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New building features Carey's life, work

Those who ever were curious about the man behind William Carey College's name now can find answers at the college's newest building.

About 150 administrators, faculty, students and other guests gathered on the campus' center green Wednesday for the dedication of Donnell Hall. The hall houses the Center for Study of the Life and Work of William Carey, the pioneering missionary who died in 1834.

Gracefully fluted columns are designed to mimic those framing the entryway to the college in Serampore, India, that Carey founded there in 1818. But the building takes its name from two local business owners.

The $400,118 Donnell Hall was named for donors Robert and Linda Donnell, owners of Vital Care Compounder in Hattiesburg.

Linda Donnell, a member of the college's board of trustees, said she and her husband - missionaries themselves - were inspired by the work of both Carey the man and Carey the college.

"He was a giant as far as missions are considered," she said.

Carey moved with his family in 1793 from their home in England to the Bengali town of Serampore, where the Baptist minister set to work converting locals and educating them in European thought. Meanwhile, Carey became an accomplished botanist and linguist, translating English dictionaries and the Bible into more than half a dozen Indian dialects.

The evidence of Carey's work now is on display at the center.

"This is the only exhibit in the world that is this wide ranging," said Bennie Crockett, vice president for institutional effectiveness and the new center's co-director.

Crockett, along with co-director Myron Noonkester, hatched the idea for a William Carey center six years ago. Starting with an Indian postage stamp bearing Carey's image issued in 1993, the two have gathered thousands of artifacts from book and art dealers around the world. The 116 most significant of those are artfully displayed in the center's two galleries.

Notable items include a series of colorful botanical sketches, maps, coins, a slew of Bibles in a variety of Indian scripts and correspondence between Carey and his colleagues.

Closest to Noonkester's heart is Carey's much-loved childhood spelling dictionary, with his father's name inscribed inside.

"We were just thrilled to get it," said Noonkester, dean of the school of arts, humanities and sciences.

The exhibit is designed to be user-friendly, with clearly labeled artifacts and background information posted on walls. Weekday tours are available by appointment.

Originally published May 4, 2006

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HENRIETTA WILDSMITH | Hattiesburg American

Linda Donnell talks to Cynthia Smith at the dedication ceremony of Donnell Hall at William Carey College on Wednesday. Donnell Hall houses the Center for Study of the Life and Work of William Carey.

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