Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, center, gives a thumbs up after the official ribbon cutting for the new Old Main Academic Center on Monday. Flanking Keenum, from left, are Judy Bonner, Frances Coleman and Catherine Boyd. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
August 15, 2017 10:31:20 AM
When Mark Keenum began his duties as the 19th Mississippi State University president in 2009, he set a growth trajectory to reach 22,000 students.
At that time, hitting such a lofty goal would also mean reaching the university's max capacity, Keenum said.
Now surpassing the 22,000-student goal, new additions like the Old Main Academic Center, which was officially unveiled Monday, make future growth possible.
"The new Old Main Academic Center represents this commitment," Keenum said. "It is a beautiful addition to the historic heart of our campus, but moreover, it offers an exceptional teaching and learning environment."
Reminiscent of the Old Main dormitory that was destroyed by a fire in 1959, the new facility features similar exterior architecture as the original building. However, the similarities stop at the exterior and, of course, the name.
Featuring 90,000 square feet of classroom and student study space, and a 60,000 square-foot public parking garage, MSU estimates 11,000 students will use the facility on its busiest days.
Different from any other classroom building on campus, the $41 million project does not offer any office space for faculty or staff members, and no specific college has jurisdiction of the facilities.
Instead, MSU Libraries will oversee the entire building's administrative operations, including the Library Commons containing a 16-station computer lab with printing and hands-on research assistance.
"Our students are so important to what we do here," said MSU Libraries Dean Frances Coleman. "And I know this building will ring true to what Mississippi State really stands for."
The center will also have an art gallery, a commons and lounging area, study rooms and Provisions on Demand (POD) convenience store.
Keenum said each room in the facility will feature top-of-the-line equipment and cutting-edge technology to insure students are provided the best education possible.
"This will help our students be the most proficient in their abilities to learn," Keenum said. "I'm just thrilled we were able to bring this to campus, especially in a time where we are growing and need to meet those capacity needs. It's been a long journey, but we finally made it."
History of Old Main dormitory
Built in 1880, Old Main was the first residence hall built at MSU and was once considered to be the largest student dormitory in the country under one roof.
With the final addition to the building complete in 1922, Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said Old Main, in its final form, had more than 500 rooms and held more than 1,000 people. In the 79 years before it burned, he said, the building housed nearly 40,000 MSU students.
On January 22, 1959, flames destroyed the entire building, but the bricks that were salvaged from the fire were later used in the construction of the Chapel of Memories.
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