Ten years ago this September 13, The Keeter Center opened its doors to the public, providing luxurious lodge rooms, fine dining and a conference center. But as any patron will attribute, there is much more than meets the eye at The Keeter Center.
Perhaps it is because most of the operation is run by students attending College of the Ozarks and participating in its mandatory Work Education Program by serving student-made entrees to patrons, maintaining the Mabee Lodge suites or creating gift baskets in the Beulah I. Winfrey Gift Shop.
The facility also houses the The Keeter Center for Character Education and the Culinary Arts and Hotel/Restaurant Management academic programs. Students have impacted and been impacted by every inch of the 99,000 square foot facility that has hosted dinners, weddings and world-renowned leaders, such as President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and General Tommy Bell.
Duke University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski was the first Character Convocation speaker to walk the halls of The Keeter Center.
It all began with the construction of the unique structure that is architecturally inspired by the first building on the Point Lookout campus, which succumbed to fire in 1930. Under the supervision of master craftsmen, it took 250 students over the course of six years to construct the building that features 1,000 copper panels in the Dining Room, 20 fireplaces in all, and 240,000 roof shingles.
“It has truly been a blessing to be a part of The Keeter Center’s growth over the last ten years,” said Keeter Center General Manager Tom Healey. “Yes, the facility is impressive in many ways, but it is the genuine care and comfort the students provide when serving our visitors that truly makes the difference.”
Since its opening, The Keeter Center has continued to grow and recently added The College Creamery, offering Nettie Marie’s Homemade Ice Cream. It requires approximately 340 students to operate The Keeter Center, and over the past decade 2,400 students have worked for their education in the seven different workstations offered there.
The Keeter Center and The Keeter Center for Character Education are named in honor of the late Mr. James P. Keeter’s parents, Ruby and Vester Keeter. Mr. Keeter and his family took a leadership role in establishing the physical building and the character education program, which has touched and continues to touch thousands of lives. Mr. Keeter served on the College’s Board of Trustees from 1998-2014.
“Mr. Keeter and his family thought it important to invest in the development of young people,” said C of O President Jerry C. Davis. “The Center honors Mr. Keeter’s parents and reflects their values.”
With the intention from the beginning of promoting character education on a national level, The Keeter Center for Character Education facilitates programs such as FirstPLACE!, a two-county character initiative and the S. Truett Cathy Poverty Summit.
Traditionally, the 50th anniversary is golden. However, in just ten years a multitude of golden opportunities and moments have taken place at The Keeter Center.