by Leah Jackson
Gov. Jon Bel Edwards was among those in hardhats Tuesday when officials at Northwestern State University broke ground on what will be a state of the art academic building named for former NSU President Dr. Robert Alost. Edwards said the groundbreaking on the $44 million investment represents the progress Louisiana is making by investing in education.
“It is incredibly significant for everybody, and for students that are not even on campus yet, students who are not even born yet. They are going to benefit from this investment, so in a very real way this groundbreaking is a testament to the work that we have all done collectively to invest again in higher education,” Edwards said. “Education is the engine for economic growth and diversification. It is the key to opportunity and prosperity for everybody.”
NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones said the groundbreaking marks a historic moment at the university.
“Today, we gather to celebrate the start of a new chapter in the life of our institution as we begin construction of the state of the art building that will serve as the hub of innovation, collaboration and learning for generations of students, faculty and staff to come,” Jones said. “This groundbreaking is a testament to the unwavering commitment of excellence in education, research and service to our community.”
Dr. Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System and a past president of NSU, said Louisiana is experiencing a renaissance in higher education and that when complete, Alost Hall will be the preeminent academic building in the state.
Henderson recalled the mid-1980s when budget shortfalls in Louisiana threatened higher education and NSU’s future was uncertain. Alost was named the university’s president in the midst of that crisis.
“He poured himself into this institution to ensure that this institution would not only survive but thrive, and if you look at the growth that occurred in the most difficult of times, it was because of Bobby Alost,” Henderson said.
Alost was president of the university from 1986-1996. He died 2020 at age 85. Before becoming president, Alost served NSU as a faculty member, department head and dean. He was also co-founder of the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts and director of the school from 1982 to 1986.
“Dr. Robert Alost, our 16th president, understood the power of education to transform lives and build a better future. He was a visionary who dedicated his life to the betterment of our society through education and it is a fitting to honor his family’s legacy in this way,” Jones said.
Several members of the Alost family were present, as well as current and former legislators, higher education officials and university supporters.
The new building will replace John S. Kyser Hall, constructed in 1968, as the university’s main academic building.
At 73,200 square feet, Alost Hall will feature large multipurpose classrooms that can open into one large multi-functional area, simulation laboratories for graduate and undergraduate nursing and anesthesia programs, a social work/psychology clinic and training area, a café, a dozen 30-person classrooms, two 40-person classrooms and three 50-person classrooms. There will be space for 60 offices and an administrative office suite that could include spaces for deans, department heads, administrative assistants, a large conference room and reception area.
“I’m really excited about the new building,” said Student Government Association President Bailey Willis of Opelousas. “It will help with recruiting and the updated technology is a big advantage for our campus. It’s a milestone for sure.”
“We’re not just building big, beautiful buildings, we are investing in the operational dollars to make sure we are providing world class education in those buildings. That’s how we’re going to transform our state,” Edwards said.
Current and past NSU administrators, elected officials and members of ACSW Architects, DonahueFavret Contractors, Perkins&Will architects and the Robert Alost family broke ground on what will be a new state of the art academic building. From left are Catherine Dalton, Stan Alost, Wes Alost, Lola Dunahoe, Dr. Chris Maggio, Mike Alost, Greg Damico, Eric Crozier, Brad Bailey, Dr. Jim Henderson, Dale Wohletz, First Lady Donna Edwards, Gov. John Bel Edwards, Dr. Marcus Jones, Patrick Descant, Sen. Jay Luneau, Rep. Ed Larvadain, Max Ferran, Jeremy LaCombe, Ted James, Rep. Gabe Firment, Gina Goings, Jennifer Kelly and Dr. Greg Handel.