An official groundbreaking for a new $6.7 million construction project on the Southwest Texas Junior College campus in Del Rio is slated Friday (Feb. 15) starting at 2 p.m.
"This project has been on the drawing board for several years and we are excited to finally be moving forward," said SWTJC President-Elect Hector Gonzales, Ph.D.
According to Gonzales, the project will include a new 32,615 square-foot academic building and a new 5,915 square-foot administration building.
Included in the new academic building will be 13 new classrooms with distance learning capability, two nursing labs, two biology labs, a new library and 21 faculty offices, as well as lounges for both faculty and students.
The administration building, which will be named the Charles and Polly Chandler Student Services Building, will house the college's business office, financial aid department, associate vice president's office and student advisor/counselor offices.
"In addition to officially breaking ground on the project, we will also take time during Friday's ceremony to honor Charles and Polly Chandler for the generous gift their foundations gave SWTJC, a gift that made it possible for us to move forward with the project," Gonzales said.
At the November meeting of the SWTJC Foundation, Inc., board members learned that the Polly Chandler Foundation and the Charles Chandler Foundation had presented the college a combined gift of $863,000.
The Chandlers moved to Del Rio in 1966, when Charles "Chuck" Chandler started working in the maintenance directorate at Laughlin Air Force Base and Polly Chandler began a 20-year career as a teacher at Del Rio High School.
Chuck Chandler was born on June 20, 1920 in Rudy, AR, and died Nov. 2, 2011, in Del Rio. He is survived by a son and daughter, Mike Chandler and Sandra Hanna, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Prior to his career in the civil service, Chandler served 22 years with the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force, reaching the rank of major before retiring from active duty in 1961. His flying career spanned two wars, World War II and Korea, with assignments at a multitude of air bases around the world. As pilot of several models of Air Force cargo planes, he touched down to pick up or deliver men, weapons, equipment and supplies on five continents.
Former Del Rio Mayor Dora Alcala, the current president of the Southwest Texas Junior College Friends and Alumni Network, worked under Chandler as a clerk typist at Laughlin AFB.
Alcala describes him as a very intelligent man who set a positive tone in the workplace with his courteous and respectful attitude toward everyone he came in contact with. Alcala said he was a great believer in education and helped her pursue a college degree.
"When I started taking my first college courses with SWTJC, he convinced our boss to allow me to take time to attend classes on base and even to travel to Uvalde for some classes," Alcala said. "Without his help I would not have been able to go to college while I was working. So, it doesn't surprise me that we are now breaking ground on a new building because of Mr. and Mrs. Chandler."
Polly Chandler was born in Wichita Falls, TX, on April 18, 1920, and died on Jan. 1, 1999, in San Antonio. Her education included a Bachelor of Arts degree from North Texas State Teachers College and a Master of Arts from Texas State College for Women. She also did post-graduate studies in Spanish in Mexico City and Saltillo.
During her over 40-plus years of teaching, she held a variety of positions at colleges and high schools in Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Arkansas and Japan. She first met her future husband in Japan where Polly was teaching children of U.S. military personnel and Chuck was a U.S. Air Force flight officer during the post-World War II occupation of Japan. They were married in 1953 in Macon, GA.
In addition to teaching English for nearly 20 years at Del Rio High School, Chandler also taught private piano and violin lessons in Del Rio for over 15 years.
Pat Dugan of Del Rio, a former teacher, Del Rio High School principal and school board member, remembers Polly Chandler as a loving and caring teacher who always set high goals and demanded the very best from her students.
"Polly was an amazing woman and educator," Dugan said. "She cared about students and I personally watched her on many occasions protecting students that needed help whether it was financial or emotional."
In addition to their careers, the Chandlers were active in community service with numerous groups including the Del Rio Music Club, the Laughlin AFB Historical Society, the Laughlin Heritage Foundation and the Val Verde County Library.
The public is invited to attend Friday's groundbreaking and ceremony honoring the Chandlers. The event will be held on the SWTJC Del Rio campus located at 207 Wildcat Drive.
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