Livingstone partners with furniture company for reading centers
SALISBURY — It’s savvy business practice for companies to invest in the communities in which they earn profits, particularly when the contributions involve educating young minds.
A newly formed partnership between Livingstone College and Rooms To Go Inc., celebrated last month with a ribbon cutting outside the college’s student union, is poised to do just that.
Rooms To Go, America’s number one independent retailer with more than 150 locations in 10 states, is creating Reading for Excellence Centers at colleges and universities in their markets. The initiative was launched at Livingstone and ties in with the institution’s Quality Enhancement Plan which focuses, in part, on literacy.
“Reading is the foundation for all learning,” Dr. Carolyn W. Duncan, 2012-13 faculty senate president, said to begin the ribbon cutting ceremony. “Being read to as children is one of the fondest memories many of us will take to our graves. Reading is very important, and at Livingstone College we are engaged in an initiative to ensure our students who come to us without the necessary reading skills leave with them.”
The partnership between the college and the furniture giant came about after Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins and Rooms To Go General Manager Malcom E. Nightingale met to discuss ways in which the two could work together to achieve a mutual goal. Dr. Frankie Jones, CEO of Phoenix One Enterprises Inc., facilitated the collaboration.
“In corporate America, 75 percent of the CEOs that I interface with have a background in liberal arts,” Jones said. “If we can continue to lift up the importance of liberal arts and HBCUs, students will understand par excellence.”
Jones, who has two maternal aunts who are Livingstone graduates and said he considered the institution “hallowed grounds,” said Rooms To Go CEO Jeffrey Seaman gets and practices the notion of social responsibility. Jones also credited Jenkins with possessing the necessary leadership skills to ensure the partnership came to fruition.
“I want you to know that, yes, this all started with a notion, but Livingstone, because of the exemplary leadership of Dr. Jenkins, was able to make it happen,” Jones said.
Bishop George E. Battle Jr., chairman of the Livingstone College Board of Trustees and Senior Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, also thanked Jenkins, a man he says the college was fortunate to hire as its 12th president.
“I thank God we were able to find a president like Dr. Jenkins who always finds a way to do what we thought was impossible,” Battle said. “You have really added new dimensions to this place, Dr. Jenkins, and this partnership with Rooms To Go tops it off.”
Jenkins thanked Battle for his undying support of Livingstone, and he also thanked Jones and Nightingale.
“Reading is the backbone for education, and education is the surest vehicle for upward mobility in the world,” Jenkins said. “This generous contribution of furniture from Rooms To Go will greatly assist the college as we create opportunities and continue to teach students who will march to the front lines and take their rightful place in today’s global society.
“We really appreciate Dr. Jones for being the catalyst behind moving this project forward,” Jenkins continued. “And we certainly appreciate Mr. Nightingale for his commitment to helping our students and for taking time out of his schedule to be here with us today.”
Nightingale spoke briefly but said a lot.
“On behalf of Rooms To Go owner and president Stephen Buckley, I’d like to say that he and I are very excited about what we’ve done here,” Nightingale said. “We will be back, and we will continue to invest in your students. Literacy is one of our top priorities at Rooms To Go.”
After the ribbon cutting, Livingstone trustees, Salisbury City Councilman Pete Kennedy and his wife, Hazel, trustee emeritus Dr. Leslie Stokes and his wife, Mildred, and college administrators, faculty and staff marveled at the furniture inside The Walls Center, which houses the student union, mailroom and offices.
From The Walls Center the group walked to Goler Residence Hall, where a Reading for Excellence Center has been established in the basement. Furniture has also been put in Babcock Residence Hall and the college library.
Also during the event, Jones announced a decision by Rooms To Go officials to establish Reading Centers for Excellence at 25 more college campuses, in large part because of the successful launch at Livingstone.