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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials opened a new building Thursday that will be a second home for extension faculty gathering in Gainesville for professional development and training activities.
About 200 people gathered midday to dedicate the Straughn Extension Professional Development Center, at 2142 Shealy Drive. The center, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is adjacent to the animal sciences and veterinary medicine facilities.
The building is named for Alto Straughn and his wife, Patrecia, who donated funds that helped support its construction. Straughn is a well-known blueberry farmer and a former state extension specialist.
Addressing the group, UF President Bernie Machen noted Straughn’s farming efforts, in which he worked closely with IFAS researchers to establish North Florida as a national leader in blueberry production. The crop now generates more than $65 million per year.
“A thriving blueberry crop is new to the Sunshine State,” Machen said. “But the mutually beneficial relationship between IFAS extension agents and Florida growers, ranchers and farmers is long and enduring.”
Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, called the new center “more than a building.”
“It is an idea place, a center for inspiration, a home for extension faculty and staff to gather, learn and recharge their spirit,” he said.
The $4 million, 19,760-square-foot building was built with funds from several sources, including private donors such as the Straughns. The couple’s philanthropy has often focused on helping extension agents take scientific knowledge gained from university research to agricultural producers and consumers.
Straughn told the audience that he’d benefitted from scholarships while attending UF, and vowed that if he ever could afford to give back, he would.
Before IFAS officials hosted lunch and gave tours of the new building, they presented the Straughns with a framed photograph of the blueberry motif built into the bricks above the building’s main entrance.
Photo caption: Patrecia (left) and Alto Straughn stand next to a photo presented to them that shows the blueberry medallion that adorns the front of the new Straughn Extension Professional Development Center on the University of Florida campus, during a building dedication ceremony Jan. 12, 2012. The couple donated money to help make the building’s construction possible. The new center is located at 2142 Shealy Drive and will be used for professional development and training activities for extension faculty from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. UF/IFAS photo by Dawn McKinstry.
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