Lamar State College reopens renovated Ruby Fuller Building in Port Arthur

Published 12:28 am Thursday, September 16, 2021

For just a moment, Sina Nejad turned the podium inside the renovated Ruby Fuller Building at Lamar State College Port Arthur into a pulpit.

“We have done quite a number of challenging projects in the past…but never in the past have we absolutely destroyed the sanctuary in a church,” Nejad, with Sigma Engineers, said. “And it is for educational purposes, so I really hope God has forgiven us.”

The 106-year-old building began as First United Methodist Church on Proctor Street before the college took possession in 1976. It was used for classrooms until 2017, when Hurricane Harvey rendered the historical building unusable.

The Lamar State College Port Arthur Ruby Fuller Building was first built in 1906 as First United Methodist Church. (Monique Batson/The News)

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But approximately $6 million in state funds allowed for the facility to be renovated and turned into a modern-day state-of-the-art school building with a historical, Biblical feel. On Wednesday, college officials, city and county leaders and others joined for a ribbon cutting and tour of the renovations.

“A casual walk with Dr. (Betty) Reynard one day turned out to be a heck of a challenge for myself and my team,” Nijad said.

There was no air conditioning system, the electrical system had to be replaced, the drainage was redesigned and everything was made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But it wasn’t without its challenges.

“They (college administrators) really went out and defended us in Austin,” Nejad said. “They really went to bat for us. Nobody in Austin believed in us. They thought, oh a bunch of little guys in Beaumont and Port Arthur, they can’t do this stuff.”

Reynard, president of the college, also noted the appreciation of those that had worked to have the structure renovated, included a few in the audience that she said had attended class in the building prior to its closing.

“It’s been under restoration for a couple of years,” Reynard said, “and we’re delighted that the whole thing is finished.”

Front left: Melissa Armentor, Dean of Technical Programs for LSCPA, talks with Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick. (Monique Batson/The News)