A college town now: MTEC holds ribbon-cutting, open house

Friday, February 19, 2010
Motlow College President MaryLou Apple, left, Tennessee Board of Regents Vice-Chancellor David Gregory and MTSU President Sidney McPhee were all smiles during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. (T-G Photo by John I. Carney)

Middle Tennessee Education Center, a joint venture of Middle Tennessee State University and Motlow State Community College, held an open house and ribbon-cutting Thursday morning, and MTSU President Dr. Sidney McPhee announced two full degree programs which MTSU will offer at the facility.

Beginning this fall, said McPhee, a full degree program will be offered by the education department in interdisciplinary studies for kindergarten through sixth grade. Then, in fall 2011, MTSU will begin offering a full degree program through its business administration department.

Dr. Mike Boyle, MTSU's dean of continuing education and distance learning, said later that many in attendance for the open house didn't seem to realize that this was a new and significant announcement; just to make sure, McPhee stressed it again two hours later during his speech to the annual Shelbyville & Bedford County Chamber of Commerce luncheon banquet.

"We are here," said McPhee. "We are here to stay."

Dr. Sidney McPhee, President of Middle Tennessee State University, cuts the ribbon to formally open Middle Tennessee Education Center, a joint Motlow State Community College-MTSU satellite campus in Shelbyville. To the immediate right of McPhee are Evelyn McGrew, widow of banker Sidney "Bud" McGrew, a booster of the project; Motlow President Dr. MaryLou Apple; and County Mayor Eugene Ray. (T-G Photo by John I. Carney)

MTEC held classes beginning last fall at Shelbyville Central High School while its new home was being remodeled in the county-owned Medical Arts Building on Dover Street. Classes began using the new facility after the first of the year.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, McPhee noted that Motlow students at MTEC currently outnumber MTSU students.

Dr. MaryLou Apple, president of Motlow, said that the two institutions are in partnership, as MTSU is the eventual destination for many Motlow students after they earn two-year degrees.

"One of our major goals is to send them on to a university," said Apple.

McPhee praised the community in general and County Mayor Eugene Ray in particular for their support of the effort.

"We cannot give him enough credit for this day being a reality," said McPhee.

McPhee told the chamber that numerous communities have requested an MTSU presence, but MTEC is the first, and so far only, full-service satellite MTSU has opened. It was opened during a time of economic uncertainty and budget cutbacks.

"It was, initially, an uphill battle," said David Gregory, vice-chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents. Both MTSU and Motlow are part of the TBR system, which includes community colleges, Tennessee Technology Centers, and all state universities other than the University of Tennessee system.

Gregory said local community support made the MTEC project possible.

Ray gave credit to Bedford County Commissioners and to numerous others in the community who supported the project. Ed Dodson, a Shelbyville native who recently became the city's codes director, provided architectural services for the project even while he was living in Atlanta. Sheriff Randall Boyce supplied jail inmate labor for the renovation. Heritage Medical Center, which was entitled to the use of six suites in the building for the next 10 years, gave them up to make way for the project.

"This was a tremendous dream," said Ray.

McPhee said the availability of Motlow and MTSU courses in Shelbyville will help improve the workforce, and ultimately the quality of life, for the area.

"We are interested in making a difference in the lives of citizens in this region," said McPhee.

"Ultimately," said Apple, "we need an educated Tennessee. That's what we need."

He joked that MTEC will have one advantage over the main campus in Murfreesboro.

"I know what it's like to come to MTSU and have to find a parking space," he said.

But several speakers said the hard work is only beginning.

"Access is Phase One," said Apple. "Student success is Phase Two, and the ultimate goal."

McPhee challenged Bedford County to be active in its support and advocacy for MTSU in general, as well as for MTEC. At the chamber luncheon, McPhee was introduced by MTSU women's basketball coach Rick Insell, the former coach at Central High School, and McPhee said he appreciated the strong support given the Lady Raiders by fans from Shelbyville.

MTEC can be reached for more information at 685-4444. The advisor for MTSU students is Molly Culbreath; the advisor for Motlow students is Renea Cotham.