WELLINGTON — The dream is becoming a reality.

Sumner County campus groundbreaking

Photo by Jenna Nichols/Cowley College

Cowley College trustees pose Oct. 11 with Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Marjorie Short and Cowley President Dennis Rittle during a groundbreaking ceremony in Wellington for the college’s new Sumner County campus.

FROM LEFT: Jill Long, Dennis Shurtz, Bob Juden, Colyer, Rittle, Short, Ned Graham, JoLynn Foster and Brian Sanderholm.

Through hard work and vision from numerous individuals, the groundbreaking ceremony for Cowley College’s Sumner County campus took place Oct. 11 in Wellington.

The location of the future campus is east of Walmart, along U.S. 160. Due to recent rain, the groundbreaking ceremony was held next door to the site in the Walmart parking lot.

More than 270 people attended the event, which featured comments from:

  • Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, the keynote speaker;
  • Marjorie Short, owner of Short Land Company;
  • Michael E. Zamrzla, deputy state director of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s office;
  • Debbie Luper, district director of U.S. Rep. Ron Estes’ office;
  • State Rep. Anita Judd-Jenkins, R-Arkansas City;
  • State Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield;
  • State Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield;
  • Blake Flanders, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents;
  • Ray Frederick, chair of the Kansas Postsecondary Technical Education Authority;
  • Clifford Bales, chair of the Sumner County Commission;
  • Stacy Davis, executive director of Sumner County Economic Development;
  • Bob Juden, chair of the Cowley College Board of Trustees;
  • Cowley College President Dennis Rittle.

Colyer said this was a historic day and something that Kansans are extremely proud of.

“This is so life-changing for the future of our children,” he said. “Thank you to this community and the great leadership of Dr. Rittle. We are Cowley Proud because we are Sumner Strong.”

In his remarks, Rittle thanked Sumner Campus Operations Officer Jan Grace and the groundbreaking committee.

He also thanked the advance groundbreaking ceremony team; faculty, staff, administrators, Student Ambassadors, spirit squad and criminal justice students who helped with the event; the cross-sectional campus planning committee composed of citizens from across Sumner County; and his wife, Christy, for her unwavering support.

Finally, he had every citizen of Sumner County stand to receive a prolonged round of applause for their bravery and courage to support this project.

Agora Architecture had 3-D Virtual Modeling goggles available at the groundbreaking ceremonies for individuals to have an interactive first look at the Sumner campus before it is constructed.

In addition, large paper-based renderings were available for public viewing.

On Nov. 8, 2016, Sumner County voters made history by approving the passage of a half-cent county sales tax to construct a comprehensive Cowley College campus in the heart of Sumner County to provide workforce training and educational services for the businesses and citizens of the county and the surrounding regions.

This act of trust was followed quickly by the generosity of Marjorie Short in donating the land for the new campus, and most recently followed by the galvanizing partnership forged between the college and the City of Wellington in authoring a developer’s agreement to share the costs of designing the campus infrastructure.

Short, the wife of the late Bill Short, is the owner of Short Land Company LLC and the donor of the 18 acres of property just east of Walmart. In honor of the donation, the family received naming rights to the Short General Education Center.

“I love talking about Cowley College, and am so thrilled to drive by and see all the work going on out here,” Short said. “I am proud to be a part of it. I know my late husband, Bill, would be pleased to know what we did in donating the land. I have already gotten great joy from our donation. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. We will continue to make it great.”

The Technical Center is expected to open in fall 2018, followed by the opening of the Short General Education Center in fall 2019.

Agriculture, manufacturing, computer science, first response and education programs will be the initial slate offered at the Sumner campus.

Juden said the college is at the apex of the dreams the board envisioned a few years ago.

“We are now in the eye of communities all around the nation,” Juden said. “For a country boy, this is huge. I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Rittle reminisced that this has been a grassroots journey spanning more than two years, with countless interactions, passionate exchanges and personal sacrifices.

“It is the Sumner County residents who showed the bravery to trust in what higher education can be,” he said.

“This is something for Sumner County to wrap its arms around and say, ‘This is our future.’”

This information was provided by Cowley College Director of Institutional Communications and Public Relations Rama Peroo.