Submitted by Dalton State College
In honor and recognition of their longstanding and loyal support of Dalton State College, the new science building currently under construction on campus will be named Shelby and Willena Peeples Hall, college President John O. Schwenn has announced.
Pursuant to University System of Georgia policy, college officials petitioned the USG Board of Regents to approve the name, and the board granted the college’s request in January.
Schwenn said the honor is appropriate recognition of the Peeples’ philanthropy at Dalton State, including the family’s commitment of the largest gift from an individual in the history of the college. The amount of the gift was not disclosed.
The 58,000-square-foot Peeples Hall, which houses chemistry and biology laboratories and classrooms for Dalton State’s School of Science, Technology and Mathematics, will be dedicated in a public ceremony on May 7 at 2 p.m. A community-wide open house will be held on May 18.
“We made this gift in support of the college’s newest academic building several years ago because we believe education is the most important thing for a community,” Shelby Peeples said. “We believe that Dalton State is a key component to our community’s future. This college will do more to advance our community than anything else, and we wanted to help in this way.”
“Shelby and Willena Peeples and the entire Peeples family have a tradition of extensive philanthropy in our community,” said David Elrod, director of the Dalton State Foundation, where the Peeples’ gift will reside for the benefit of the college. “Their extraordinary act of generosity with this leadership gift to Dalton State Foundation’s endowment is for current and future generations of Dalton State students, faculty and academic programs. Having the Peeples name on Dalton State’s newest academic building is simultaneously a public show of support for the college and an expression by the college of our gratitude for the family’s singular generosity.”
In addition to the major gift for the science building, the Peeples have given the college the Baldwin concert grand piano that sits in Goodroe Auditorium and were among the earliest donors in the late 1990s to the foundation’s James & Sis Brown Fellowship.
“Throughout the past several years, the Peeples family has demonstrated many other acts of generosity and kindness toward Dalton State, and they are regular attendees and participants at campus events,” Schwenn said. “Their involvement with and support for the college have enriched the institution far beyond the dollars they have given. We are grateful for their advocacy for Dalton State and for their willingness to share the good news about the many exciting things going on around campus.”
Shelby and Willena (Davis) Peeples are natives of Whitfield County and began attending school together in the first grade. They became high school sweethearts and were married just after graduation in 1953. Married more than 60 years, they have four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Shelby Peeples is a businessman and entrepreneur with substantial interests in real estate, banking, carpet manufacturing and chemical production. Willena Peeples has devoted her life to raising her family and, in the words of one of her sons, “is the glue that holds us all together.”
The $15 million building will provide classroom and laboratory space for the biology and chemistry departments, which represent two of the fastest growing majors at the college. According to Randall Griffus, dean of the School of Science, Technology and Mathematics, the soaring brick and glass building will double the number of biology and chemistry labs previously available to students and will include dedicated lab space for undergraduate student research.
“Having undergraduate student research experience is a huge plus for our students applying to medical, dental or graduate school,” said Griffus, who added that research gives students the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to real world situations. Within the research space, he noted, will be an “assurance colony” repository for endangered species of freshwater turtles, part of an ongoing project between Dalton State and the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.
Peeples Hall, the largest single building on the Dalton State campus, was designed by the Atlanta architectural firm Lord Aeck Sargent with assistance from Gregg Sims of Dalton. New South Construction was the general contractor for the building. The college will begin occupying the building during late spring and summer semesters, and the building will be fully operational when fall semester classes begin.