Of the three types of horses—racehorses, show horses and work horses—Ralph Cellon Jr., with his Stetson hat proudly on display in the front row, is a workhorse, according to Florida Rep. Chuck Clemons.
Cellon has served on the board of the Santa Fe College Foundation for 54 years and led the effort to buy the land for a main campus off NW 23rd Avenue. He’s also sat on the Alachua City Commission and Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.
Clemons called him the workhorse of Santa Fe College on Monday when state and Santa Fe officials gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Ralph W. Cellon Jr. Institute for Skilled Trades and Advanced Manufacturing.
“A workhorse is dependable, irreplaceable and the primary reason for a successful operation,” Clemons said. “Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you this afternoon that Ralph Wilson Cellon Jr. has been and continues to be the workhorse of Santa Fe College—not only from its inception but before its inception.”
Santa Fe President Paul Broadie II said the Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to name the institute in Cellon’s honor.
“For 50 plus years, Uncle Ralph has been committed to education, committed to the trades, committed to creating opportunities that transform lives,” Broadie said.
The institute will expand Santa Fe’s available training space for its welding and HVAC programs and also house a new program, advanced manufacturing. The facility will be around 22,860 square feet and located on the same parking lot as the Charles R. Perry Construction Institute on the Northwest Campus.
State Sen. Keith Perry said trade jobs typically get overlooked and highlighted the importance of the people who ensure electricity turns on, houses stay cool and gas is available at the tank. The new institute will also prepare for future trades like advanced manufacturing and robotics, he added.
“It's important that we not only recognize and make sure we keep educating these people, but also, as we continue to grow the skilled trades, it's hard to find people to do the things that are necessary,” Perry said.
The state legislature provided $1.8 million for the project earlier this year. Construction will begin at the start of 2024, and Broadie said the college hopes to open by 2025.
Cellon graduated from UF with a degree in animal studies before heading to the Korean War as a fighter pilot. He has also served as the president of the Florida Cattleman’s Association, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and Florida Agricultural Council.