Shelby and Willena Peeples Hall was dedicated at Dalton State College, ushering in a new era of science education for students of Northwest Georgia.
The 58,000 square foot building houses Dalton State’s biology and chemistry programs, both of which have experienced growth since they were first offered as bachelor degree programs just a few years ago.
The building is named for local entrepreneur and philanthropist Shelby Peeples and his wife, Willena. Lifetime residents of Whitfield County, where the Peeples met, married, and raised their family. Mr. Peeples challenged others in the assembly to “join with us and do your part, too, to invest in our college and move it forward.
“Our entire family is excited by the prospect of Dalton State becoming an even better institution than it is, and we know that with the addition of this new academic building, the campus will move into the top tier of Georgia colleges,” he said.
Faith Stokes, a student researcher at Dalton State, credited the Peeples family for making extraordinary resources available for future science students at Dalton State. “Future Dalton State students will leave here with skills and experience on their résumés that graduate students at many of the largest schools in the country won’t have.”
Ms. Stokes, a 4.0 student who graduates Friday with a bachelor of science degree in biology with a minor in chemistry and an associate of arts degree in psychology, exhibited her undergraduate research on the antibacterial properties of snake venom at the Council for Undergraduate Research’s prestigious “Posters on the Hill” last week in Washington, DC.
Regent Scott Smith of Ringgold brought greetings from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and Chancellor Hank Huckaby.
“The naming of a University System building by the Board of Regents is certainly a very high honor,” he said. “It is a decision undertaken with great care and deliberation and only after serious reflection by the campus administration and the Board of Regents.”
He cited other notable Daltonians who have been honored or memorialized with structures named for them on the Dalton State campus. They include Former Regent James Brown (The James E. Brown Center), Judge Tom Pope (Pope Student Center), B.J. Bandy (Bandy Gymnasium), Alan and Shirley Lorberbaum (Lorberbaum Liberal Arts Building), President Emeritus Jim Burran (Burran Bell Tower), President Emeritus Derrell C. Roberts (Roberts Library), President Emeritus Arthur and Elizabeth Gignilliat (Gignilliat Memorial Hall), and Lamar and Fred Westcott (Westcott Hall).
He commended the Peeples for their gift to Dalton State and recognized the importance of philanthropy to higher education in our state.
“Our gathering here reaffirms our shared belief that public higher education in Georgia truly is a partnership between the public and private sectors, and that good things happen for our students and for the entire state when we come together in a common purpose,” Mr. Scott said.
Senator Charlie Bethel brought greetings from the State of Georgia. Senator Bethel is one of many current and former local lawmakers who helped navigate funding for the $15 million building through the state legislature. He encouraged audience members to remember the founders of Dalton State College whose vision 50 years ago is realized in part with the opening of Peeples Hall.
Senator Bethel was introduced by Dalton State President Dr. John O. Schwenn who opened the program with welcoming remarks and recognition of other special guests, including President Emeritus Jim Burran and Former Regent Jim Jolly and other members of the legislative delegation.
He recognized other members of the Peeples family, including their children, Alan, Tom, Jane, and Bryan, their wives, husband, and partner, and their grandchildren and great grandchildren. In total, four generations of the Peeples family were present for the dedication ceremony.
Other distinguished guests included Judy Jolly, wife of Former Regent Jim Jolly, and Sis Brown, wife of Former Regent James E. Brown.
Dr. Schwenn praised the Peeples for their many contributions and longstanding support of Dalton State, saying, “I can say that their interest is always in the greater good, or looking at how they can best contribute to make our community successful and a better place.”
“A few years ago, they decided one way to do this was to invest in Dalton State with a major gift, one that will benefit our campus for generations to come,” Dr. Schwenn said. “In recognition of this extraordinary philanthropy, we asked to name this facility in their honor. We were proud then, and we are proud today that they accepted that proposal.”
The ribbon was cut by Shelby and Willena Peeples, Alan, Tom and Bryan Peeples, Jane Peeples Stanfield, Faith Stokes, Regent Scott Smith, Senator Charlie Bethel, and Dr. Randall Griffus, Dean of the School of Science, Technology, and Mathematics.
An Open House will be held Sunday, May 18, 2-4 p.m., and a ceremony to dedicate the John Willis Mashburn Chemistry Labs will be held Wednesday, May 21, at 10 a.m. Both events are open to the public.