By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Sept. 13 — On Friday, state dignitaries and local officials gathered with Lord Fairfax Community College representatives and a crowd of nearly 200 to commemorate the grand opening of Jenkins Hall.
The $4.7 million project marks the first permanent structure that the regional community college has built in Page County. Classes began in January after LFCC’s Luray-Page County Center moved from its North Hawksbill Street home in December.
“This is the best site for a community college in Virginia,” the state’s 20-year chancellor of community colleges Dr. Glenn DuBois said during Friday’s ceremony in Luray. “Virginia depends on our ability to educate as many as possible, and now we have one more terrific tool in that great work ahead.”
The 8-acre site donated by the Jenkins family sits between the Blue Ridge and Massanutten mountains, just behind Walmart off Route 211. The 13,000-square-foot building contains five classrooms, a computer lab, a student commons area, a small conference room, a testing center and employee space, as well as a rooftop terrace. Three of the classrooms — Caverns A, B and C — can be combined to form one large conference room.
Russell A. and Rodney A. Jenkins and their family were honored at a special event in May 2019 for donating the acreage at their development, Luray Landing, for the building that now bears their family’s name.
“They had a vision, a belief, that this was a place that should be used for the education of others,” LFCC president Dr. Kim Blosser said prior to Friday’s ribbon cutting, “and their actions inspired others.”
The campaign committee for the project began in October 2017 and has raised $3.5 million to date. Dr. Blosser acknowledged the hard work of former LFCC project manager Bev Butterfield, as well as the contributions of the late David Slye of Luray.
“He greeted everyone with a smile, and now a portrait of David will be hung in the lobby [of Jenkins Hall] so he can continue greeting everyone,” Dr. Blosser said. “His love of this community and this college will be remembered always.”
Jenkins Hall will be the site of several new programs being offered by LFCC, including a heavy equipment operator license, HVAC certification and this fall, a physical therapy assistant program. Scholarships were made available for the PTA program through the generosity of Patricia Dougans of Page County.
LFCC first came to Page County in the 1980s with three course offerings. In 2002, dual enrollment programs began in partnership with both county high schools. In 2006, LFCC moved into its former home along North Hawksbill Street, a former coffee factory and Wrangler sewing plant.
“We are thankful to have a permanent home,” Dr. Blosser told the crowd on Friday, “a building that was designed to be an educational facility.”
The two-story building will actually be owned by the LFCC Foundation, and leased by LFCC.
LFCC’s president praised Jenkins Hall as a “symbol of the community” and “a catalyst for economic development” that will provide an environment for “individuals to have hope and opportunity.”
Both Dr. Blosser and Dr. DuBois reflected on the challenges of the last year on education and the community college system.
“I believe we have a bright future beyond this terrible pandemic. We are moving things forward. You have a modern, state-of-the-art building here, and I can remember the Wrangler building…I remember complaints it was leaking on students,” Dr. DuBois told Friday’s crowd at Jenkins Hall. “This college was created 55 years ago to provide everyone an opportunity for higher education and workforce training. If there’s anything that this pandemic has taught us, it affirms the need for colleges to grow and change.”
Virginia’s Secretary of Labor Megan Healy shared her connections to Page County with the crowd. Her mother, originally from Caroline County, got her first teaching job here, and her college roommate of three years at Virginia Tech hailed from Page.
“Virginia has done better than other states [during and following the COVID-19 pandemic], and you are one ahead of the game here,” Healy said. “A building like this is an opportunity for students. It’s amazing to think of the lives you are going to change.”
Brianna Sine, LFCC Class of 2018 and Luray High School Class of 2015, shared how the local community college had changed her life. After starting dual enrollment classes while a sophomore at LHS, Sine received a two-year degree in general studies at LFCC and then completed a two-year degree in criminal justice at Regent University. Due to dual enrollment classes, Sine had completed 58 percent of the credits for her general studies degree by the time she enrolled at LFCC. After working briefly in Norfolk, Sine is now an officer with the Luray Police Department.
“This is another example of how most community college students remain in or return to the community they are from,” Dr. Blosser stated, “and they contribute to those communities. We see this as a return on the investment in the communities that we serve.”
LFCC plans to return to its annual fundraising event, “Evening With the Stars” — typically held in September — in 2022.
Sine, as one of LFCC’s “stars”, recognizes the impact of LFCC on the local community and what a new facility like Jenkins Hall means to attracting more students.
“Having a state-of-the-art facility like this in Page County paves the way for new success stories.”
To see images from the ribbon cutting and grand opening held at Jenkins Hall on Friday, Sept. 10, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lfccedu/albums/72157719809570526