With a legacy spanning eight decades, Butler Community College finally has a building, its leaders say, that can be a symbol of the school's past, present and future.
The dedication ceremony and open house for the Hubbard Welcome Center begins at 5 p.m. today at 901 S. Haverhill Road in El Dorado.
Private donors funded 88 percent of the $4.2 million, 32,000 square foot building, according to a news release issued by the college. That includes $1.5 million from lead donor R.D. Hubbard.
School officials said Monday that the new building can be utilized by the college and the community. It has five meeting rooms that can be leased by local residents, and the Clifford/Stone Community Room, designed to hold between 500 and 800 people. School officials say it is the largest meeting space in Butler County.
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One of the focal points is hanging artwork by Stuart Allen, a visual artist who studied architecture at the University of Kansas and graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1993.
"Butler has long needed a building like this to convey the kind of learning environment we strive to create — warm, nurturing and inviting," said Jackie Vietti, the school's president, whose office will be in the new building.
Before the building, Vietti said, a person's first view of the college campus was a sea of asphalt.
"This building helps in a very tangible way convey our culture to the current and perspective students and visitors to our campus," she said.
The college began in 1927 as El Dorado Junior College with 150 students. It has gone through a name change and an evolution that now includes six physical campuses, one virtual campus and 13,000 students who attend classes each year, Vietti said.
In 2007, Hubbard — who attended the school in the 1950s on a basketball scholarship — gave the college $1.5 million, the largest gift in the school's history. Vietti said Monday that Hubbard has helped finance the construction of three of the college's 12 buildings on the El Dorado campus. He also provides the funding for one of the college's most prestigious scholarships, the Hubbard Award of Excellence.
Hubbard and his wife, Joan, are expected to attend today's ceremonies, Vietti said.
"You can walk from one end of the El Dorado campus to the other and see his handprint on the buildings as you progress," she said.
"He never has forgotten his roots. He has been very generous to Butler."