August 25, 2017 marked the beginning of a new era for South Georgia State College. An overflow crowd was on hand to celebrate and cut the ribbon, opening the recently completed renovations of Davis Hall, one of the college’s three original buildings on the Douglas Campus, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1907, Davis Hall opened as a women’s dormitory, then converted to a men’s residence before becoming classroom space in the 1970s. Recognizing the historical significance of the building, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved a state-allocated $2.5 million major repair and renovation project. Allstate Construction oversaw the renovation, and with the assistance of architectural firm, Studio 8 Design, painstakingly preserved as much of the original architectural elements as possible: restoring wooden floors and bannisters, returning ceilings to their original height, and even uncovering and replacing original front portico windows which hadn’t been seen in decades.
In her opening remarks, SGSC president, Dr. Ingrid Thompson-Sellers said, “Oh, if only these walls could talk, they would perhaps tell us an interesting story of our history, legacy, leadership and vision.”
The renovation brings a variety of technology and layout changes to the space, which now offers enhanced teaching and learning experiences for SGSC students as well as increased utility efficiencies for the institution. A new lecture hall accommodates more than 150 students using state-of-the-art technology as a Technology Enable Active Learning (TEAL) classroom and students will not have to go far to speak with faculty and staff who are now housed in 12 office spaces within the building.
On hand to show support for the college and celebrate the transformation of the building were Tricia Chastain, executive vice chancellor and Michael Miller, program manager and historic preservation officer from the University System of Georgia, Dominic LaRiccia representing Georgia’s District 169, senior executives from the construction and design firms, Andrea Taylor, president of the Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Authority and SGSC’s Johnathon Mykal Lewis, SGA president, Douglas Campus.
Alumni including Dr. Jim Cottingham, whose father, Dr. Tom Cottingham, taught at the college, and Diana Smith Highsmith, daughter of former college president William S. Smith, reminisced about their time at the college and the experiences they shared while living in the dorms.
“I came to live in what I call the President’s apartment in the first floor right wing of Davis Hall with my family as a five year-old little girl in 1947,” said Highsmith. “At Christmas, Daddy would have the magnolia tree just outside our apartment covered with outdoor Christmas lights. It was a highlight for me; it was so beautiful, but nothing compared with homecoming! I only have happy memories of life in Davis Hall and the college campus.”
“The number of students seeking admission to the college is growing with the inclusion of traditional students attending both the Douglas and Waycross Campuses, Dual Enrollment students attaining college credit before high school graduation and non-traditional students taking online courses,” continued Thompson-Sellers.
“The legacy of Davis Hall began 110 years ago,” she concluded. “Since then, thousands of students have passed through these halls, in addition to eight presidents and hundreds of faculty and staff. Today, our students have the opportunity to study in a safe space within a modern infrastructure that includes an enriched learning environment.”
A video and photo slide show, soon to be showcased on the SGSC website (www.sgsc.edu), captures the beauty significance of the day.
Faculty, staff, students, and friends of SGSC gather on the steps of Davis Hall for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Ms. Tricia Chastain, executive vice chancellor of administration with the University System of Georgia; Johnathon Mykal Lewis, SGSC SGA student president; and Dr. Ingrid Thompson-Sellers, president of South Georgia State College share thoughts on the renovation of Davis Hall after the ceremony.
Dr. Ingrid Thompson-Sellers speaks with the attendees at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Ms. Diana Smith Highsmith and Dr. Jim Cottingham reflect on Davis Hall while touring the renovated space.
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