Bethel University held a dedication on Friday, Nov. 11 for its newly renovated library space. Grant funds secured through the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) allowed Bethel’s library, known as the Burroughs Learning Center, to be retrofitted to be a community storm shelter. In the process of the retrofit, Bethel administration was also able to choose an exterior that better matched surrounding buildings than the library’s previous white stucco finish.
According to Bethel President, Dr. Walter Butler, the grant paid for all but 12 percent of the project, and the grant allowed for a number of in-kind services and materials to be used toward Bethel’s 12 percent match.
“We are very excited that Bethel now has a facility that will serve the people in the McKenzie community as a storm shelter,” Butler said. “This building will accommodate up to 1,800 people at one time, and it can withstand winds of up to 200 mph.”
Butler thanked McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland and the City of McKenzie for working with Bethel on securing the TEMA funds.
“This project would not have been possible without their help,” Butler said.
Butler also thanked Cary Henson Construction who carried out the retrofitting and remodel and A2H Construction who served as architects on the project.
“I would also like to recognize former President Bob Prosser, who is here with us today,” Butler said. “He was instrumental in seeing that this project got off the ground.”
He also thanked the Bethel Board for their support of the project as well as Head Librarian Jill Whitfill and the Bethel library staff for all the work they did to help move the project to reopening.
“I also thank our maintenance and housekeeping staff,” Butler said. “A lot of the work they did served as in-kind work on the project.”
Finally, Butler thanked David Huss, Bethel’s Vice President of Finance and the business office staff for all the work they did in helping to administer the grant and stay in compliance with grant specifications.
Butler was excited to point out that the name of the library remained the same as it had been before the remodel – The Burroughs Learning Center – named after Curtis Raymon Burroughs who had served as a professor, and as vice president and interim president at Bethel.
“Many of you here today might not be able to remember when Dean Burroughs was here,” Butler said. “But I have one story in particular that I want to share with you today.”
Butler shared about being recently graduated from college.
“I had to take a job at the furniture manufacturing company here,” he said. “It was hard work and not exactly what I had dreamed about doing with my college degree.”
Butler and a friend found themselves on the number 13 green at Carroll Lake Golf Course one Saturday morning when some men and Dean Burroughs called him over to the 14th tee box.
“Dean Burroughs told me he had a job opening for an admissions counselor,” Butler said. “He asked if I was interested and if I could come by and talk to him about it in the coming week.”
Butler said he did go talk to Burroughs and two weeks later he began his new job as admissions counselor.
“I feel certain that Dean Burroughs’ gesture was a pivotal moment in my career and that I would probably not be standing here today if it had not been for him,” Butler said.
Judith Burroughs Keith, Raymon Burroughs’ daughter, was on hand for the library re-dedication as well.
“I can’t tell you what this means to me,” Burroughs said. “It truly is a pleasure to share my appreciation today for this honor to my father.
“Most of you didn’t know Dean Burroughs,” she said. “And the greatest story I can tell you about him is the great joy my father found in learning and serving here at Bethel.
“What I hope you will remember most about my father is his faith in the potential of each individual,” she said. “Many students would say I never thought I was college material – Dean Burroughs would see the potential.”