VIDEO: Building Begins on New Randall Welcome Center at University of Alabama
Wed April 20, 2022 - Southeast Edition University of Alabama News Center
Following a groundbreaking on April 1, construction has gotten under way on the University of Alabama's new welcome center at the school's historic Bryce Main building. The facility also will house the UA Undergraduate Admissions department, the school announced.
Pending approval by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, the renovated building will be named the Catherine and Pettus Randall Welcome Center. The new name honors the late Pettus Randall and his wife, Catherine J. Randall, who have contributed in countless ways to the university and the Tuscaloosa community, the UA News Center noted on its website.
"Once again, the Randall family is steadfastly demonstrating support and love for their beloved alma mater," said UA President Stuart R. Bell. "Through their ongoing philanthropy and service to the UA community, the unique and personal way we welcome prospective students will be enhanced as we continue to draw the best and brightest to the Capstone."
Cathy Randall has served on the campaign cabinet for the Performing Arts Academic Center that will adjoin the historic Bryce Main building. The drive reached its $15 million fundraising goal in 2020 and recently celebrated a gift of $20 million to name the nearby Smith Family Center for the Performing Arts.
Northport, Ala.-based J.T. Harrison Construction Co. is the general contractor in charge of building/renovating the more than $83 million Bryce Main project. The company is working to perform the job, including the first floor for the welcome center, in time for a completion in early 2024.
The 15,000-sq.-ft. Randall Welcome Center will include an area for prospective students to gather for campus tours, a lounge, theater and UA Admissions offices.
"I hear from so many prospective students who knew the University of Alabama was the right place for them as soon as they stepped foot on campus," said Matthew McLendon, UA's associate vice president and executive director of enrollment management. "The Randall Welcome Center will take our campus visit experience even further and will be the envy of colleges and universities across the country."
Besides serving as the school's welcome center, Bryce Main also will be home to museums dedicated to the history of the university and mental health in Alabama, UA noted, as well as faculty and staff offices for the department of theater and dance.
Approval for the next several phases of work on the project, including the adjacent Smith Family Center, are scheduled for consideration by the UA System Board of Trustees in February 2023. If approved, construction would be slated to finish those works in early 2026.
The UA System successfully negotiated the purchase of the 168-acre Bryce property in the heart of university's campus in 2010 and agreed to preserve and restore components of the historic Bryce Main building, a former mental hospital, and the adjacent superintendent's house, now called The Bryce House.
Randall Family Honored for Service to UA
On hand to shovel dirt signifying the start of the reimagined Bryce Main building was Cathy Randall herself. A member of the Alabama Power board of directors, she also serves on The Rising Tide, UA's current campaign cabinet.
In addition, North Campus Way, which leads to the Bryce Main facility, was renamed in February 2021 to Randall Way in tribute to her family's generosity and commitment, according to the UA News Center.
"The University of Alabama is responsible for our family," Randall said at the ceremony. "It is where my husband and I met, and it is where I spent my entire career. Our family wanted to be as supportive as we could in thanking the university for all that it has meant to us."
Although giving to the project in memory of her late husband was a motivating factor for Cathy Randall and her children, she said preservation of Bryce Main was the major reason for why she was drawn to the space. As both she and Pettus were history majors during their undergraduate years at UA, preserving the legacy of the building was at the forefront of her mind.
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