AU, Dixons break ground

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 7, 2012

Members of the Dixon Foundation, Judge Frank “Trippy” McGuire, Phillip Jones, Louisa Baker and Doris Tyler, along with Auburn University dignataries break ground on a new learning center at the Solon Dixon Center.

The Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation and Auburn University broke ground on a $1.6 million state-of-the-art facility Wednesday to expand its resources to the wildlife, forestry and natural resources community.

The new facility will feature a 100-seat auditorium and 40-seat classroom, with ancillary facilities, to enhance the learning experience for Auburn University students, and will aptly be named the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation Learning Center.

Doris Tyler of the Dixon Foundation said the new center was a continuation of the efforts made by “Mr. Solon.”

The current facility was dedicated in 1980, and has managed its natural resources and programs to meat the needs of AU students, the Long Leaf Alliance, and others in the scientific community.

“We are excited about the addition of the new high-tech classroom,” Tyler said. “The hands-on experience will be a venue to generate revenue from other schools. This center is still a learning center and a legacy to the Dixons.”

Dean of the Forestry and Wildlife department Dr. Jim Shepherd said that forestry and wildlife is very important to Alabama, and forests cover some 68 percent of the state.

Shepherd said the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center has served as the institution for a 10-week summer program for forestry students for the last 33 years, and they have implemented a six-week summer practicum for wildlife majors.

“It’s tough because right now we only have one classroom,” he said. “The extra capacity will be helpful.”

Additionally, Shepherd said the facility is used throughout the year for natural resource-based conferences and the Long Leaf Alliance uses the facilities as well.

“Sometimes organizations want to use our facilities, but they want to have multiple rooms to break out into smaller sessions. Right now, we really don’t meet those needs, but with the addition, we’ll be able to do that,” Shepherd said. “We really want to be a community resource.”

This summer, there are researchers from Penn State conducting lizard research and a team of botanists from Auburn looking at different species of plant life, Shepherd said.

“They were expecting to find around 500 different species,” Shepherd said. “But they have found 1,000 species in this one 5,000 acre property. This is really a great learning tool for our students.”

The project is expected to be completed in March 2013, and will be ready for next summer’s practicums, which start in May.

Jessica Nelson, AU spokesperson said that the new facility will help with outreach and stretch teaching capacities immensely.