Brewton-Parker dedicates Student Activities Center as 'a gift from God' to many

By Terry Gaston

MOUNT VERNON - Brewton-Parker College dedicated its Student Activities Center with an April 10 ribbon-cutting ceremony that Jay Orr, Brewton-Parker's vice president for college advancement, called "the culmination of a dream of many people."

The ceremony took place in the 45,000-square-foot Student Activities Center's centerpiece, its gymnasium, which seats 1,800 for basketball games and volleyball matches and may seat up to 2,300 for conferences and concerts.

"This building represents a gift from God to everyone here," Orr said in introducing the speakers for a thematically orchestrated series of speeches.

Three area representatives - Bill Mitchell, executive director of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce; Joey Fountain, mayor of Mount Vernon; and Wylie Morris, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners - offered thoughts of the center being a gift to community.

"This is quite an excellent statement, on behalf of Brewton-Parker, on what they believe this community is and what it has to offer," Mitchell said.

"We look forward to Brewton-Parker being a big asset to our community and developing this city, and we want to work hand in hand with them to make this college all it can be," said Fountain, who made note of the invitational high school tournament played in the facility in December and the Region 3-Class AA high school tournament in February.

Morris likened the building as representing "the feet behind the prayer," the result of many years of prayer and supplication that led to its construction. "This building is something we can all be proud of here in Montgomery County."

Dr. J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, spoke on behalf of the many donors, including the GBC, that made the dream of the facility become reality.

"We give to those entities in which we believe, in which we feel a great sense of trust in the mission of the institution," White said. "That is certainly true in the feeling that Georgia Baptists have about Brewton-Parker College."

White offered that those sentiments included a strong belief in the president, Dr. David Smith, belief in the Brewton-Parker Board of Trustees and its leadership under Dr. Allen Hughes, and its belief in the administration, faculty and students of the college.

"Georgia Baptists are honored to invest in the lives of these students because we know in the years to come, they are going to be the pastors and ministers of youth, education, children and senior adults who serve in our churches," White said. "We also want to invest in the students who will be Christian physicians, lawyers, teachers and community leaders in the years to come.

"Brewton-Parker College has a great future. This building is simply a physical statement that God is going to work in this place, that God has great plans for this college. Georgia Baptists are proud of Brewton-Parker College, and we are thankful for the privilege of investing in your present and also in your future."

Hughes, pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, spoke on the center as being a gift to Georgia Baptists.

"This building is a tool to carry out the mission and the calling given to us by our Lord and by our Baptist family, as we train and educate students with facilities like this and then send them out with an established Christian worldview to make a difference where God calls them to be and to serve," Hughes said.

The center, which opened Oct. 1, encompasses the Lee Center, where the weight room was refurbished and stocked with new weight-training equipment, and where cardiovascular workout machines and a state-of-the-art aerobics area are contained.

"Since its completion, it has provided a game room for students, new weight-training and aerobic activity areas and larger concession stands," Josh Hartley, a Brewton-Parker junior from Sandersville and the newly elected president of the Student Government Association, said on how the building is a benefit to students. "It has also improved attendance at basketball games and encouraged more students to get involved in intramural games."

"The opening of this facility represents a continuation of a long-term commitment to athletics," Steve Baker, president and CEO of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, said in his recognizing the building as a gift to intercollegiate athletics.

"It tells me that this college has viewed athletics as being an integral part of the academic process and a very important part of the college community."

The center includes coaches' office suites and a Hall of Fame Room.

Steve Barker, athletic director and head men's basketball coach, offered in his synopsis that the center is a gift to coaches: "This building has changed the entire outlook on the athletic department and on its coaches. I have a reborn enthusiasm for making more effort just knowing this facility brings in the type of athlete that wants to win."

Jerry Burk of Stanmar Inc., the center's designer and contractor, offered insight on the facility's gift to industry, recognizing those who worked on the center as achieving construction successes much like those experienced by the Brewton-Parker basketball and volleyball teams during their first seasons in the center. Both were motivated by "determination, drive and hard work."

"This building is a testament to the vision of many, and it has been my honor and pleasure to work with these fine people to see that vision fulfilled," Burk added.

"This facility is not just about activity, it is not just about an opportunity to participate in recreation and it is not only about athletics," President Smith said. "This facility is a cornerstone for us to build an even stronger and more diverse academic enterprise at Brewton-Parker."

Other activities that were part of the Student Activities Center's dedication included a Southern Gospel concert featuring award-winning artists Squire Parsons and Sue Dodge that drew about 400 attendees on April 8.

The following evening, Rob Miller, director of development for the NAIA, offered insight through the NAIA's Champions of Character initiative to about 300 area student-athletes and coaches about how they, officials and spectators can be committed to the true spirit of competition through respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship.

Christian comedian Dennis Swanberg took the stage in the SAC gym the evening of the dedication to share his encouragement through laughter with an estimated 900 audience members.

"This is a very special day," Orr said. "I have been told, I can't tell you how many times since I came here, about how far back people have dreamed of this facility. Today, the dream is a reality."



Speakers for the dedication of Brewton-Parker College's new Student Activities Center cut the ribbon to conclude the April 10 ceremony inside the center's gymnasium on the Brewton-Parker campus in Mount Vernon.

Dr. J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, speaks on how Brewton-Parker College's new Student Activities Center is an investment for donors during the April 10 dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony inside the center's gymnasium on the Brewton-Parker campus in Mount Vernon. Other speakers shown on the platform are: (from left) Joey Fountain, mayor of Mount Vernon; Wylie Morris, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners; Bill Mitchell, executive director of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce; and Dr. Allen Hughes, chairman of the Brewton-Parker Board of Trustees and pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula.

Christian comedian Dennis Swanberg offers shares his encouragement through humor with about 900 audience members during his April 10 performance in the Student Activities Center at Brewton-Parker College. (Photo by Charles Conkin)

Two Brewton-Parker College students battle it out in inflated Sumo wrestling suits while others wait their turns on other activities during the Fun Day games inside the Student Activities Center as part of the center's dedication April 10. (Photo by Charles Conkin)