UT Martin Somerville Center officially opens Aug. 24 with ceremony, ribbon cutting
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MARTIN, Tenn. — Years of planning and persistence paid dividends Aug. 24 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the new University of Tennessee at Martin Somerville Center in Fayette County. Elected and university officials and guests gathered at the center’s sun-drenched front entrance to open the facility that will welcome students for fall classes that start Aug. 28.
The former Methodist Fayette Hospital has been transformed into a state-of-the-art higher education facility that features science and computer laboratory space, classrooms, conference rooms and offices. The center offers select degree programs and courses and will also concentrate on job-skill training and meeting the immediate needs of existing and prospective regional employers.
“This today is what happens when a great city, and a great county, and a great state, and great people pair together with a great university and create opportunities like Somerville,” said Dr. Keith Carver. He added that part of UT Martin’s mission is to provide access and “that students in this region can have access and can dream, and we can equip them to pursue their dreams.”
Other program speakers included Kara Tapp, Somerville Center director; Somerville Mayor Ronnie Neill; Fayette County Mayor Rhea “Skip” Taylor; State Rep. Ron Gant (R-District 94); State Sen. Delores Gresham (R-District 26); and Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-District 5).
Discussions about a possible Fayette County higher education center began in 2004. The University of Tennessee and UT Martin became involved in 2012, a new building for the center was originally proposed, but the project was cost-prohibitive. Methodist Fayette Hospital then closed in March 2015, and Fayette County officials approached Methodist Healthcare about giving the facility to the town.
The facility was transferred to the town in July 2015, and Methodist Healthcare also gave the city $250,000 to assist with the facility’s renovation. The State Building Commission approved a lease on July 25, 2016, between the University of Tennessee and the city of Somerville to house the UT Martin Somerville Center in the former hospital building.
Earlier in 2016, the Tennessee General Assembly approved $250,000 in recurring funding for the center in the state’s 2016-17 budget. Also approved was $875,000 in one-time funding to support the facility’s renovation. Gov. Bill Haslam visited Somerville on July 26, 2016, to formally present UT Martin with the total $1.125 million in funding from the state to establish the new center. A ground-breaking event was held Dec. 7 to officially begin the renovation project that was completed in time for the 2017 fall semester.
“Not everybody has a chance to go take four years off their life and move and be a resident on campus somewhere,” said Gov. Bill Haslam when he visited Somerville in July 2016 to announce the funding to establish the center. “Higher education looks different to everybody now. One of the keys is to make certain that it’s convenient for people who have other things going on in their lives. This campus is a real effort to do that.”
More information about the center is available online at utm.edu, by contacting Kara Tapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the center at 901-465-7313.
MARTIN, Tenn., Aug. 24, 2017 – UT MARTIN SOMERVILLE CENTER OPENS – A ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 24 officially opened the new UT Martin Somerville Center in Fayette County. Celebrating the ribbon cutting and opening were (l to r) Bob Turner, administrator for the town of Somerville; Ellen Wadley, architect, Fleming Architects; Skip Taylor, Fayette County mayor; Ronnie Neill, Somerville mayor; State Rep. Ron Gant (R-District 94); State Sen. Delores Gresham (R-District 26); Kara Tapp, UT Martin Somerville Center director; Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-District 5); UT President Joe DiPietro; UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver; UT Martin Chancellor Emeritus Bob Smith; and Dr. Brian Donavant, interim executive director, UT Martin Office of Educational Outreach.