11 months ago
Two years ago on a hot summer day, workers turned ground for construction of the new Student Center at Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts. On Thursday, May 24, the school celebrated the dedication of the 80,000-square-foot building that will provide students with new residence halls, library, kitchen and dining facilities, lounge areas, as well as offices for the Residential Life staff, security and the school nurse.
ASMSA Director Dr. Janet Hugo thanked the many people who worked on the project. It was definitely a team effort from the beginning design stages to the construction, from the interior decorating to the landscaping, and certainly all the people who helped with the financing of the $18 million project.
During the ceremony, Hugo announced the boys’ residence hall would be named “Faris Hall” in honor of former Sen. Steve Faris who was very instrumental in helping secure the state funding for the building and has been a strong supporter of ASMSA’s academic program.
“Steve Faris is a bull dog, and I have appreciated his tenacity,” said Hugo. “He loves this school. Three years ago, Steve entrusted ASMSA with a young man who is very much a son to him. Harry graduated in 2011 and is now a student at Ouachita Baptist University. There are no words to thank you, Steve, for all you have done and for giving us Harry.”
Upon taking the stage, a surprised and grateful Faris said he did not know what to say. “I watched this school change a life and in a way it changed my life as well.”
Faris described ASMSA as a “unique facility filled with unique people” and said students leave the school “uniquely better.”
Hugo also announced the girls’ residence hall would be named in honor of former Dean of Academic Affairs Melanie Nichols. “Melanie Nichols was the first teacher hired at the school before it was even ready for students. Although she retired two years ago, her influence on the school remains. Thank you, Melanie for your years of service.”
Hugo also honored Finance Director JaNan Abernathy by naming the second floor lounge on the girls side “Abernathy Theater Room.” Because the school received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money for the project, there were many additional procedures to follow and much additional paperwork to complete. “She has been my rock though this process,” said Hugo.
The second-floor lounge on the boys’ hall was named in honor of recently retired Facilities Manager Wes Burton. “Wes Burton served as the liaison with the contractor and I know he kept them straight,” said Hugo.
Governor Mike Beebe delivered the keynote address for the crowd of about 250 people.
The school received $6.35 million in ARRA money for the construction. That was the single largest appropriation in the state. Beebe said when distributing the state’s ARRA money, he thought it should be used for one-time expenses, such as the many capital improvement needs across the state.
“This one certainly was a success story about how that money was spent.”
Not only did the money help address a capital project need; it also kept many people employed during the two-year construction process.
“This is a success story on so many levels,” said Beebe. “Hot Springs should be proud of this.”
Beebe also thanked Director Hugo for her dedication to the school and her determination to get the money for the new building.
“Janet Hugo loves these students, loves this institution, loves this place,” he said. “The people of Arkansas are forever grateful for your leadership.”
The governor said the true celebration is the lasting legacy of the students who come to ASMSA.
“The young people who will achieve a level of educational exposure and excellence that is second to none.”
The Arkansas State Legislature created ASMSA in 1991 as a means to provide a challenging academic experience for high school juniors and seniors who excel in the study of math and science and to increase the number of Arkansas students earning college degrees. In return, these graduates could better contribute to the economic development of the state.
Since the first class graduated in 1995, the 1,840 ASMSA graduates have received more than $149 million in scholarship offers. Each year approximately 65 percent of the students choose to further their educations at colleges and universities in Arkansas. The 93 members of the class of 2012 earned more than $10 million in scholarship offers and 85 percent will attend college in Arkansas.