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Former President Tours Russell Building

Dr. Charles Russell Gets Up-Close Look at Academic Facility Bearing His Name

WINTERVILLE—Former Pitt Community College President Charles Russell was on campus this week to see firsthand the progress being made on construction of an academic building that bears his name.

Russell, who served as president from 1984 until his retirement in 2003, toured the 54,000-square-foot facility on July 25, calling it “awesome” at the conclusion of his visit.

“You run out of words,” he said. “A lot of young people will be helped in this building by getting an education that will ultimately help them go to work.”

Russell said he was “overwhelmed” by the structure, adding that construction was “further along” than he’d expected.

“I never dreamed of a building like this,” Russell said.

Malcolm Waters, superintendent of the Russell Building project for Raleigh-based Centurion Construction, said the $9.3 million facility is “roughly 50-55 percent complete” and anticipated it will be completed in July 2012.

Guerry Barbee, PCC’s construction project manager, said the college is expecting to take occupancy of the building in the fall of next year.

Designed by Greenville’s JKF Architecture, the Russell Building will feature general purpose classrooms, computer labs and faculty offices. It will also include study areas, conference rooms and a secondary campus data facility.

Currently the state’s most crowded community college, PCC will benefit greatly from the additional teaching space the Russell Building provides. A record 8,600 students signed up for fall classes at Pitt in 2010 – quite a change from the 2,500 students on campus in November 1982, when Russell took over as acting president after William E. Fulford’s health declined.

Under Russell’s guidance, PCC added 32 curriculum degree programs and seven new buildings. He also helped lead the charge for three major bond referenda to provide continued funding for classroom and lab facilities.

In retrospect, Russell says it was a decision by PCC administrators to use $2 million in 1989 bond revenue to purchase 105 acres from the H.L. Bowen heirs that proved to be the foundation for much of the growth now taking place at the college.

“In the 1980s, we gave up [construction of] a new building to get land,” he said. “… We’d done a study on projected enrollment and knew we needed land. That was a smart decision back in those days.”

The Russell Building is one of three currently under construction on the former Bowen property. With funding from a quarter-cent sales tax increase that Pitt County voters approved in 2007, the college is also constructing a new maintenance headquarters and a new construction and industrial technology building at a cost of $28 million.

“When you think about what we’ve had and what we will have for educational training, it’s amazing,” Russell said.

A Jamesville native, Russell began working at PCC in 1971 as Director of Adult Basic Education and Director of Public Relations.

Though he played a role in numerous improvements and growth at the college during his 33 years with the school, Russell said he never assumed his contributions would be recognized by means of a building named in his honor.