Columbia State Celebrates John W. Finney Library Renovations with Open House

Columbia State Celebrates John W. Finney Library Renovations with Open House
Members of the Finney/Kennedy families with the recently reframed portrait of John W. Finney at the Open House. (Left to right) John Finney, great-nephew of John W. Finney; Mary Susan Kennedy, wife of Delk Kennedy; Delk Kennedy, grandson of John W. Finney; Jack Blackstone, great-grandson of John W. Finney; Elizabeth Blackstone, granddaughter of John W. Finney; Margaret Berry Kennedy, great, great-granddaughter of John W. Finney; Bill Blackstone, husband of Elizabeth Kennedy Blackstone; and Emory Blackstone, great-grandson of John W. Finney.

The John W. Finney Memorial Library at Columbia State Community College recently celebrated completed renovations with an Open House.

On Friday, November 19, Columbia State hosted an Open House celebrating completed renovations, which were budgeted at $6.1 million, with tours of the updated space and remarks from President Janet F. Smith. Representatives from the Finney and Kennedy families were also in attendance to view the upgrades.

“The library is a comfortable and welcoming place for students, faculty, staff and community members to discover and explore a wealth of information, connect with student support services and engage with others,” said Anne Scott, Columbia State library director.

Dr. Harold S. Pryor, the first Columbia State president, oversees construction on the John W. Finney Memorial Library in the early 1970s.

The Columbia State library was originally housed in a temporary classroom before moving into what is now the William R. Walter Building. In 1967, it was dedicated as the John W. Finney Memorial Library. Finally, on June 25, 1972, the library found its permanent home at the forefront of campus.

“I would often hear my grandad speaking with my parents passionately about his vision for Columbia State and what it would do for southern Middle Tennessee,” said Delk Kennedy, grandson of John W. Finney. “I’ve lived here all my life. I look around today at what Columbia State has done and what it has meant to this community. Its students, faculty and the enrichment that has come to southern Middle Tennessee is everything that my grandfather imagined and more. If he could see this now, he would be beaming.”

John W. Finney, a native of Columbia whose father was a co-publisher of the Daily Herald, served in the U.S. Navy and taught in the Maury County school system. Eventually, he was drawn back to his roots and became the editor of the Daily Herald for nearly 40 years as well as publisher and general manager of the Maury Democrat for 17 years. Finney was devoted to journalism, serving as president and legislative committee chairman in the Tennessee Press Association, and was posthumously named in the Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1971.

Behind the scenes, he used his platform and status both publicly and privately to advocate for improvements in education, serving in a White House Conference on Education in 1955 and on the Tennessee State Board of Education from 1962 until his death in 1965. He wielded his significant influence to push for a community college in Maury County through his editorials, which were published across many newspapers. While he never lived to see the establishment of the college, his legacy continues to impact students today. Read Finney’s bio on the Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame website for more information.

The Kennedy family unveiling John W. Finney’s portrait at the library dedication on June 25, 1972. (Pictured [left to right]: Elizabeth Kennedy Blackstone, Delk Kennedy, Beth Finney and Sam Kennedy.)

Today, the Finney Library is a hub for Columbia State students to research, learn and explore. Of the 30,207 square footage of the building, 24,000 square feet was renovated. The anticipated renovations, which began in 2018, have ensured that the structure is relevant to the digital age and will continue to assist students and the community for years to come. Echoing this sentiment, the City of Columbia donated $100,000 for the project.

“It is fitting for the City of Columbia to support the renovation of the John W. Finney Memorial Library given the many long-term connections and relationships between the City, the Finney family and Columbia State,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation. “Mr. Finney dedicated much time and energy to bringing the first community college to Columbia. The library is a source of varied media for reading and learning which aligns with Mr. Finney’s work as an educator, editor and his family’s work with the newspaper and press. We are appreciative of the City’s support and glad to have the City Conference Room on the second floor of the library.”

The new renovations include a circulation desk for books, CDs, STEM calculators and Media Services equipment. It also features library staff offices, outdoor book return slots, a cafe with seating for 30, vending machines, six study rooms with large screens connectable with a laptop, reading areas and 36,000 print volumes.

In addition, Evening Services, TRiO as well as the Tutoring and Learning Center can now be found in the library. Three conference rooms with teaching stations, a computer lab with 30 computers and additional online resources have been added as well.

“I feel very proud that this building is named for Mr. Finney,” Smith said at the open house. “It’s named for someone who said, ‘Education moves us all forward.’ The heritage that has been given to this college is more than any of us can speak.”

For more information about the John W. Finney Memorial Library visit

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