Corsicana Daily Sun
September 18, 2016
Editor’s note: The Corsicana Daily Sun is publishing a series of article leading up to Navarro College’s 70th Anniversary celebration. Watch for more articles and events leading up to the Oct. 8 homecoming.
From the outset, Navarro College established an outstanding reputation for strong programs in the sciences. That was due in large measure to the leadership of James “Doc” Edgar. A native of Richland, Edgar had earned a bachelors and masters degree from East Texas State Teachers College and was the first professor hired to teach at the newly established Navarro Junior College in 1946. The early years were extremely difficult for Edgar, as he had limited resources and equipment. His problems were multiplied when a 1947 fire in the science building on the Air Activities Base of Texas campus destroyed his books and papers. In spite of the setbacks and challenges, Edgar managed to build a remarkable science program. His students were readily accepted by major universities to pursue degrees in science education, medicine, engineering, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary science, nursing, and other science-related professions.
When Navarro relocated from the Air Activities Base of Texas to the current campus site in 1951, buildings from the original campus were moved and used for classrooms, offices, and dormitories. The science department was housed in one of those converted buildings. But a major landmark event in Navarro’s history occurred in 1962. The Navarro Community Foundation, commonly called the Drane Foundation, awarded Navarro College a grant for $450,000 to construct a new science building. Frank Neal Drane, founder of the Corsicana Power and Light Company and a visionary community leader, had established a trust fund in 1938 to finance worthwhile projects in Navarro County. The $450,000 grant was the largest single private gift the College had received up to that time. Without doubt, the happiest person over the announcement of the Drane Foundation grant was Doc Edgar. He, Ben Jones, Navarro’s President, and Gaston Gooch, Dean, visited science facilities throughout the state, gathering ideas for the design and construction of the proposed building. Math and science faculty also provided input and suggestions regarding the layout and appearance of the proposed facility.
When the Frank Neal Drane Hall of Science opened in 1963, Navarro could boast of a facility second to none. Edgar attributed the Russian satellite “Sputnik” as a major contributing factor in acquiring funding for the new science building. The space race with the USSR that swept the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s promoted a growing interest in math and science. Educational institutions across the country were encouraged to expand and upgrade math and science facilities and course offerings.
The main lecture auditorium in Drane Hall is named in honor of James Edgar, acknowledging his significant contribution to the College and the community. Navarro College continues Edgar’s legacy by providing excellent academic foundations for students preparing for careers in math and science.
Source: Corsicana Daily Sun