St. Petersburg College and the Midtown community on Saturday celebrated both the past – the legacies of leaders Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. and Cecil B. Keene Sr. – and the future of education in the community.
An event at the site where the new 49,000-square-foot Midtown campus is beginning to rise honored Mr. Keene’s and Mr. Jamerson’s contributions to education locally and statewide by officially placing their names on SPC buildings.
The new facility, scheduled to open in mid-2015 at the corner of 22nd Street S and 13th Avenue S, will be called the Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. Midtown Center. The three-story building will include classrooms, labs, community space, computer labs, student services areas and a library with a children’s area.
The college’s current facility at 1048 22nd St. S was renamed the Cecil B. Keene, Sr. Student Achievement Center.
“When I think about Mr. Keene,” he said, “what I think about most was his commitment to people and especially to students.”
Mr. Jamerson, he said, was his uncle and his mentor, a man who worked across the state for others. “He was the best legislator of this district I’ve ever seen. He fought with everything he could for St. Petersburg to be a better community.”
The event marked the official beginning of construction on the new Douglas L. Jamerson Midtown Center.
The Rev. Wayne Thompson, before his invocation, said the new building sits next to the spot where he was born, in the former Mercy Hospital. “I was thinking this morning that maybe today I was going to be reborn,” he said. “In many ways, this community is going to be reborn because of this bold initiative by St. Petersburg College and the Board of Trustees.”
SPC President Bill Law said he has been a college president for 25 years. At the end of his career, he said, “When I’m asked what are the five best days you has as a president, this will be one.”
The day was historic, Dr. Law said. “We stand here in celebration in a location that hasn’t always had reason to celebrate.”
People like Mr. Jamerson, Mr. Keene and Johnnie Ruth Clarke, for whom the adjacent health center is named, always knew that the community was strong and never stopped fighting for it, Dr. Law said. “Our celebration was put in motion years ago by those who could feel the heartbeat of this community.”
Chairman Gibbons recognized past leaders from the college and the city who fought for years to make the Midtown campus a reality, including former board members Terry Brett, Ken Burke, Ken Welch and Dick Johnston; former mayors David Fischer and Rick Baker; and community activist Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter.
“You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re at,” he said. “Here we are now – we’re going to have a place of learning. We’re going to have people who can go to college right here on 22nd Street, on the Deuces.”
Mayor Rick Kriseman praised the college for its commitment to Midtown. He said his administration wants to focus on workforce training and employment in the community. “When it comes to workforce training, there’s no better partner for us than St. Petersburg College.”
See photos from the event on the college’s Facebook page.
Watch the event on SPC’s YouTube channel.