By Jaci Schneider, Copy Editor
As a young boy in 1962, Ronnie McQueen remembers taking lunch to his father while he helped build the first section on the Industrial Technology building. McQueen’s father was a student enrolled in a metal working class and was getting hands-on experience during the summer by constructing a cinder-block structure in the area that is now crowded with buildings such as Moody Coliseum, Teague Special Events Center and parking lots
“My dad actually poured the foundation for the ITEC Building,” McQueen said.
About 15 years later, McQueen followed his father’s lead and took classes in the building he had built and graduated with a degree in Industrial Arts Education in 1977.
McQueen returned to the department, and a bigger building, as a professor in 1998, with a passion to teach and a passion for Industrial Technology.
However, this summer, when McQueen returned to Abilene after a trip to Africa, he pulled into the Big Purple parking lot and instead of seeing the building that had been part of his life since his preschool years, he saw empty space and the Teague Center.
“It was a shock when I turned the corner for the first time; there was Teague Ð you never had seen that building before,” McQueen said, even though he had known the building was coming down.
The area will be turned into a parking lot as soon as funding is secured, said a university official.
Although many people saw the old Industrial Technology Building as an eyesore, to McQueen and Jim Cooke, former department chair, it was a building full of love and memories. A building Cooke spent the summer of 1984 constructing, and a building he watched as it was torn down this summer.
“It was kind of a slow death,” Cooke said. “Now that the building is gone, there will be some closure to that era.”
Building a department
“That era” began in 1952, when Skipper Shipp began the Industrial Technology Department, Cooke said. And in 1957, students and faculty, including McQueen’s father, built the first section of the IT building out of cinder block; in 1965, they built another section. Then in 1984, with the donation of roof trusses and second story trusses, Cooke, along with one other faculty member and six students, connected the two sections.
“Students and faculty built those buildings out of considerable savings to the university,” Cooke said.
“We did it out of love to the university and a belief in Christian education,” he added. “And a feeling that industrial technology … was valuable and a good learning experience.”
The students who helped finish the building received credits for their work and much practical experience, which Cooke said was a big part of the IT Department.
“Those were the kinds of skills that were part of the curriculum.”
The Industrial Technology Department offered a bachelor of applied studies degree and taught skills to students that included drafting, woodworking, metalworking, machinery design, robotics, energy and power engineering and project management and supervision.
“We taught about technology: the applied human-made world,” Cooke said.
Although universities all across the country offer industrial technology, Cooke said ACU was the only school within the churches of Christ to offer the degree.
Pieces left behind
The university decided to phase out the Industrial Technology Department in 2001 because of financial shortages, but pieces of the department still remain on campus. The pre-architecture program moved into the Art Department, and several classes shifted into the Agriculture Department, which is where Cooke now works. McQueen is now a professor in the Education Department.
When the department closed, the computers and tools were dispersed among the other departments on campus, and last spring Cooke took several loads of equipment to establish a carpentry school in Honduras to help out an alumnus of the university who has a missions program called Missions Lazarus.
The building was also used for university storage for the past year, and students participating in FilmFest used the computer labs to edit their films.
The building is still present on campus; when crews came to tear it down in late July, Cooke made sure that usable parts of the building were recycled and reused on campus.
“There’s still bits and pieces of the building all over the place,” he said. “They didn’t just bulldoze it all over and haul it off to the landfill.”
Cooke also said many things were saved for archival purposes by the university, which he said he is grateful for.
McQueen said he still has a four-poster bed he built while he was a student in the department and still has projects his students made and gave to him.
For future Homecoming events, McQueen said he wants to get together with alumni and have a big tailgate party in the parking lot that will soon be built where the foundation of the department used to lie.
End of an era
The closure of the department and destruction of the building was hard on the faculty and former students, and McQueen said in a way, he’s glad he wasn’t present for the demolition. Cooke, however, was there for the whole process, taking pictures and filming.
“The demolition crew kept complimenting me on how well it was built,” Cooke said.
McQueen said cleaning the building out was a difficult process because he had students’ projects in his office that he didn’t want to throw away, but he didn’t have any room for them in his new office.
“It’s just hard to throw things away,” McQueen said. “It was depressing.”
Although Cooke invested 22 years of his life into the Industrial Technology Department and didn’t agree with the decision to close it, he said he knows the department made a difference in the lives of students.
“We had over 600 graduates,” Cooke said. “Great people, good Christian people that have gone out and made a significant difference.
“I feel very good about what was accomplished with the department and the program.”
Cooke said the loss of the department was difficult, but he’s ready to move on in his role in the Agriculture Department.
“It was sad to see the department close and the building close because I’d been involved in building it,” Cooke said.
“It was sort of a loss in the family, but it was a good life, and a lot of good was done, and I’m proud of what took place there, and I think God was glorified by the graduates and the faculty.”