PERRY, Ill. — Carole Bradshaw has a pretty good idea what the namesake of the Fred L. Bradshaw Learning Center would say about the brand-new facility.
The late Bradshaw would be honored and humbled to have his name on the newest building at the Orr Research Center.
“Of all the organizations and activities and committees he was on, the Orr Center was the closest to his heart,” said Carole Bradshaw, his wife of nearly 50 years. “Fred worked on this for many years.”
The Bradshaw family joined officials from John Wood Community College, University of Illinois, University of Illinois Extension, Orr Corporation, project supporters and friends for a Tuesday dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new JWCC Agricultural Sciences Complex at the ag center near Perry.
Today is a defining moment in the life of John Wood Community College, a defining moment for our agricultural program, a defining moment for our partnership with the University of Illinois and the College of ACES and most definitely a defining moment for this region and this facility. will serve,” JWCC President Mike Elbe said.
The 24,000-square-foot facility houses offices and classrooms, the Compeer Financial Arena, the Gray Perpetual Trust Animal Care Wing, the Roger Mohrman Trust Conference Room and the Illinois Farm Bureau Community Room.
“It’s tremendous for the area. It’s a tremendous collaboration project with the U of I, U of I Extension, John Wood and the Orr Corp — all of us coming together to provide education,” said Amy Lefringhouse, Extension natural resources, environment and energy educator, who will teach JWCC students at the learning center. “I’m amazed at the process it took to get here. There’s been a lot of people that have done a lot of good hard work to get it to this point.”
Carole and Fred Bradshaw had been married only a few years when he was appointed to a committee searching for a site for a research center — the start of what became the Orr Center and a lifelong passion for Bradshaw, who died in 2019.
“He had this vision. He was thinking of how this facility could expand and serve the community in different ways,” Carole Bradshaw said. “He always wanted more.”
Plans for the facility began in 2016 as JWCC hoped to enhance its agricultural program building on the momentum generated by rising enrollment and credit hour totals.
Elbe then touted the facility as “a unique setting” to provide “a real educational opportunity for a variety of groups to be able to use but also our agricultural programs.”
The project quickly won support from the board of the West Central Illinois Agriculture Research and Demonstration Center, Inc., more commonly known as the Orr Corp. By 2017, the Orr Corp., headed by Bradshaw’s son Matt. made the facility a priority, pledging to pursue private and industry donations for the project along with state support.
To date, some $2.2 million has been raised towards the $2.5 million project.
An intergovernmental agreement signed in February 2020 between JWCC and the U of I cleared the way for the corporation to move forward with building the facility, which was included in the JWCC Master Plan. A groundbreaking took place in August, with construction beginning a week later.
“This is something that the community should be proud of,” said German Bollero, interim dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the U of I. “We’re here not only to celebrate a building but to honor and be thankful of the partnership for many years the College of ACES, John Wood Community College and the Orr Corp. has had, a unique partnership that has moved agriculture forward.”
But there is more work to do.
“The world faces significant food issues globally,” U of I President Emeritus Bob Easter said “the facilities and educational programs that are operated here are critical to us being able to feed the world going forward.”
The finished space will support FFA and 4-H initiatives, provide a forum for competitive events like livestock judging contests, offer space for demonstration events for area environmental and wildlife associations and facilitate agricultural and economic development organizations to emphasize the advantages in rural regions.
Orr Corp. President Matt Bradshaw wants to see the facility grow to offer more opportunities.
“I would like to have it expand educational offerings with JWCC programs to include more with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and incorporate the Extension Service,” he said. “I’d also like to see that we can expand the numbers of students out of our local high school area to take some more advantage of programs currently offered and future programs to offer.”
It’s just exactly what his dad would want.
“Absolutely,” Matt Bradshaw said.