Ogeechee Technical College on Thursday renamed its Natural Resources Building for the late state Senator Jack Hill in front of a gathering that included faculty, staff, alumni, students, state government officials and members of Hill’s family.
The late-afternoon ceremony began with a welcome from Matt Sawhill, the Ogeechee Technical College Foundation president, followed by an invocation from OTC’s Local Board of Directors chair, Fred Hill, who is not related to the late senator. Both speakers shared heartfelt sentiments about the impact Senator Hill made on Ogeechee Tech, the state and themselves personally.
Ogeechee Tech President Lori Durden also spoke of what Hill meant to the college and its community and region during his three decades of public service.
“We gather together to honor a man who left an indelible mark on our region as a faithful and unapologetic supporter of higher education in this district. …,” Durden said. “While his footprint and influence extend far beyond the boundaries of this college, what he did for Ogeechee Tech can only be described as transformative. … We feel that honoring the late Senator Hill with the naming rights of this particular building is congruent with his legacy. It simply represents many of the things Jack held dear.”
Simple new name
The 60,000-square-foot structure’s previous name, the Natural Resources Building, captured some, but not all, of its functions. In addition to instructional programs related to natural resources – including Agribusiness, Fish and Wildlife Management and Conservation Law – the building houses the college’s Adult Education program. Ogeechee Tech’s Economic Development Division is also headquartered in the building.
With design features such as stone columns, high ceilings and large windows, the structure includes conference spaces used for community and regional events.
Durden noted the newly renamed Jack Hill Building is only the second “named” building, meaning named for a person, on the OTC campus.
The first is the college’s original, main building, the Joseph E. Kennedy Building, which faces U.S. Highway 301. The late Sen. Joe Kennedy, from Claxton, was Hill’s predecessor in representing District 4, which in recent years has included Bulloch, Evans, Candler, Effingham and parts of Tattnall and Emanuel counties. Kennedy, who served in the Georgia Senate from 1966 through 1990 and rose to be the its president pro tempore, played a key role in authorizing the creation, in 1986, what was originally Ogeechee Technical Institute.
When Kennedy left the Legislature, Hill was elected and served in the Senate for more than 29 years, from January 1991 until his death at age 75 on April 6, 2020. For many years the owner and operator of an independent grocery store in his hometown of Reidsville, he also and served 33 years in the Georgia Air National Guard, becoming a unit commander and state inspector general.
As the district’s senator and also, from 2002 on, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hill successfully advocated for state-funded construction of many of the buildings on Ogeechee Tech’s main campus south of Statesboro, including the Natural Resources Building, Health Science South, Health Science North and the Industrial Technology Building, as well as the Evans Technical Education Complex in Hagan.
“These buildings, as well as other projects on this campus, represent an investment of over $50 million that can attributed to the vision of the late Senator Hill,” Durden said. “No one since the late Senator Joe Kennedy has had an impact this deep and this wide on this college.”
Following Durden at the microphone, Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Greg Dozier described Hill as an influential friend who had a profound impact on technical education in the state of Georgia.
“Senator Hill was a remarkable servant-leader in our state whose passion for higher education was felt by everyone who knew him,” Dozier said. “We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Senator Hill for his leadership in the General Assembly and for providing Ogeechee Technical College the support to transform more lives in the region through postsecondary education. The renaming of the Natural Resources Building will honor the legacy of one of Georgia’s most respected statesmen.”
‘Kindness and integrity’
Members of Hill’s family joined officials in unveiling a see-through plaque, mounted on the front of the building, which states that his “relationship with Ogeechee Technical College was one of leadership, kindness, and integrity” and proclaims that his “profound commitment to excellence in higher education, especially the importance of technical education in this region … will be felt by this college and its students for decades to come.”
Some state lawmakers attended but did not have speaking parts in Thursday’s ceremony. Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, who won the seat in a special election process last year, now represents District 4, following Hill and Kennedy.
“We need to always remember the ones that got us to where we are, and Jack Hill really got us to where we are,” Hickman said after the ceremony. “Jack Hill was a visionary, he’s a man with passion and he loved people, and most of all he loved education and he understood the importance of education, and this technical college provides training for students who go out not only into the counties of its service area, Bulloch, Evans and Screven, but into other counties around us to provide a trained workforce.”
The building is not Hill’s only namesake legacy at Ogeechee Tech. In March, the college announced that a Jack and Ruth Ann Hill Scholarship fund has been created through an agreement with their family regarding a $25,000 self-perpetuating endowment. Mrs. Hill also passed away last spring, less than three weeks after her husband.