UWA receives $3 million land gift from Bibb County’s Bill Hubbard
The University of West Alabama Foundation has announced a major land gift from Bibb County resident William D. “Bill” Hubbard valued at more than $3 million for the development of a conservation and research program. The property amasses more than 2,000 acres of land along the Cahaba River in Bibb County, rich in resources that will create opportunities for generations of UWA students to come.
UWA recognized Hubbard at a luncheon with members of his family and friends on campus, offering a glimpse into the vision that Hubbard has shared with UWA for the property. At the luncheon, Hubbard announced his pledge to match up to $200k of funds raised over the next 24 months for projects related to the property and its research and education initiatives.
Located in Centreville, the property boasts some of the most pristine natural resources that researchers say they have experienced.
UWA’s Cahaba Biodiversity Center is the name proposed for the property and the program that will develop through it. Hubbard began acquiring individual tracts of land in 2002, growing it to more than 2,000 acres through seven acquisitions. Initially, he intended to build his retirement home in the woods of Bibb County.
He did build a home there, and a barn, and more, but Hubbard said that he soon realized the property had more far-reaching opportunities that could benefit generations of students to come. He began considering schools that may utilize the land and its resources in a way that would conserve it for posterity and serve as a teaching tool.
“I know that UWA will provide millions of teachable moments here,” Hubbard said. “Land utilization and biological conservation need not be exclusive of each other. I am confident that UWA will fulfill my dream and vision for the property.”
Hubbard’s vision for the property is outlined carefully, and the University intends to honor his vision to the fullest.
“This is a visionary gift that will benefit countless generations to come,” said Dr. Chris Thomason, vice president for institutional advancement at UWA. “We are unmeasurably grateful to Mr. Hubbard for his generosity, his vision, and his commitment to our students and the opportunities they deserve.”
UWA President Ken Tucker echoed the remarks of gratitude and vision.
“We are excited to receive this potentially transformative donation, and are very grateful to Mr. Hubbard for his vision and generosity,” Tucker said. “The primary purpose and use of the property will be for education and conservation. The opportunities for hands-on experience in biology, conservation, and environmental sciences on the Hubbard property will be invaluable in the continuing development of our undergraduate degrees in Conservation and Field Biology and Environmental Sciences, and our new Master of Science in Conservation Biology.”
The water-side property overlooks the resource-rich Cahaba River, and in its banks are countless native species of flora and fauna, many that likely remain undiscovered still. Its center is seven miles downstream from the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge.
Hubbard has built a friendship with Dr. Brian Keener, professor of biological sciences and assistant dean of graduate studies at UWA. Keener is also coordinator of the Alabama Plant Atlas and curator of the UWA Herbarium. Hubbard’s friendship and trust in Keener, he said, made the difference in his decision to donate the natural treasure to UWA. The professor is excited for the student opportunities that the project brings.
“Mr. Hubbard’s gift and his vision for this property will make a tremendous impact on our students and their education,” Keener said. “The biodiversity here is unrivaled in the country. Exposed limestone, the geology, hydrology, caves, rocks, plants—it’s not some of the young cretaceous stuff. When we study biodiversity, the older it is, the better, and this is old and virtually untouched.”
In describing its botanical and zoological assets, Keener said the property boasts, for example, three new populations of Georgia Rock Cress, which is endangered.
“With the research and learning opportunities available at this site, we can draw students from all over the country,” Keener said. “The tract is unrivaled in Alabama and, quite honestly, is and will be envied by many. The possibilities are simply unquantifiable. The upside is off the charts.”
Research activities for UWA faculty and students will focus primarily on botanical and zoological biodiversity, ecology, archaeology, water quality, and conservation land management. Additional options on the table include utilizing the property in other new curricula such as outdoor enterprises and forestry technology.
UWA will manage the facility for researchers at other institutions who participate in similar research endeavors. Likewise, UWA will coordinate with regional K-12 schools for field trips and visits to offer exposure to research and resources for young students.