TTU's STEM Center groundbreaking brings visibility, honors donor

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State and university officials broke ground for the $8 million, 26,000 square-foot Ray Morris Hall, future home of the Millard Oakley Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics on the campus of Tennessee Tech University in a May ceremony.

The new building will allow the STEM Center to grow, improve and launch efforts to enhance the way teachers and professors -- from preschool through college -- teach science, technology, engineering and math-related subjects, and to help students of all ages learn to enjoy them. The building and the center will serve as a point of collaboration between university faculty members and public school teachers.

Millard Oakley, Upper Cumberland businessman and shareholder of First National Bank of Tennessee, and his wife, JJ, committed $2 million -- the largest single gift in the university's history -- to launch STEM Center efforts. The STEM Center program is named in Oakley's honor.

The building constructed to house the STEM Center will be named for Ray Morris, president of Venture Construction Co. and a 1959 TTU civil engineering graduate, whose significant contribution helped fund the facility. The new building will be named Ray Morris Hall.

Both Oakley and Morris spoke about their enthusiasm for the project and their understanding of the need to improve STEM education in the region.

U.S. Congressmen Bart Gordon and Lincoln Davis made opening remarks.

Also in attendance were Tennessee Board of Regents Co-Chairperson Bob Thomas, former Deputy Gov. Dave Cooley, state representatives John Mark Windle and Henry Fincher and Cookeville Mayor Sam Sallee.

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