With wind whipping through the small crowd gathered between the new halls of Shasta and McLaughlin, college President Mary Cullinan lifted a pair of giant scissors, and began a new era for Southern Oregon University and the city of Ashland.
With the culmination of three years of construction and financing, the ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by not only University leadership, but also the private sector businessmen who made the project possible and a smattering of other local leaders and representatives, including Mayor John Stromberg of Ashland who stated that the university was a “cornerstone of Ashland.”
Stromberg further stated he was proud of how “the biggest project in Ashland” was accomplished on time “with creativity and innovation.” Indeed, innovation was the watchword of the day, with SOU being touted as the first university in Oregon to pursue such a blending of the public and private sectors. SOU worked with Collegiate Housing Foundations and American Campus Communities to receive financing for the new buildings, in return for the promise to share revenue from the new buildings with the two companies.
The ceremony was kicked off by representatives of the Shasta Nation Indian tribe, who offered prayers for the new building as well as a blessing song. One representative, Betty Hall, praised the university for “finally recognizing the Shasta people” by displaying the native names for Shasta and McLaughlin at the entrances to the new buildings.
With thirty million dollars invested and a projected LEED rating of gold, the highest environmental rating possible, the new residence halls are some of the nicest buildings in the area. The hope, among city leaders, university staff, local business professionals, and perhaps especially students, is that these massive new buildings will live up to their promise, and catapult SOU and the city of Ashland into a new, brighter era.