WBU Holds Greenhouse Dedication Ceremony

Eagle Farms formally dedicated two new greenhouses during homecoming week in November as the Dannah Russell Jones and Nora Leann Shuman Greenhouses were officially put into operation.


The two new structures serve WBU’s Eagle Farms, which is a key component of the university’s Williams Works initiative.


Tekla Research CEO Dave Russell and Chief Financial Officer Beth Russell West, both of Jonesboro, and company President Kevin Wilcutt of Fredericksburg, Va., provided the funds in memory of relatives, Dannah Russell Jones and Nora Leann Shuman. Dannah Jones was Russell’s daughter and West’s sister, while Nora Shuman was Wilcutt’s granddaughter.


“Thank you for allowing us to be part of this and have a small role in the Williams Works program,” said Russell, the former chairman of the WBU Board of Directors. “Tekla Research is thrilled to be able to support Williams Works through these greenhouses. Personally, both Kevin and I are incredibly moved that these two lives that were cut way too short will be able to be remembered as you find new life and new blessings through the plants that will be grown inside the houses.”


Dave and Deb Russell lost their daughter to a sudden heart attack, while Wilcutt’s granddaughter died of a rare syndrome.


“I want to thank the Russell and Wilcutt families for sharing their love of Dannah and Nora with us,” WBU president Dr. Stan Norman said. “These greenhouses are an expression of remembrance and each and every time we see these signs and our students come here to work, they will know that these two families gave to make these greenhouses possible.”


Several types of produce grown on Eagle Farms will begin in the Nora Leann Shuman Greenhouse, allowing the seedlings to get a headstart on the growing process. At the appropriate stage of their growth, they will be transferred into the fields for continued cultivation.


The Dannah Russell Jones Greenhouse is outfitted with irrigation and heating lamps that assist in the growth of tomatoes and other crops year-round.


“Personally, both Kevin and I are incredibly moved that these two lives that were cut way too short will continue to be remembered as you walk through those doors and find new life,” Dave Russell said. “You will find lessons in the life God gives in the plants and the education these students will receive that work in these greenhouses and we both want you to know that we are behind you in everything that you do and we want to see this program and university grow and prosper.”


The Williams Works initiative allows students to work their way to university education. Students work 16 hours per week through the fall and spring semesters to cover their tuition and most fees. Additionally, students can work full-time through the summer to pay for their room and board, giving them the opportunity to graduate debt-free.


“These greenhouses have given us a place to put our grief and our love so that the memory of Dannah and Nora will live on,” said West.


Both greenhouses have helped launch the Williams Works initiative into its next phase. This past year the houses grew specialty crops and flowers that were grown on Eagle Farms and then sold at Williams Corner.