JAMES L. ERNETTE,
R. W. GRAND MASTER|
AT THE DEDICATION PROGRAM FOR THE MULTIMEDIA CENTER
AT THE MASONIC CONFERENCE CENTER
PATTON CAMPUS ELIZABETHTOWN
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12, 1998
Minutes ago, we formally dedicated this modern high-tech facility-our newly constructed 3.2 million dollar multimedia center at the Masonic Conference Center-Patton Campus. Within hours, the first official function will be held here when the Order of DeMolay of Pennsylvania initiates new members of the Grand Master's Class.
The Masonic Conference Center had its start as a youth center, so it's appropriate-and we are proud-that today the inaugural event in this state-of-the-art facility will focus on youth-our potential leaders of the Twenty-first Century. Now, this facility has become a true conference center for ALL Masons and related bodies, as well as for our youth.
The Thomas Ranken Patton Masonic Institution for Boys filled an important role in the development of young adults for 51 years, beginning in 1925. By December 28, 1981, when Bro. Samuel C. Williamson, RWPGM, was installed Grand Master, the school had been closed for 5 years. It was his vision, at that time, to convert the school to "one of the finest Masonic Training Centers in the nation." Renovated in 1983, it was renamed "The Masonic Conference Center-Patton Campus" and was designed to transform a school for 60 boys into a center for 160 youth.
At the time, it was anticipated that some adults would occasionally use the facility. It was never anticipated, however, that the number of adults staying at the campus would grow to EXCEED the use by our youth. There was no conception of the extent to which adults in our Fraternity, in the education community and in law enforcement services, would embrace this youth center for their training needs.
Can you imagine hosting more than 7,000 guests each year? That's how many people-youth and adult-who benefit from the use of these facilities. You can appreciate how busy this training center is with the many drug and alcohol prevention programs going on, designed to train educators in the statewide Student Assistance Program, and law enforcement officers in the D.A.R.E. program. Since we made these facilities available, we have provided food and housing at no cost to more than 10,000 educators and professionals while being trained here. A few years ago, a Department of Education program director said, " Without the Masons, Pennsylvania would not have a Student Assistance Program."
Likewise, law enforcement officers benefit from similar support of the D.A.R.E. program. More than 420 officers have been trained to work with elementary school students, teaching them how to say "NO" to drugs and alcohol, and how to cope with peer pressures. In fact, the Pa. Commission on Crime and Delinquency has designated the Masonic Conference Center as the Pennsylvania D.A.R.E. Training Program headquarters. Additionally, several sessions of the Gang Resistance Education and Training, or G.R.E.A.T. Program, are also conducted here annually.
Many of the Brethren in our Fraternity have also been here to attend conferences and seminars conducted by the Grand Lodge, York Rite, Scottish Rite and other appendant bodies and allied organizations.
The steadily increasing demand for use of the Center by all Masonic bodies and charitable efforts we support have made it very obvious that we needed a modern day conference facility with equipment suitable for the approaching Twenty-first Century. Today that facility is here-a vision realized-- truly "the finest Masonic Training Center in the nation."
While this renovation and addition is the result of the growing adult use of the Campus, it should not be inferred that the use by our Masonic Youth Groups has diminished over the years. It also has grown, and now includes the hosting of several national training conferences. The Masonic Conference Center-Patton Campus has become known around the country as a facility which is ideally suited for a retreat or seminar for participants of all ages.
You've seen how functionally the construction and remodeling has been designed to meet today's meeting and training needs. Memorial Hall, which originally was the educational center of the former Patton School, has this new addition connected to the front of the building. To the south is the new multimedia center, with comfortable seating for 98 participants. It is equipped with the most modern audio-visual aids available to conduct state-of-the-art education and training. It is also acoustically designed for future teleconferencing programs. To the north is a new registration center, several courtesy phones, public restrooms, display cases and six well-equipped meeting rooms. In the center is this majestic lobby, providing, for the first time, a social gathering space for all who use the campus.
We're proud not only of the modern design and applications in the expanded Memorial Hall, but also of the nostalgia and tradition that have been carried forth.
For example, we have carefully saved the façade of the original entrance so familiar to Patton School Alumni, and memorable to the many Masons who attended meetings here, and the thousands of young men and women who, for the past 21 years, came here as youth of DeMolay, Job's Daughters, Rainbow for Girls, and Knights of Pythagoras.
There is more to come. Our master plan calls for upgrading and refurbishing the Ranken and Patton buildings just as we did here in Memorial Hall. Each building will be fully air-conditioned, and individual bathrooms will be installed in every sleeping room, providing the privacy which adults especially value.
This Masonic Conference Center now combines a youthful environment with a high-tech, comfortable adult learning center. In its own right, the new Masonic Conference Center is like the magnificent and historic Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, and the beautiful and stately Masonic Homes across the road. It is unrivaled by any other Masonic facility in the world.
We ARE on the road to the Twenty-first Century. But let us not be mistaken about our purpose. We did not build this multimedia center merely for the technology or comfort it affords. We did not establish this facility solely to improve services to adult or youth programs. And we did not erect this structure to make history for ourselves, or to preserve a tradition.
We have constructed and dedicated this multimedia center as a better means of training young people to assume useful roles in society. We have established this Masonic Conference Center to provide more opportunities for training adults, with or without Masonic affiliation, to better serve and guide young people through the pitfalls of adolescence-- the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse-the tragedy of teenage suicide--- the destruction of abuse and neglect.
Let there be no misunderstanding. Masons build for the future. Masons build to the Glory of God! Masons build their own character, while concerning themselves with enhancing the quality of life for others. Whether here at the Masonic Conference Center, or across Bainbridge Road at the magnificent Masonic Homes Complex, these guiding principles of Freemasonry are acted upon daily.
Now, if you think about it, Masonic principles are as important for young people to learn as they are for adults... perhaps even more so! The ancient Proverb reminds us to "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
The Capstone we just unveiled reminds us that this Masonic Conference Center is "Dedicated to Freemasonry and Youth." More specifically, it is dedicated to the development of character in ourselves, and in our youth, because, without character, what's the use in looking to the future? In our society, without integrity, without morality, without honesty, without virtue, there IS NO FUTURE.
This is where we, as Masons, display our character. This is where we, as Masons, make our daily contribution to the character of the future. This is where we quietly set the example of lives worthy of emulation by our nation's youth.
I would like to personally thank Past Grand Master, Brother Samuel C. Williamson, for his vision back in 1981, and for his commitment and his untiring efforts until this very day.
We give thanks to the Great Architect of the Universe... for bringing us this day... and to this event... and ask that His grace abide with us all... and with the Family of Freemasonry.
Thank you for your attention... and thank you for being here today!
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