Pellissippi State opens Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science

By Ken Lay

A rainy day couldn’t throw a damper on the excitement at Pellissippi State Community College’s Hardin Valley campus Tuesday.

The inclement weather forced the school’s administration to shuffle to make changes but Pellissippi State dedicated the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science in a ceremony as donors, students, administrators and former Tennessee Governor and Knoxville City Mayor Bill Haslam were on hand for the festivities.

The community college welcomes students back this week and its math and science students now have a new state-of-the art facility to pursue their academic endeavors.

The building officially opened with a ribbon cutting on Tuesday. It was built by Denmark Construction and designed by BarberMcMurry Architects.

Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. said that the new facility will enhance the campus’s math and science programs and enable the college to offer new classes for its students.

“We made a strategic decision that if we’re going to teach science, mathematics and teacher education, as well as have the ability to offer new programs like Water Quality Technology, we had to make this investment,” Wise said. “We are really grateful for our partnership with BarberMcMurry Architects in thinking about what this space might look like, not about only for teaching and learning inside the classroom, but for the kind of collaboration that is necessary outside the classroom for our students.”

Pellissippi State alumnus Carlos Gonzalez was extremely impressed with the 82,000-square foot facility that holds 18 classrooms, nine science labs and six computer labs.

“As I walked around the Haslam Center, I was impressed with the meaningful use of space and the attention to detail to better serve our students,” said Gonzalez, who attended Pellissippi State at a time when students had to fight for lab space.

Haslam has been hailed as a champion of public education, thanks to his programs Drive to 55, Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect.

Haslam said that he was honored and humbled to have the facility bear his name. He even made a joke at his own expense.

“We have a lot of problems facing our nation today, and the way to solve those problems is through enhancement in public education,” Haslam said. “I was thinking, driving out here, if you were going to pick a perfect location for a community college, you might pick this one.

“I was also thinking that if any of my math and science teachers saw my name on the building, they’d have to smile. I remember when I took Crissy to meet my family, my dad, who always says what he thinks asked her, ‘So what did you get on your ACT?’

“She responded with the appropriate look of shock and said, ‘Better than your son.’ It was true then and it would be true if we took it again today.”