The students and teachers at the Russellville High School, will soon be feeling a lot cooler, however, it will most likely not be until the end of the hot season sometime in September.
At the recommendation of the deGraffenreid committee, who oversees the deGraffenreid endowment, the Russellville City Council, who are the trustees of the funds, approved spending $137,940 of deGraffenreid funds to help pay for the first phase of putting in a new heating and cooling system that will service the deGraffenreid Auditorium and lobby area at the Russellville High School.
“It’s unique in that the City of Russellville owns the auditorium and the lobby,” said Russellville School District Superintendent Leon Smith. “Russellville is the only district in the state that is in that kind of situation.”
Russellville native Thomas P. deGraffenreid bequeathed close to a million dollars to Russellville in the early 1960s to be used for the educational and cultural benefit of the citizens of Russellville. From his legacy came the building of the auditorium and lobby at the Russellville High School as well as helping to build the vocational school, a workshop for developmentally impaired and a public library building. The funds also are used for an annual scholarship, bringing in arts education programs into the school system, funding a choral and now putting in an HVAC system to replace the 50 plus year one that had stopped working.
“I applaud the work of Mary Lucy Franklin and the committee for being open to help and I am very appreciative to the mayor and City of Russellville for approving the project. This has really been a joint effort and I am blessed to be part of a community that works together,” said Smith.
According to City Clerk Bob Riggs, there is currently a little over $900,000 still in the deGraffenreid fund and the committee spends certain amounts each year on projects. The next phase of the HVAC project may include air handling units, said Riggs
“That auditorium is city property and if we don’t keep it up it cannot be used,” said committee member Mary Lucy. Ms. Franklin has been serving on the committee for the past 15 years and feels the money given to the citizens of the city by Mr. deGraffenreid has helped a great deal over the years and will for years to come.
“It is used for so many things,” said Franklin. “The auditorium is a wonderful facility and we cannot just abandon it. It’s just important to everybody who lives here and interested in the school system at all,” added Franklin.
Franklin says she doesn’t think people realize all that has been done through the endowment. Every year the teachers at the Russellville Independent School System apply for enrichment funds through the endowment and every year it is helping out in so many different areas such as the band and certain programs at the schools.
One of the main contributors in the past who helped secure Mr. deGraffenreid’s legacy was Sam Milam, father of local attorney James Milam. Sam was a lawyer and made many trips to New York, where Mr. deGraffenreid lived and died to handle the probate. Milam’s wife, Justine played an intricate part in getting the local library as a separate taxing district.
“If we had to do this ourselves, we would have to piece mill the project,” said Superintendent Smith, adding he is very thankful to the teachers and students as well who have been putting up with the sweltering conditions in the auditorium and lobby of the school the past few weeks.