A long-anticipated event is upcoming in a matter of weeks: The opening of the Hannibal campus of Moberly Area Community College.
The state-of-the-art building, constructed on six acres of Shinn Lane property donated in 2000 by Dr. Chris Bieniek and Dr. Curtis Burton of Midwest Orthopedics, will open for classes for the spring term, beginning January 13, 2014.
A group of dedicated individuals first organized a planning committee nearly 15 years ago. The goal was to find a way to offer affordable educational opportunities for students living in the Hannibal area. Responding to this community interest, Moberly Area Community College located a satellite campus in Hannibal in 1998.
A group of individuals formally created Affordable Community Education Inc., (ACE) as a 501(c) not-for-profit corporation in 2000.
After nearly a decade and a half of fund-raising, planning, and gathering support, the doors to the Hannibal campus are about to open.
Judge Robert M. Clayton III is currently serving as the president of ACE. When the project was first envisioned, he was a state representative, and worked early on with Jack Whitaker, then publisher of the Hannibal Courier-Post, and Gary Shimun, then city manager. After he left the legislature he went to work for the Missouri Public Service Commission, then got married and started a family. This limited the amount of time he was able to devote to ACE. Luckily for Hannibal, people like Branson Wood and Sally Poole stepped forward and took the reigns.
"Without Branson and Sally, I hate to think where ACE would be today."
Throughout the ensuing years, MACC has continued to dedicate its resources to serving the Hannibal area. Classes were first offered at the Hannibal Area Vocational Technical School, then in the old St. Elizabeth's Hospital building on Virginia Street, and finally in space rented from AT&T.
Now, with the opening of the Hannibal campus, MACC will be able to offer a full range of associate degree level classes, including the sciences.
"At the end of finals in December, the staff will pack things up and move over Christmas break.

Building layout
The north wing at the front of the building contains administrative offices and a book store. The southern wing in the front of the building offers faculty offices and places where students and faculty can meet.
Classrooms are at the back of the building, to the north and south. Rooms are equipped with motion sensors that help conserve electric use. Rooms are also equipped with computer hook ups, audio visual equipment and retractable viewing screens.
"The building is designed to meet our existing number of students, and it will allow for growth in the future," Clayton said.
A common area in the center of the building was constructed to FEMA standards for a storm shelter. A grant from FEMA helped pay for this portion of the building.
"The FEMA grant made it possible for us to move forward with construction," Clayton said. But fundraising continues, because a $1.3 million debt still remains - borrowed from USDA and Ralls County Rural Cooperative.
Students who have earned A+ scholarships can attend college classes at no charge - the state picks up the tab.
"The goal is for all A+ students to take courses here," and then transfer to four year schools.
"Zero tuition and no room expenses for those who live at home. Now that's two years of very affordable education."
He anxiously anticipates January, when up to 200 cars will be cycling through the parking lot each hour.