CHAMPAIGN — Longtime residents with ties to a local auto dealership have donated half a million dollars to Parkland College's new center devoted to automotive training.
Marilyn and Bergen Parkhill's gift of $500,000 for the Applied Technology Center is one of the largest gifts the college has ever received, said Parkland College Foundation Executive Director Carl Meyer.
"The Parkhills are doing something very special for Parkland," Meyer said.
The gift was announced at a ribbon-cutting at the building on Tuesday afternoon.
"This was an opportunity to pay back to the community. Champaign and Champaign County have been good to us as a family and to our business," said Bergen Parkhill, who was the longtime president of Parkhill Motor Sales before it merged with Sullivan Chevrolet in 1998. Bergen's son David Parkhill is now president of Parkhill-Sullivan Automotive.
The 67,000-square-foot Applied Technology Center is home to Parkland's automotive, collision, Ford ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training), welding and industrial technology programs. Located off of the Duncan Road entrance to the college, it contains $1 million of new equipment and a larger auto lab area designed to resemble a modern auto service center.
"It's a wonderful facility where they're going to teach welding, collision repairs and engineering technology. They have the facility now and the equipment, but down the road they will have to update that equipment," Bergen said. His and his wife's gift will help ensure the facility is maintained and students have access to updated equipment in the future.
"The need for this type of training is immense, and we would like to see Parkland continue to succeed," Parkhill said.
Parkhill said about 17 people employed at Sullivan-Parkhill Automotive and Sullivan-Parkhill Imports have connections with Parkland, either having graduated from there or taken courses there in automotive technology, collision repair, accounting or other topics.
"We started sending people there in 1973. We're still sending people there," he said.
Also on Tuesday, the college held a ribbon-cutting for the new Dodds Athletic Center and Fitness Center, named after Donald C. Dodds Jr. That facility contains kinesiology, dance and aerobics class space; athletic, strength and workout training areas; an indoor walking track; new locker rooms and team rooms as well as offices for coaches. Dodds, of Champaign, was a trustee at Parkland from 1970 to 1984, and president of the Parkland foundation's board from 1994 to 2001.
Construction also is ongoing on a new 113,000-square-foot Student Services Center. Completion is expected for fall 2013 or spring 2014.