Mattie Kelly Arts Center Founder Set To Retire

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NICEVILLE- Twenty-five years ago administrators at Northwest Florida State College were searching for someone to develop a theatre department.

"When I first arrived here twenty-five years ago the community was asking for three things. They were asking for a four year program in area, they were asking for a graduate research program and they were asking for an arts center" said Dr. Cliff Herron.

Dr. Herron played a vital role in fulfilling that last request, opening what is now the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. Now, twenty-five years later, Herron says it's finally time to retire.

"It's really tough because he's kind of like a dad. I was fourteen when we met and I just turned forty last September so I’ve known the man for twenty-five years" said Professor of Dance Joseph Taylor.

"This is the end of a very large chapter and for some, more since they worked with him so much longer than I" said Faculty Member Jeremy Ribando.

"It's kind of time for somebody else to take over. And also i lost my wife seven years ago. So together we kind of built this program. So this is kind of a bittersweet moment to retire and move on" said Herron.

"He is the best boss. Not many people can say they love to come to work. I am so privileged that I can't wait to get here in the morning and very rarely do we leave on time" said Professor of Music Allison Everitt.

Dr. Herron may be leaving the college, but his knowledge and wisdom will remain a permanent part of those who worked with him.

"Those moments alone with him where he's imparted. Well tried to impart all those years of experience to me" said Ribando.

"He has several little phrases like ‘Go Go Go Go’ and ‘Oh, nice moment’ " said Everitt.

As he prepares for his final curtain call, Herron says his most lingering memory will be the reason he began this journey in the first place.

"The joy of sharing the love for the arts to the students that come through here. Absolutely that's just tremendous pleasure and great satisfaction" said Herron.

Dr. Herron is currently staging his 18th and final summer production "Les Miserable" which runs through next week.