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First Financial Bank grants $100,000 toward SAU’s poultry studies program

Posted on June 14, 2018

Pictured left to right, front row, Macy Braswell, SAU Foundation executive director; Chris Hegi, First Financial Bank CEO; Dr. Trey Berry, SAU president; Dr. Jeff Miller, SAU Agriculture Department chair. Second row, Craig Mobley, First Financial Bank executive vice president; Bryan McDuffie, First Financial Bank vice president; Beth Weldon, First Financial vice president; Dr. David Lanoue, SAU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Abdel Bachri, SAU College of Science and Engineering dean.

Plans for bringing poultry studies back to Southern Arkansas University are taking shape with the commitment of $100,000 toward the project by First Financial Bank of El Dorado.

Dr. Trey Berry, president of SAU, thanked First Financial for its commitment, praising the partnership as unique in the state. First Financial has been a longtime supporter of the poultry industry, a passion that now coincides with SAU’s desire to restore the program to its curriculum.

SAU had its beginning as one of four state agricultural high schools and will revive poultry studies “in a larger way than it was before,” Berry said. The university is developing a new poultry complex to improve instruction and to create more candidates for jobs in Arkansas.

“We are excited about this possibility for our agriculture students,” Berry said. “There will be nothing like this in our region.”

Dr. Jeffry Miller, Ralph Boulware Professor of Agriculture and chair of the Department of Agriculture, said the university is interested in creating a complex that will allow students to observe and interact with different aspects of poultry production.

“This will be a first-class facility that will better educate our students and enhance our agriculture program,” Miller said. “It will improve the training we offer our students and better prepare them for the job market.”

“This facility will allow instruction in every step of the process, from breeder to hatchery, from broiler to processing, and will reach a wide range of students,” Miller said.

The building will also contain a feed storage room and a classroom/laboratory.

“As one of the nation’s largest poultry lenders, First Financial Bank is proud to partner with SAU in its poultry studies program,” said Chris Hegi, CEO. “For more than 30 years, it has been our privilege to support those who grow and harvest the food that ends up on our dining tables. This new program will be a great asset to SAU and to the agricultural industry nationwide, providing hands-on training and education that is unique in this part of Arkansas.”

Miller said the unit will cost about $1 million. “We are reaching out to poultry companies,” he said. “Our program will benefit employers by expanding the available workforce. Part of our mission as educators is to graduate students who will stay in our state. We need to not only keep the industry stable but also grow it.”

Opportunities are still available for those interested in partnering with SAU on the project. Contact the SAU Division of Advancement at 870-235-4078.