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Pavilion of Rangeland Complex named for Coffee family

September 7, 2012

Virginia Coffee, center, uses a shovel to break ground for the first phase of Chadron State College's Rangeland Complex. (Photo by Justin Haag) Virginia Coffee, center, uses a shovel to break ground for the first phase of Chadron State College's Rangeland Complex. (Photo by Justin Haag)

As Chadron State College broke ground on its Rangeland Complex on Thursday, Sept. 6, it revealed the name of the facility’s centerpiece – a 25,150-square-foot indoor arena.

The arena, which is included in the $2.9 million-dollar first phase, will be named the Coffee Agriculture Pavilion. It will honor the family of Virginia and the late Bill Coffee of Harrison, whose $500,000 gift to the facility has been anonymous since 2010.

The Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State College System approved the name of the pavilion Friday morning during its meeting in Chadron.

The Coffee family has been important to Chadron State since the institution’s beginning. Bill’s grandfather, C.F. Coffee, was a pioneering rancher and banker and one of the leaders in founding the college.

The pavilion will be the second feature on campus to include the Coffee name. The C.F. Coffee Gallery, a permanent exhibit in the lower level of the Sandoz Center, is dedicated to the history of the cattle industry. The family also has established a variety of scholarship support for CSC students.

Virginia, an Alliance native whose maiden name is Kennedy, graduated from what was then Chadron Normal School in 1942 with an education degree in home economics. She is a trustee of the Chadron State Foundation and served as a board member for 12 years. She and her husband received the CSC Distinguished Service Award in 1999.

Virginia said she is proud to support the Rangeland Complex, with its mission of furthering the educational goals of the institution and helping keep young people with agricultural backgrounds in the region. She also said she was inspired by the philosophy of her late husband.

“Bill was a rough character, but he always had a big heart,” Virginia said. “He believed the region had given a lot to him and he believed in giving back to the community.”

The Coffee family’s storied history in the region dates back to the development of C.F. Coffee’s ranch north of Harrison in the late 1870s. He settled in the area after helping lead three cattle drives up the Texas Trail, and was the first to ship cattle to the Omaha stockyards when the railroad reached Chadron in 1885.

The Rangeland Complex will be home to CSC’s rangeland management and agriculture programs. The facility will permit CSC to expand its academic courses in range management, domestic livestock, equine science, wildlife management, soil and plant sciences, and production processes and technique. The arena will provide a space for the rodeo team to practice and perform, areas for instruction and demonstrations with live animals, and space for activities such as workshops, seminars and exhibitions that will support the student learning and surrounding communities.

The Rangeland Complex is a project of the Chadron State Foundation’s Vision 2011 Fundraising campaign, which also is supporting endowments, the annual fund, and the renovation and expansion of the Armstrong Physical Education Building. Virginia is a member of the effort’s National Campaign Leadership Council.

—Justin Haag, CSC Information Services

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