Guests attending the ribbon cutting and open house in the newly renovated Votech building at Spoon River College in Canton on May 7 were welcomed by SRC President Dr. Curt Oldfield, who called the day “a significant milestone in our institution’s journey towards excellence in education.”

The event celebrated new scholarship funding, a new greenhouse, and extensive renovations and equipment upgrades that will benefit students in career and technical education programs. The college’s agriculture, diesel technology, and welding programs are housed in the Votech building.

The scholarship funding was provided by SRC alumnus and retired Caterpillar vice president and CEO Lynn McPheeters with a $500,000 gift earmarked for students entering career and technical education programs, which are currently ineligible for federal financial aid.

“Without SRC and SIU, I would have never been in a position to have the success I’ve had or to be able to make a gift like this,” said McPheeters.  “Businesses need a skilled workforce more than ever, and there are great opportunities available to graduates of CTE programs. This place, as it was in 1960, is still standing to provide those open doors to those who enter. It opened a door for me, and I hope these scholarships will provide that same opportunity for untold people in the future.”

The new greenhouse was funded with help from a $25,000 educational grant from Compeer Financials’ Agriculture and Rural Initiative, and will aid SRC agriculture students with more hands-on learning in horticulture and crop science by incorporating plant ID, research, and plant sales into the curriculum.

Karen Schieler, senior corporate giving specialist at Compeer Financial, noted that their partnership with SRC goes back at least 20 years. “We have seen time and time again with our philanthropic work that anytime a student can touch and feel agriculture, or interact with different things, it creates a life-long passion. And that passion leads to great workers in our communities who give back.”

A $1.5M grant from the Economic Development Administration provided electrical and mechanical upgrades, new welding booths, ventilators and exhaust systems, geothermal in the offices and classrooms, radiant heat, an overhead crane and overhead doors, and an air compressor and fans. LED lighting was installed, and a mezzanine was constructed for parts space. Two new semi-tractors and trailers were also purchased for the Commercial Driver Training program, which is housed off-site. The grant was part of the CARES Act Recovery funds, which the college applied for following the pandemic and the closing of the power plants at Duck Creek and Havana.

“These projects were a testament to our commitment to provide the best possible learning environment for all who pass thru these doors,” said Oldfield. “We could not do what we do without these partnerships.”

Ribbon cutting to celebrate renovations and equipment upgrades in Votech building at Spoon River College President of Spoon River College Dr. Curt Oldfield stands by a new semi-tractor that was part of a $1.5M EDA grant. Students, employees, and guests at the ribbon cutting for a new greenhouse made possible with a Compeer Financial grant. Denise and Lynn McPheeters being presented a metal sign from Dr. Curt Oldfield during the ribbon cutting held May 7.