More than 1,500 people joined the celebration on Saturday, Aug. 1 for St. Petersburg College’s grand opening of the new Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Midtown Center at 1300 22nd St. S.
The new 49,000-square-foot, state-of-the art center is named in honor of the late Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr., a longtime legislator and a Florida Commissioner of Education. Jamerson, a graduate of St. Petersburg College, was one of the most prominent politicians in the state of Florida and a fierce advocate for education. He passed away in 2001.
“What a wonderful way to honor the work and life of Douglas Jamerson,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
In honor of their contributions to the community SPC President William D. Law, Jr., and the Board of Trustees, presented six honorary Bachelor of Arts in College and Community Services degrees to:
- Goliath Davis III, former Deputy Mayor of Midtown Economic Development, City of St. Petersburg
- Bruce Grimes, Real Estate and Property Management Director, City of St. Petersburg
- Joseph H. Lang, President of Baynard, McLeod and Lang, PA, and SPC’s Board of Trustees Attorney
- The Rev. Louis M. Murphy, Sr., Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church
- The Rev. Wayne G. Thompson, First Baptist Institutional Church
- The Rev. Clarence A. Williams, Greater Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.
SPC Trustee Deveron M. Gibbons spoke of how Jamerson mentored him over the years, recalling that he still carries with him Jamerson’s advice: “It’s not how powerful you can become – it’s how many people you can empower.”
Jamerson’s family received a standing ovation from the packed audience.
Rev. Murphy, who gave the invocation, said the new center brings “hope” and “opportunity” to the community.
Niki Johnson, President of the Midtown Center Student Government Association (SGA) and Alexis Clavizzao, President of the Downtown SGA, shared with the crowd their joy over the new center and how they believed it would have a profound impact on the community.
“I encourage everyone today to take advantage of the opportunities available to you and spread the name of SPC across the world,” Johnson said.
The event included presentations by prominent local officials and community activists, and a block party. Attendees toured the facility, built by locally owned LEMA Construction, and were able to take advantage of a slate of college services, such as academic and career advising, and assistance with registration and financial aid. The event – which was sponsored by Duke Energy and supported by LEMA Construction – also included complimentary lunch, multiple vendors, a “Kids Zone,” and live entertainment.
Guest speakers included:
- Rick Kriseman, Mayor, City of St. Petersburg
- Alex Glenn, President, Duke Energy, Florida
- Trustee Gibbons
- President Law, Jr.
- SGA leaders Johnson and Clavizzao
- Kevin Gordon, Provost, Midtown Center, St. Petersburg College
- The Rev. Thompson, The Rev. Murphy and The Rev. Williams
Multiple other civic and community leaders were in attendance, including but not limited to: St. Petersburg Council Members Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse; Pinellas County Commissioners Kenneth T. Welch and Pat Gerard; St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway; Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter; and former St. Petersburg Mayor Bob Ulrich.
The new center includes graphic art installations that tell the story of the rich history of Midtown, and 22nd Street – affectionately nicknamed “The Deuces.” Community members walked the halls and shared their memories of eating at Geech’s BBQ, working at the old Mercy Hospital, and dancing nights away at the old Manhattan Casino.
St. Petersburg College has long been dedicated to providing educational opportunities in Midtown. The original 10,000-square-foot Midtown Center at 1048 22nd St. So., opened in 2003 as part of a $2 million St. Petersburg Housing Authority’s HOPE VI project. It has been renamed the Cecil B. Keene, Sr. Student Achievement Center, in honor of the late educator and SPC Board of Trustees member, who died in 2008.
In 2012, as demand for classes and community involvement grew, SPC’s Board of Trustees approved a $14 million expenditure to build the new three-story building on land leased from the City of St. Petersburg. The new center includes multiple classrooms, two science labs, three computer labs, a book store, a community room, and a career center.
The center is already being used by students and the community, and is open for classes for the Fall 2015 term, which begins Aug. 17.