When Eastern Arizona College's Payson campus was little more than a pipe dream, EAC Dean, Donald B. Allen, envisioned a "little college nestled in the woods."
The dream began in 1990 when the Gila County Community College Advisory Committee promised voters that it would save enough money in five years for a college campus site in Payson if they passed a secondary tax levy.
Thankfully, the tax levy passed and a temporary campus was established in a storefront on South Beeline Highway.
Those of us on the committee immediately started scouting out land on which to build. We looked at land by the airport, town-owned property on the south edge of town and federal land in east Payson. The town generously offered to give us 17 acres, but a satisfactory agreement was never reached.
In 1996, the committee opted to buy 54 acres of federal land on Highway 260 from the U.S. Forest Service.
Meanwhile, the Gila County Advisory Committee spearheaded an effort to secure a $2 million appropriation from the Arizona Legislature.
Dean Allen and I were delegated to lobby the legislators. With our lobbying efforts and the leadership of Sen. A.V. "Bill" Hardt and Rep. Jack Brown, we obtained $1 million, half our goal.
It was our intention to go back to the Legislature the following year, but after lengthy illnesses and extended recuperations by both Allen and myself, the second attempt was delayed until 1997.
Due to the mighty efforts of Sen. Brown and Representatives Debra Brimhall and Jake Flake, another $1 million was allocated from the governor's budget. And so began the final leg of our journey.
A committee was formed to interview eight different architectural firms. Stichler Design Group was chosen. Members of the Advisory Committee and the architects met for one week to choose the design.
The next hurdle was to choose a contractor. Bids were let and ultimately, Johnson Carlier Construction was chosen.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Dec. 17, 1998, and construction began immediately thereafter.
"The little college nestled in the woods" was completed in December 1999 and classes started Jan. 4, 2000.
Unfortunately for us all, Dean Allen passed away on Dec. 20, 1999, and did not get to see his vision realized. I lost a very dear friend and Gila County did, too.
Payson's community college can be greatly attributed to his vision and his courageous leadership. He was a man who lived by standards far above most men. His word was his bond. His integrity was above question. Many in Payson may not have known him, but we are all indebted to him. I know I am, and I miss him.