A donation of a $1.5 million lead gift toward the construction of a new Northwest Arkansas Community College facility in Washington County and a culinary center for the study of food represent the college’s vision, said NWACC President Evelyn Jorgensen.
The gift was announced at the college foundation’s annual scholarship fundraiser, Plant a Seed Soiree, on Thursday night (April 28).
Jorgenson told the crowd of 350 community leaders and college faculty and staff that the donation comes from the estate of the late Jackson G. and Ella Frances Byrd, longtime residents of Springdale. The gift is slated to benefit “The NWA Ripple Effect – Change the Landscape campaign,” a fundraising effort to assist the college in constructing a dedicated education and training center in Springdale. The 50,000 square foot center will be built on 20 acres the college owns just west of Arvest Ballpark.
Construction of the facility is projected to cost $15 million and will require 100% philanthropic funding. Construction is expected to begin in late 2017, provided the philanthropic funds have been raised, organizers said.
“We have a long way to go to meet our campaign fundraising goal, but we are committed to making this project a reality, with our community’s help,” Jorgenson said.
Dr. Meredith Brunen, NWACC Foundation executive director, said facility construction will allow centralization of current leased facilities and resources, as well as provide new education and training opportunities for residents from all over NWA.
Jorgenson also announced the spring 2017 launch of “Brightwater, a center for the study of food,” funded by the Walton Family foundation and other area businesses.
“The multi-million dollar investment will provide a world-class culinary experience for those in our region who are interested in food as art, food as wellness and food as business,” Dr. Glen Mack, executive director of Brightwater, said in a video during the evening.
Mack said the college is expanding their food program and rebranding it with new programming and the new name.
“As part of the rebranding effort, we decided on the name “Brightwater”, which is a famous Arkansas apple variety that is no longer in existence,” Mack said. “We wanted to harken back to the agricultural bounty of Northwest Arkansas and its heritage in food. We decided to give it a different name, Brightwater, to show that we’re not going to be a traditional cooking school.”
He said the school will continue to train cooks and bakers for restaurants and hotels, but will also wants to train “food entrepreneurs and culinarians.”
“For example, we’re going to focus on food systems within NWA so students understand where, as culinarians, they fit into the food system,” Mack said.
Jorgenson said NWACC is the first community college and the first nursing program in the nation to sign on to teach culinary medicine in partnership with the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University. This is a distinctive partnership “that will foster collaboration between our nursing program and the culinary arts program,” Jorgenson said.
Jorgenson said Brightwater will offer curriculum that focuses on food and medicine, and will give local regional and medical providers continuing medical education.
This year’s Soiree was the culmination of the 25th anniversary celebration of the college and a video was shown during the event that highlighted interviews with local leaders who helped start the college 25 years ago.
Also during the evening, Dick Trammel, a founding trustee of the college, raised $19,150 in five minutes from guests’ donations to fund Dr. J’s Book Club, a scholarship fund to help students with the cost of textbooks.