Ipswich: University Campus Suffolk’s �22million building dedicated to former Ipswich Borough Council chief Jim Hehir’s memory

IPSWICH: Jim would have been proud.

Visionary borough council chief James Hehir has been formally honoured by the town he served with such distinction following the unveiling of a �22million university building.

The 61-year-old died in November 2009.

During his 20 years as chief executive, Mr Hehir was a passionate advocate of the development of the university and of the arts in the town, as well as being a force behind the Waterfront regeneration.

To mark his efforts, the James Hehir Building was opened yesterday – with widow Sally on hand to cut the ribbon.

The unveiling of the state-of-the-art structure, which contains five floors of classrooms, labs and other teaching areas for University Campus Suffolk, marks a major milestone in the development of the town’s higher education campus.

The building, which overlooks the Wet Dock and the River Orwell, is packed full of state-of-the-art technical equipment especially for medical and other sciences, said UCS provost Professor Mike Saks.

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There are laboratories, classrooms and lecture theatres as well as social areas, a student bar and restaurant, and around 1,000 computers.

Professor Saks buried a time capsule, to be opened in 25 years’ time on March 30, 2036, which contained everything from original blueprints of the building to student photographs and memory cards.

And he included a personal letter to the students and people of 2036.

He said: “My thoughts are addressed to the community of the future. This is a fantastic building and a major memorial to James Hehir.

“It is such an exciting time and a stellar building. There are not many universities that have new �22 million and �40 million buildings.

“I wish I had a time machine but I have tried to predict the future to see the university developing out into Suffolk, in our rural network, and beyond and to become as highly respected as other universities like the University of East Anglia and the University of Essex.

“It is a vision James Hehir had many years ago.”

Russell Williams, current chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, paid tribute to Mr Hehir’s enthusiasm and passion.

“This is a very, very fitting tribute to James and his passion for the town.”

Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover was among the guests.

He said: “This is a fitting tribute to James, who I knew as Jim or Jimbo. I am thrilled that his vision has been realised in such a tremendous building, and it fulfils his dreams of educational aspiration and high quality.”

It was a normal working day within the building and some students volunteered as ambassadors to show guests around.

Sports science student Bubba Osiyemi, from Essex, said: “We are a new university but a good university. Everyone is really friendly and the staff are very good and helpful. The education is really top line.”

UCS looks set go grow substantially next year.

There are currently around 5,500 students at UCS in Ipswich and applications are substantially up for the 2011/12 academic year.

n Would you like to pay tribute to James? What do you think of the growth of UCS? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk