr. Gohmann’s points into her strategic management class later in the day. “One of his points was that pollution will happen regardless of whether an economic system is capitalistic or socialistic; one of the things we discussed in class was how the (accounting framework known as the triple bottom line) affects business strategy. If you focus just on profit, but neglect people or the planet, you won’t have as effective a business.”
Prior to the ceremony, officials held a moment of silence in honor of two Columbia College first-year students who lost their lives this month. The college continues to mourn the deaths of Nadria Wright and Shelby Meyer.
And while the college has been in mourning, as Dalrymple noted in his remarks, today was a day of celebration; a day about a building, says Simons, that is a symbol of the college’s continuing evolution that will have a lasting impact on generations of students to come. “When I walked in to see all of this, it’s a place for my grandkids to come because of the technology, because of the fast movement, because of the new way of looking at business, so I’m really, really proud of this institution for doing it.”
Several spaces in New Hall remain available for naming; gifts may be pledged over a five-year period. Please contact the Office of Development at (573) 875-7563 or by visiting my.ccis.edu/newdirection for additional information.