MAGNOLIA -- Stressing the importance of partnerships that benefit students as well as South Arkansas, Dr. Trey Berry, president of Southern Arkansas University, led a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the First Financial Bank Poultry Education Facility on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.

Berry welcomed representatives of First Financial Bank of El Dorado and Farm Bureau Insurance, as well as SAU alumni, faculty, and staff, to the ceremony on the north side of the Agriculture Center.

“This day is not only about a building, but also our students and our future,” said Berry. “This building represents many things to SAU, including the dedication and vision of several great education partners. It also represents our commitment to agriculture education. That dedication will not slow down. You see it right now all around you. The future of agriculture education is bright.”

He thanked SAU’s many partners in enhancing its poultry studies curriculum. “First Financial has been our partner since Day One. They have been a longtime leader in the poultry industry, and we thank them for their support,” Berry said.

Chris Hegi, CEO of First Financial, congratulated SAU on its program and facility. “We have been making poultry loans for 30 plus years, and I can tell you, there is nothing else like this facility. Hats off to all for a job well done.”

Hegi said the new building represents the University’s agricultural roots. “We hope to find additional partnerships moving forward. I am convinced that this investment will pay dividends for years to come for the poultry industry,” he said.

Caleb Plyler, SAU alumnus and member of the Arkansas Farm Bureau board, said poultry is vital to South Arkansas. “Farm Bureau is happy to help SAU provide these educational opportunities. I am grateful to see all the wonderful new things happening in SAU’s agriculture program,” he shared.

He thanked Dr. Berry and Dr. Jeffry Miller, chair of the Agriculture Department, for continuing to expand and improve the educational experience for students.

Dr. David Lanoue, SAU’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said the University is uniquely positioned to create a trained workforce that will serve the poultry industry.

“Our poultry science degree option expands our offerings while meeting the needs of the industry,” he said. “Our students will have the kind of individualized training they won’t be able to get in a larger program.”

Lanoue thanked all the partners for their support of agriculture at SAU. “They have shown strong commitment to the people and communities of this region,” he said. “We’re going to produce great leaders, and we are going to do great things for economic development right here in south Arkansas.”

Larry Daniel, an SAU alumnus and recently retired from Pilgrim’s Pride, addressed the importance of training students for work in the poultry industry. “We often have to train new employees on the technical side,” he said, “but this program will allow us to hire graduates who can hit the ground running.”

The curriculum will “give students a leg up” with a good understanding of industry principles, Daniel said.

Berry thanked such partners as Chore-Time, a provider of cutting-edge poultry and egg production systems; Reliable Poultry Supply, a leader in poultry farm construction, and Farm Bureau for serving as a longtime SAU partner.

He expressed his appreciation to Dr. Jeff Miller, who envisioned SAU becoming a poultry education leader. “We are now on that path,” Berry told Miller.

The dedication concluded with an “egg cracking” by donors, Board of Trustee members, and administrators followed by tours of the facility.

The project was funded through private support. Fundraising for this facility was a part of the University’s Love and Loyalty Campaign, an effort which is in its fifth and final year seeking to raise $22.275 million. Providing cutting-edge technology and equipment in classrooms and laboratories are primary campaign focuses. For more information on the Love and Loyalty Campaign, please visit www.sauloveandloyalty.com or contact the Division of Advancement at 870-235-4078.

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