Lakeland mayor Gow Fields cut the ceremonial ribbon April 23rd to officially open what one administrator termed Southeastern University’s new “front door ” – the new and improved 4/10-mile portion of Longfellow Boulevard along the campus’s west side and the new two-story, stately looking, lighted twin gateways on each side of the road’s south end at North Crystal Lake Drive.
An estimated 75 people attended the brief ceremony, including the university’s governing Board of Regents.
After thanking Southeastern “for being a great institution and a great addition to this community,” the mayor said, “I want to also thank you for letting your light so shine brightly as a testimony to the Lord and all that He has done for all of us, whether we know it or not. And thank you for this great entrance. This is beautiful! It really sets you apart.”
Longfellow reopened to traffic in early March, about 12 months after construction began. More than 3,000 linear feet of underground storm-water system improvements were made, to properly treat and transport storm water to Little Lake Bonny on the road’s west side. The road was widened to include three left-turn lanes, a 425-foot-long by 12-foot-wide beautifully landscaped median, and a pedestrian crossing. Sidewalks were added on both sides of Longfellow, along with a decorative fence, aesthetic lighting, landscaping and Queen Palm trees.
All of this was part of a bigger project that encompassed about 10 acres and is projected to cost about $3 million. Still under construction is a lighted parking lot for 281 vehicles on the west side of Longfellow between Little Lake Bonny and North Crystal Lake Drive. It is expected to be completed by this summer.
Marveling at the beauty and functionality of the new gateways and road, the university’s chancellor, Tommy Barnett, told the group that gathered for the ceremony Friday morning, “This is not only a beautiful entrance, but it’s an entrance to new things and to a new life” for many of the students who come to live and study here.
John Kautz, Vice President for Finance and Administration, spoke next: “While not as costly as most of the projects that the university has built over the past 11 years, the Longfellow project has definitely been the most visible. Because it is the front door to our campus, not only has it been of interest to our campus community, but it has also captured the attention of the many people who drive through here every day. This project sets an expectation of excellence that we think visitors will find in every area of the university, from academics to student life to student services.”
The Longfellow project is part of the university’s master plan which has already spurred numerous improvements throughout the 87-acre campus during the past decade. That plan also calls for at least two other major additions in the foreseeable future, both three stories tall and approximately 40,000 square feet: a building to house the College of Christian Ministries, and an Executive Leadership Center that includes administrative offices, meeting rooms, a lecture hall and classrooms.
Affiliated with the Assemblies of God, Southeastern University is one of the fastest-growing Christian universities in the country with almost 3,000 students and more than 400 employees. It is a private, liberal arts institution accredited to offer 45 programs leading to bachelor’s degrees and eight programs leading to master’s degrees.