With classes set to begin in January, the new Crowder College campus in McDonald County on Thursday gained a name.

On Thursday, the Crowder College Board of Trustees, by consensus, agreed to name the new campus James B. Tatum Hall after board member and former president James B. “Jim” Tatum.

“I feel this is very fitting, and it is the request of the donor as well,” said Dr. Kent Farnsworth, interim president of Crowder College.

“I can’t imagine it being named anything else,” added board president Andy Wood.
Thursday’s meeting was Tatum’s last session with the board. Tatum was one of the first members of the college’s board of trustees and served on that body for 50 years, 45 of which was as president.

“There was a time when Dr. [Alan] Marble [former college president] called me and told me they were going to build another building here,” Tatum told the crowd at Thursday’s meeting. “Rudy Farber had given the money for the building and wanted to name it the James B. Tatum building. I said ‘that’s ridiculous.’ ”

Tatum persuaded Farber to instead name the building after his father, Arnold Farber. A large bronze bust of Tatum is on display in the lobby of the Farber Building, with a bell tower bearing the name of the McDonald County resident on a nearby bell tower.
“When he called me about this building, he totally had me: all of the reasons I’d given him had come back on me,” Tatum said. “I was boxed!

“This group here, this is the critical group. I respect you highly and I admire you highly. And if you in the future look up and see some kind wispy ghost, it’s me!”

In earlier interviews with the Daily News. Tatum has recalled a time when Crowder’s campus looked much different. For instance, the only buildings on campus were Newton and McDonald halls and the student body numbered less than 200.

Since that time, Tatum has helped guide the college to record enrollment numbers: 5,590 students in the fall of 2012, and a 2.75 percent increase over that figure this year.

Several buildings were also added during Tatum’s 50-year tenure on the board, including the Elsie Plaster Center, the Bob Sneller Gymnasium, the Williams Agriculture Building, the Arnold Farber Building, the Davidson Health and Sciences Building and the MARET Center, to name a few.

Likewise, the college also expanded outside of Neosho, with campuses in nine Missouri counties, including Cassville, Nevada and now McDonald County.

The new campus is located on Larry Neff Drive in Jane and is slated to open in January. The building will have six classrooms, two computer labs, a biology lab, a chemistry lab, a full nursing skills lab, a full-service bookstore, a 200-seat conference room, testing facilities, a student commons and study areas.

The site will offer full nursing and general studies programs, and speciality courses in agriculture, business and education.

The structure is being built by NABOLZ Construction. The $6 million structure was funded in part by fundraising, by refinancing the college’s bonds, and with savings from the college’s building fund.

Tatum resigned from the board last August, with an effective date in December. In his resignation letter, he said he had intended to stay on the board until the McDonald County campus was created.

“When I ran for the board last time, I indicated that one of the reasons for my candidacy was to assist in making the McDonald County campus a reality,” he wrote. “Now that the building is progressing nicely with the end in sight, I believe that it is timely for me to resign.

Tatum was one of the founders of the college, pushing for legislation allowing the formation of what was then known as “junior college districts.”

He also served in other capacities, including as president of the Association of Community College Trustees, the board of the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges and as president of the trustees division of the Missouri Community College Association.

For more on Thursday morning’s meeting of the Crowder College Board of Trustees, see Sunday’s edition.