Grand opening held for PBSC Loxahatchee Groves campus
Palm Beach State College held the grand opening ceremony Tuesday for its new Dennis P. Gallon campus in Loxahatchee Groves named in honor of its former president.
A standing room only crowd packed the lecture hall for the ceremony and ribbon cutting. Others watched the live stream on TV monitors in the hallways of the first three-story, 50,000-square-foot building on the College’s fifth campus.
One by one, College leaders and state and local elected officials stepped up to a microphone, telling stories of the more than decade-long process to establish the $30 million campus on the 75-acre site on Southern Boulevard. They applauded Gallon, who retired in 2015, for his vision and persistence to establish the campus and to get the initial funding and support. They also praised current PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., for helping to secure the final $9 million from the state Legislature to complete the first building.
“I was with Dennis Gallon in 2004. He did not do this for it to be named for him. He did this because he had a vision,” said Jeff Atwater, Florida’s chief financial officer. He was in the Florida House of Representatives when the PBSC District Board of Trustees authorized Gallon that year to pursue a feasibility study and in the Florida Senate when the Board of Education in 2006 approved Palm Beach State’s request to build the campus.
“This campus represents what’s important,’’ said David Browning, mayor of Loxahatchee Groves, who described how he drove Gallon around in his pickup truck to see possible sites. “The education that will be provided here will last for a long time. It will affect generation after generation of people that will be able to do things that they normally don’t realize they can do.”
“I think it is absolutely the perfect site,’’ said trustee Wendy Link, who also was recognized for her persistence in seeking state funding for the campus. “It takes a village to do anything,” she said applauding Gallon, Parker and others. “The community wins and, most importantly, the students win.”
An emotional Gallon, who received a standing ovation, attended the event with about a dozen members of his family. He said he was humbled by the trustees’ decision to name the campus in his honor. He helped unveil a life-size portrait of himself that will hang in a lobby wall.
“Very few things of significance happen alone. All the things that happened during my tenure are no exception,’’ he said. He said he owes a debt of gratitude to all of the trustees who supported him during his 18 years as president, and he recognized the support he received from staff and faculty.
Parker dismissed concerns that the Loxahatchee Groves campus, where classes began Monday with more than 700 students, would impact the Belle Glade campus. “Feel comfortable in knowing that we’re building both of these campuses together.”
She said that Dr. Maria Vallejo, vice president for growth and expansion and provost of both campuses, understands that “if we build these two campuses together, we will strengthen our western communities.”
As a College, Parker added, “we put our heart and soul into ensuring that all five campuses are successful and that together Palm Beach State College will be successful.”