SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Some of the University of Georgia's newest classrooms are inside one of Skidaway Island's oldest buildings.
For decades, the barn Bob Roebling built when he moved his New Jersey family to Savannah to raise cattle was little more than storage space at the UGA Institute of Oceanography. But it has been renovated and repurposed, and will now play a big role in Savannah and in Athens moving forward.
"Even by contemporary standards, it looks like it was purpose-built for this,’’ said Bob Roebling’s granddaughter, Audrey Derenne Roebling. “You would never imagine that was actually a cattle barn and a cattle auction barn.’’
"The Skidaway Institute is an important part of the University of Georgia,’’ added UGA president, Jere Morehead. “It does profound research. We love this place, we care about what it does not only for the University of Georgia but for the state of Georgia and literally research that impacts this entire world.’’
The Ocean Sciences Instructional Center, dedicated earlier this week by Morehead, includes brand new lab space and state-of-the-art electronic classrooms that will enable remote teaching between Skidaway and the main UGA campus.
It will also allow graduate students like Kun Ma to fulfill a teacher's assistant requirement without relocating from Savannah.
"Without that, the only option we have is to go up to Athens or do an online class,’’ said Ma, a PhD student at the Institute. “So, that’s really exciting. I’m really looking forward to that.’’
For the family that once owned Skidaway Island, and donated the 387 acres the Skidaway Institute is on to the state, the Roebling contribution to the area has a new life.
And their former barn has its most meaningful use since Bob Roebling's oldest daughter was married there in 1940.
"To think what it looked like before the renovation and what it looks like now,’’ said Morehead, “it's truly amazing to see what our architects and construction crew have accomplished.
"The University of Georgia has done a marvelous job preserving and moving this forward so that it can be used by future generations,’’ added Roebling. “I know my grandfather and grandmother would be really proud to see how this has turned out.’’