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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


Community Connections Recognized through South East Re-dedication

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Sept. 2, 2014) – Although it has a new purpose, the former South East Elementary School still has a special place in the hearts of many Warrensburg residents. That was a consistent theme in messages shared with individuals who attended the re-dedication ceremony Friday, Aug. 29, to recognize the school building’s transition to the University of Central Missouri’s Facilities, Planning and Operations South East Complex.

“For a city, it’s nice to see that the building just isn’t going away,” said Warrensburg Mayor Donna DeFrain, shortly before reading a proclamation providing a history of the former school. She spoke in what was once the school’s gymnasium, joined by UCM President Charles Ambrose and Warrensburg R-VI Superintendent Scott Patrick.

South East Complex Dedication

Warrensburg Mayor Donna DeFrain, center, presents a proclamation to Charles Ambrose, right, University of Central Missouri president, commemorating the re-dedication of South East Elementary School as UCM’s Facilities, Planning and Operations South East Complex. UCM employee Tom McCormack, treasurer of the South East Elementary School Historic Preservation Committee, joins them for the presentation.

Named for its location in the city of Warrensburg, South East Elementary School was built in 1955, and hosted students in kindergarten through fourth grades, according to DeFrain. A north wing was added in 1958 to accommodate students in grades five and six.

DeFrain said “changes were made at South East as Warrensburg experienced growth, and during the last year the school was open (2011), it served only kindergarten classes.”

“South East gained a reputation for a warm, nurturing environment for students, families and community patrons, as well,” DeFrain said. “Over the years, it has been estimated that over 20,000 students received their elementary education at South East.” She pointed out that the school also became a popular gathering spot, serving as a precinct for local, state and national elections. 

UCM purchased the school building a year after it closed. It has since played a significant role in the largest construction project ever undertaken at UCM. Part of a $60 million initiative, operations within the former General Services Building (GSB) were moved to the newly renovated South East Complex during the spring 2014 semester.

This occurred shortly before the GSB was demolished to make room for the new 325-bed student housing-retail facility, known as The Crossing – South at Holden. This new project is currently under construction and is expected to be completed prior to the start of the 2015 fall semester. In addition to housing students, The Crossing will include a new University Store, Starbucks coffee shop and SPIN! Pizza.

Relocating the GSB required extensive renovation of the actual South East school building, which now houses custodial, grounds, procurement, general services, event setup, and facilities administrative personnel. A large metal building constructed on the north side of the school also accommodates building trades, a mechanical garage, and print shop.

Ambrose told the crowd that early in the planning process Tom McCormack, a former South East student sand seven-year university employee, recommended UCM retain the name of the school. This was a way to publicly remember and recognize those who attended the school, and what the school meant to the community.

The president said South East stands as a “real symbol of the mission of the University of Central Missouri.”

“We were founded as a normal school, and to have an elementary school shouldered right up against our campus is a constant reminder,” Ambrose said. “The teachers who taught here had a special relationship with UCM.”

 Ambrose also thanked the GSB staff for their work in making the move from their former work facilities to the new South East Complex possible.

“We had a lot of stuff in the General Services Building. We had a lot of equipment, a lot of things we use every day and we wondered how can we stop what we are doing and keep the campus running and actually come over here and repurpose this facility, but you got it done. You got it done with the right spirit, and most days with smiles on your faces, but it wasn’t always easy,” he told the crowd, which included many FPO staff members who worked at the GSB.

Patrick said there is a lot of history in the South East building, and much more history to be made. He thanked the university for retaining the name, which forever ties the structure to the community and the school district. He also noted his strong personal connection with the school.

“I was here when Tom (McCormack) said we are going to call it South East. That’s a big deal to a lot of people,” Patrick said. “My wife attended elementary school here, and I brought my daughter to kindergarten here about 18 years ago, so it has a special place in my heart, and it always will for this school district and the people of this community.”

The re-dedication event also included refreshments, tours of the newly renovated facilities, and displays that included desks and other items from the former school. A number of vintage cars also were on display outside.