Blue and Gold Spring | Summer 2021 Volume 2 • Issue 1 - Page 38

“ One that I ’ m most proud of overseeing was the renovation of Mahood Hall . Then-Dean Steve Bourne provided tremendous assistance .
“ It began in 2010 and was finished two years later at a cost of $ 5 million . The hall was gutted and rebuilt as a state-of-the-art building .
“ Looking back , Shelia says that the toughest time were the years 2004-2009 . The state created the community college system then . In doing so , nearly half of Bluefield State ’ s enrollment was redirected to the brand-new New River Community and Technical College ( NRCTC ). ”
- Shelia Johnson
“ Then-Governor Manchin provided the bond financing which took care of a large part of the cost . The Shott Foundation helped too . Finally , Bill , Charlie and Tommy Cole contributed the balance . They surprised their dad , Paul , with a ceremony naming the School in his honor .”
Johnson also helped with another major project that launched at the same time : a major upgrade to the Brown-Gilbert Basic Science building . Costing $ 3.2 million , Johnson oversaw the installation of a new HVAC system , energy-efficient lighting and major improvements to labs .
Johnson worked with Professor Don Bury and two of his students to put all buildings into a Computer Aided Design ( CAD ). This , along with completing a map of campus utilities , is a tremendous time saver when identifying problems , planning improvements , doing maintenance . Bluefield State was one of the first in the West Virginia state system to do this .
As CFO , Johnson has been acutely aware of the college ’ s chronic financial challenges . “ We ’ ve always had a very limited budget . But we ’ ve always met our obligations head-on .
“ Our faculty and staff are extraordinarily dedicated . Learning how to make-do is part of life here . Sometimes , however , they do things beyond the extraordinary . Here ’ s an example : One year , the Engineering School had a student with even more than the usual financial woes . His car needed tires and he didn ’ t have the money . No car , no school . No school , no future . Simple as that . This was years before online courses were offered . The faculty threw in and bought him a new set of tires !”
Despite four decades of one challenge or crisis after the other , Johnson remains excited about Bluefield State ’ s future .
“ The outlook is very positive . Housing coming back is a really big thing . So is football and all the other new sports . Acquiring the hospital property is unprecedented .
“ What I ’ d really like to see is a much more active campus life . More engaged alumni . An expansion of academic programs .”
Even as Johnson prepares to step away from a place that ’ s become a second home for nearly 50 years , Bluefield State will stay close . Daughter Jessica Duke ( Class of 2006 ) has a degree from the Cole School . Other daughter Sheena ( Classes of 2013 and 2017 ) graduated from the School of Arts and Sciences , and then the School of Nursing and Allied Health . Both are employed in the area , along with sonin-law Zach . Three grandsons add to the mix ensuring that Shelia ’ s days may be different , but they won ’ t be any slower .
Congratulations , Sheila Johnson . Thank you for your decades of dedication to Bluefield State .
38 BLUE AND GOLD