October 25, 2001

Local Legacy Lives On As Jim Sears Northeast Technical Center Dedicated

His legacy lives on. For the people that knew the late First District State Representative Jim Sears, there could be no better way to honor the former teacher than by naming his educational dream in his memory.

The Jim Sears Northeast Technical Center was officially dedicated October 20 in a special celebration that drew a large crowd to the technical school campus in Edina.

"Every time a high school graduate or a member of the northeast Missouri community enrolls in classes here and uses his or her education for this community, it will be because of Jim Sears," said keynote speaker Rep. Ted Farnen. "That's quite a legacy."

The Jim Sears Northeast Technical Center is an outreach campus of Moberly Area Community College. It was named for the former representative who died in a traffic accident in November of 1996. Prior to his death Rep. Sears had been working with MACC officials on ways to bring higher education opportunities to northeast Missouri.

"I met with Rep. Sears before his death, and I remember his absolute passion, enthusiasm and excitement for getting technical training for the people of northeast Missouri," said MACC President Dr. Evelyn Jorgenson. "I think it's wonderful that we are able to carry forward his dream and make this technical center a reality."

Jorgenson was just one of more than a dozen officials to speak at the dedication ceremony that was finalized by a Masonic cornerstone ceremony led by Glenn E. Means, Masonic Grand Master of Missouri.

Edina Mayor David Strickler praised the work done by Sears for his community not only with the technical center but also in the field of economic development. The mayor discussed the downtown revitalization project headed up by Sears as well as the economic development grant that he helped secure for Knox County that provided the community funding for an economic development director.

"His work helped create jobs and more importantly keep jobs here," Strickler said. "There are several businesses that are still here in Edina only because of the work Jim did for us."

But the Sears legacy was not a smooth ride as far as the technical center went. Representatives Tim Green and Chuck Graham told the gathering of the difficult road the technical center followed through the appropriations process.

Farnen praised the work of former Representative Karl DeMarce as well as then Senator Joe Maxwell and the late Governor Mel Carnahan for securing the initial appropriation of $1 million to fund the creation of the center. But the work was not completed as additional appropriations were required. Farnen praised the work of current First District Rep. Sam Berkowitz as well as Reps. Nancy Copenhaver, Quincy Troop and Graham for their work in securing the funding appropriations to make the school operational.

Graham made it clear to both the House and Senate appropriations committee that the funding for the Sears center "was not negotiable" even in a tight budget year that was requiring funding cuts across the board.

At the same time the appropriation's members were getting visits from other Reps. like Farnen and Robert Clayton reminding them "not to forget about our buddy Jim Sears and his dream."

The technical center has been open since the end of August. Registration is now underway for second semester classes that will begin in January.

Evening classes are being offered in computer information systems, industrial electronics, mathematics, life skills, sociology, speech and welding and metals technologies as well as basic developmental classes in math and English.

Farnen discussed a similar center entered in his district, the Mexico Advanced Tech Center where more than 350 students receive post secondary training.

"I think the Jim Sears Center can mean a tremendous boost for this region just like the MATC has meant for Mexico," Farnen said. He added that while it is a success story, the community "must help keep the dream alive. The people who worked directly with Jim Sears will be gone from Jefferson City in a few years and it will be up to the people of this community to make sure the dream continues."

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