College Cuts Ribbon on Smith Center for Student Advancement
WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday to officially open its Eddie & Jo Allison Smith Center for Student Advancement.
The Smith Center, which was completed in March, is the new home of PCC’s Institutional Advancement Division, which includes the PCC Foundation and the college’s marketing and media relations departments. The center also houses the VISIONS Career Development and Scholarship Program and the Slocum-Bunch Veterans Center, which offers support services to Pitt’s student veteran population.
“The Smith Center is important to PCC’s future, because it will play a pivotal role in our ability to serve students and develop partnerships and generate resources that make college possible for everyone wanting to better their life’s circumstances through higher education,” PCC President Lawrence Rouse said.
Designed by MHAworks, the 28,000-square-foot Smith Center is located across the street from Pitt’s A.B. Whitley Building. Rouse said it provides much-needed space for employee offices and meeting rooms for the PCC Foundation Board, VISIONS and PCC Student Ambassadors Program.
“PCC is one of the most crowded in the N.C. Community College System, so we’re delighted to have more space to serve students,” he said, adding that the majority of the $14 million needed for the Smith Center’s construction was raised through a PCC Foundation capital campaign that began in 2017 and the NC Connect bond North Carolina voters approved in 2016.
Rouse said a lot of time and effort went into the Smith Center’s development. The pandemic, he said, delayed the start of its construction and led to an increase in the cost of building materials. But once preparations at the building site began in October 2021, Rouse said Barnhill Contracting Company maintained a steady pace and completed the project on time.
“We have been at this quite a while,” he said. “I believe we did a (groundbreaking) in 2019, so it’s been a labor of love trying to get it here. But once we got started, I have to give the contractor kudos, because they were able to finish the building on time as well as on budget, so we’re delighted about that.”
On hand for the April 6 ribbon-cutting was the building’s namesake, Grady-White Boats owner Eddie Smith, who contributed toward construction of Pitt’s Herman Simon Building in 2010. Through his Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, Smith made a significant contribution several years ago to secure naming rights for the student advancement center.
“We helped build a building here earlier that helped house our VISIONS program, and many other things, called the Herman Simon Building,” Smith said while speaking to news media after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I named it for one of my wonderful business mentors, Herman Simon, and now, today, we get to be part of this wonderful building as well. It’s a real blessing.”
An ardent PCC supporter, Smith has funded VISIONS since 2004, when he helped start the initiative as a way of reducing the dropout rate among Pitt County high school students. He said he hoped the Smith Center would serve PCC well “for many generations” and “help us graduate hundreds, even thousands of VISIONS students” in the years to come.
“We’ve invested in education as a family for many, many years, from early childhood all the way through college,” Smith said. “But we really honestly feel that the biggest bang for our buck comes at the community college level, and this building is just another step in the tremendous growth of this institution.”
Along with naming the center for he and his late wife, Jo Allison, Smith also named the building’s multipurpose room for his son, Chris, who died last year. The PCC Foundation’s first-ever fundraiser in the new meeting room is scheduled for April 14.
In addition to the Michael Amman Jr. Gallery in the Smith Center’s front lobby area, outside of the facility is the TowneBank Patio and Bubba & Barbara Rawl Patio Garden.