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An artist's depiction of the completed Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities.
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Photo by Lizzy Shake
Lewis and Clark Community College President Dr. Dale Chapman discusses one of the center’s many art pieces.
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Photo by Lizzy Shake
Revelers take in the center’s new space.
Past, present and future combined beautifully Thursday evening as donors and invited guests alike gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the new Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities, 1210 N. Main St. in Edwardsville.
The former Lincoln School building, across the street from the closed Rusty’s restaurant, is but one facet of a major development planned for Edwardsville by 2017.
Lincoln School became the segregated school for African-American students in Edwardsville in 1869, and remained thus until the end of segregation nearly 90 years later. Guests of the preview event marveled at how far the former school has come, while others looked to the future of the building and the new opportunities it will offer Edwardsville and Madison County.
Elaine Smith Harold, once a student of Lincoln School, took time to reflect.
“My grandfather was the principal, Christopher Columbus Jones,” Harold said. “I went to school here through the 11th grade, and then it integrated in 1951. It brings back memories, just being in the location.”
Ultimate plans for the center, created to focus on mutual understanding, positive social change and outreach programs, include a 1,200-seat conference center, hotel, parking garage and STEM Center. The conference center and hotel are slated to be built along North Main Street just northwest of the current building, and an existing brick building along North Main will be utilized for the STEM Center, which will aim to incorporate math, science, technology and engineering into the humanities.
Currently, the center includes a 140-seat ballroom and a 60-seat conference room, which are available for rental by the public for business meetings, small weddings, conferences, holiday parties, family and high school reunions, with optional catering provided.
Ed Hightower, executive director of the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities Foundation (MJCHF), said plans are to have the entire center operational by 2017, a project expected to add $81 million in economic growth and 846 jobs to the area.
LCCC currently holds an option on the property where Rusty’s sits, across the street from the center. A future phase of the project will include a parking structure on that property, as well as the preservation of the remnants of one of the oldest brick buildings in Madison County.
Debby Edelman, director of development at the Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation, enthused about being part of the project.
“This has been such an interesting journey,” she said. “Meeting all of these alumni from this school and hearing their stories is so humbling.”
“I actually remember this place,” Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan said. “I got a tour of it after it was a fraternity house. And it has changed a lot.”
A focus on community, tolerance, diversity and positivity stems from Mannie Jackson’s own upbringing; he was among the first group of integrated students at Edwardsville High School. Despite the racism he faced throughout school and life, he became a success on the basketball court as a Harlem Globetrotter, a team he now owns, and in the boardroom, first at Honeywell, and then by founding the Executive Leadership Council, a group of African-American corporate executives.
“I have faced many societal challenges during my life,” Jackson said. “The formation of this center will result in programs that give people a better understanding of societal differences and how we should embrace those differences. Without that understanding, people throughout the world will continue to have conflicts with other cultures.”
Mannie Jackson’s aunt, Dee Dee Pendleton, said she expects “great things” from the center in the coming years.
Many guests were simply impressed by the way the building looks today.
“I’m just in awe of this place. It’s so pretty,” Jennifer Oller of Bruce Unterbrink Construction said.
Hightower said he is encouraged with the possibilities.
“I’m excited that it’s a reality, it’s here, when just a few years ago there was discussion of tearing it down,” Hightower said. “(I am thrilled) to see it built, reborn and flourishing like it is now.”
Both Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Lewis and Clark Community College will continue to be involved and hands-on with the center’s development.
“What Dale (Chapman, president of LCCC) and Lewis and Clark are doing is going to put Edwardsville on the map, and it is going to do great things for Madison County,” Dunstan said.
An open house will be held for the public from 1 until 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7, offering light refreshments and tours of the facility. Retired U.S. Gen. Colin Powell recently was announced as the center’s first major speaker during the inaugural dinner on March 31. Details on that event, as well as more information about the center, are available at www.mjchf.org.