WSOB Celebrates Grand Re-Opening of Gignilliat Memorial Hall


Lamar Wright is known for saying “we are changing lives at Dalton State.”

Business major Santi Angel says he could not agree more.

Lamar Wright, and his wife Ann, were honored Thursday during a ribbon cutting and grand re-opening ceremony for Gignilliat Memorial Hall, which was renovated and expanded thanks to a $5 million gift from the couple. The Wright School of Business is now named for them and is housed in Gignilliat. The $5 million gift was matched by the state of Georgia to fund the renovation and expansion.

The Wrights could not attend due to an accident over the weekend that left Ann Wright in serious condition, but the Wrights wanted the celebration to continue as planned.

“Thank you, Mrs. Ann and Mr. Lamar Wright, and the entire Wright family for the generous and valuable donation that resulted in the building expansion we see today,” Angel said. “I had the chance to speak to Mr. and Mrs. Wright a few weeks ago, and I truly sensed why the chose to give this generous donation. Simply put, it is for the students. As one of the students benefiting from this incredible donation, I know what it means to be part of the Wright School of Business.

“What defines the Wright School of Business is not the diploma you are presented at graduation, but the authentic culture that creates leaders unafraid to step out of their comfort zones, be innovative and be trailblazers in all areas of business,” he said.

Now, faculty have even more resources to help facilitate learning. The renovation and expansion of Gignilliat includes a finance lab, a marketing lab, a business hub, more spaces for collaboration and research and upgraded technology. The walls of the building contain some of Lamar Wright’s favorite quotations to serve as an inspiration to business students for years to come.

“Were here to celebrate this facility,” said Kevin Wright, son of Lamar and Ann Wright. “My parents made this investment for opportunity. It’s an opportunity for staff to invest in the lives of students. Students, it’s an opportunity for you to take advantage of an education that will help you change lives for others. Their investment in you does not come without strings. They issue you a challenge: take advantage of the opportunities, and when you are successful, whatever your endeavor is, invest back into your community. We are blessed and honored to be here.”

Lamar Wright understands the importance of an education at Dalton State. He was a member of the first class at what was then Dalton Junior College, which provided him the foundation to become a successful business leader in Northwest Georgia.

“‘The college changed my life,’ Lamar said when I asked him why he and Ann made their gift,” said David Elrod, director of the Dalton State Foundation. “And this is his ultimate assessment of the power of education: changing lives.”

The Wrights did not ask for the School of Business to be named for them and did not ask for the recognition on Thursday, Elrod said. Kevin Wright said his parents had originally requested the gift be made anonymously.

Ann Wright, a former school teacher, was asked to speak at the event.

“In the remarks she had prepared for today she was going to focus on the students gathered here,” Elrod said. “She urges you to show leadership to invest in building relationships and to have a positive attitude. The combination of these, she believes, results in success. These are lessons we could all heed.”

“Fifty years later, Lamar and Ann’s gift and support show the way for today’s students,” said Dr. Marilyn Helms, dean of the Wright School of Business. “Both he and Ann understand the value of higher education because of what meant to their personal success as well as the success of their family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ann and the Wright family today. I know she is so very proud of this great new space for learning.

“Lamar and Ann Wright are indeed showing the way for others with this building for Dalton State students,” she said. “Thanks to the leadership of the Wrights we have a modern space to deliver a professional curriculum. Today’s students will be even more sought after by employers for internships and career positions.”

In addition to the Wrights, Helms thanked Dr. Larry Johnson, the former dean of the WSOB, who began the renovation project. She also thanked the faculty and staff and expressed their excitement about working in the new space.

Dr. Margaret Venable, president of Dalton State, gave her well-wishes to the Wrights and thanked them for their support.

“We celebrate the successful renovation and expansion and modernization of this facility today because so many people worked hard and diligently to make this day happen,” she said.

Venable thanked others who contributed to the renovation and expansion of Gignilliat: state legislators who provided funding from the state to make the project possible; board members of the Dalton State Foundation; other elected officials who support Dalton State; partners from other school systems and Georgia Northwestern Technical College; the architect team from Clark, Patterson and Lee, who worked on the design; members of the Parrish Construction Group team, who worked on the building; Gita Gardner, project manager with Hendessi and Associates; the University System of Georgia; and the family of Dr. Arthur and Elizabeth Kennedy Gignilliat, for whom the building is named. Arthur Gignilliat served as the first president of what was then Dalton Junior College.

Elrod spoke of Gignilliat’s contribution to the college and how he oversaw it turn from idea to reality.

“President Gignilliat inspired students, faculty and staff alike with his attention to detail and his love for the young college,” Elrod said. “As if building and opening the new college was not enough, Dr. Gignilliat initiated the construction of the second classroom building on campus. The so called ‘classroom-office building’ was completed in April 1970 just two months before Dr. Gignilliat retired, and it comprises the original portion of the building we dedicate today.”