On May 17, 2011, Randolph named the three main buildings of the Garth Road Campus for three families who have made a significant investment in the future of the School.
Bob and Susy Thurber, John and Patsy Shields, and Roy and Sue Nichols share in common a belief in Randolph as a hub of educational excellence in Huntsville, and they understand that an investment in this special place is an investment in our wider community. They know from their own lives and they hold dear to their hearts an unshakable belief that education in academics, the arts, and athletics endures and represents personal growth and character development for every boy and every girl, which cannot be taken away.
Our honored guests this evening have been leading participants in a noble endeavor that has made Randolph better and added significantly to what the Huntsville community offers long-time residents and those considering a move to north Alabama. Our honorees are the 21st century representatives of the brave women and men who founded Randolph 51 years ago. This beautiful campus was designed to be a pre-collegiate campus, consistent with the potential for the very best that an Upper School community can provide. It is the tangible result of dreams transformed to action, and it is the most recent manifestation of a vision that has held this place on solid ground for over half a century. The sum total of these places represents the extraordinary opportunities of a Randolph education for the children under our care.
Bob and Susy Thurber
Bob Thurber is a fountain of energy, and we try our best to keep up with Susy trailing in his midst. Bob currently serves as Chair of the Board, and his stint on the Randolph Board has been remarkable. His passion for our school is deeply humbling. His vision for Randolph inspires those of us who are privileged to work here. I remember that Bob and Susy invited me to the Vive le Livre event when Jennifer and I moved to Huntsville. To make conversation, I asked Bob what he read. He looked me square in the face, and said, “I’m not a reader, I’m a doer.”
He and Susy have been incredible servants of our community, and Bob, in particular, has invested countless hours in Randolph. Their very generous gifts to our campaign, at an early date, set the bar high and made clear to all that they were eager to bring our dreams to life.
In the two school years that have passed since we opened this magical space, we have hosted Huntsville Symphony concerts, we have staged Oliver!, a play that cast 57 students from every division, and our very own Young Voices partnered with the UA Huntsville Wind Ensemble to present David Maslanka’s Liberation. Our band and choir programs are thriving, and the visual art that adorns these walls is testament to the life that this building has inspired in our students. It’s an honor and a privilege to declare that henceforth and in perpetuity, this will be named the Thurber Arts Center in recognition for what Bob and Susy have done for Randolph.
John and Patsy Shields
John and Patsy Shields have been leaders in the Huntsville community for decades. Their ties to Randolph stretch back for years, as their children, Tracy and John, are former students, and their Huntsville grandchildren have either graduated from Randolph or are current students. Like Bob and Susy, John and Patsy are great supporters of other endeavors, including the Boys and Girls Club, the Mayo Clinic, the United Way, the Huntsville Museum of Art, and the Huntsville Symphony.
John is a current member of the Board of Trustees, and his expertise is finance. Linda Bryant and I rely on John for his keen insight and his calm and steady hand on all financial matters. The Shields and the Jones are passionate supporters of athletics, and they believe in the power of sports to shape children for the better and connect us to challenging endeavors that require teamwork, sacrifice, character, and perseverance.
I remember getting into trouble with John earlier this fall. As you know, this was the first time in 30 years that we have fielded a varsity football team at Randolph. I made the comment that I hoped over time we could be for north Alabama what Vanderbilt is to the SEC. I had in mind the fact that Vanderbilt is a private university in a conference with public schools, that Vanderbilt is an outstanding academic institution, that the Commodores are outstanding in sports like baseball, basketball, and tennis, and that two years ago Vanderbilt beat Auburn in football. John had in mind that Vanderbilt was 3-8 this year in football. He remembered another SEC school, one that this past year was 7-4, and he asked me, trying to be reasonable, “Couldn’t you at least try to be like Mississippi State?”
In the two years that have passed since this building opened, we have enjoyed incredible growth in Randolph athletics. Every boys and girls team works out in the fitness room with Coach Gaunt in a state-of-the-art facility. Football has returned to the Raider Nation. Volleyball and baseball are on the road to long-term success. And on this floor, our boys and girls basketball teams proved this past year that hard work pays off and that Randolph athletics is more than traditional mainstays like soccer and cross-country. Keeping in mind what the Shields and Jones families have meant to Randolph and knowing their passion for sports, I am happy today to announce that this building will now be named the Shields-Jones Athletic Complex.
Roy and Sue Nichols
Like Bob and Susy and John and Patsy, Roy and Sue Nichols are long-term patrons of and supporters of Huntsville. Roy enjoyed a very successful career at McDonnel Douglas and at Nichols Research. In addition to his commitment to Randolph, he continues to serve on the Adtran and Blue Creek Investments Boards of Directors. Sue has been active at the Huntsville Botanical Garden, the Huntsville Museum of Art, and Hospice of Huntsville.
At Randolph, Roy was the Board leader most responsible for translating in very practical terms the dream of this campus into what we enjoy today. He served as Chairman of Long-Range Planning and as Chair of the Board of Trustees. He has always been fiercely committed to Randolph’s academic excellence. Roy is one of those rare individuals who combines genuine kindness, natural grace, and a steely determination to complete what he has started.
On a personal note, he and Sue have provided Jennifer and me with excellent parenting advice. I remember once several years ago when we were discussing a long car trip to Texas with our very young children. Roy and Sue make annual sojourns up to their native Michigan, and when they had young and rambunctious and impatient children in the backseat, they devised a superb mechanism for keeping them in check. These were the days before DVD players and hand-held Game Boys. Roy and Sue reported that they would give each child a roll of quarters for their spending money on vacation. Whenever one would ask, “How much longer?”, she would be obliged to hand up a quarter to Mom and Dad.
In these incredible spaces our students take a wider range of classes than they ever could on Drake. They relax in the Commons, they explore and study and work together in the library, and they gather as large groups in the Lecture Hall. Given Roy and Sue’s belief in education as the lifeblood for leadership and citizenship, it is altogether fitting that from tonight and into perpetuity, these spaces will be the Nichols Academic Building.