*Donna Battle Pierce's name has been corrected in this story.
COLUMBIA — Forty-six of Muriel Williams Battle's family members came to Columbia for Sunday's emotional dedication of the new high school named after the long-time Columbia educator.
In 2010, Battle, a teacher and administrator who served the Columbia community for 40 years, was chosen as the namesake of the school. She died at 73 in March 2003. The day before it was set to open its doors, a dedication ceremony was held in the new school's stadium.
Read a special section all about the opening of Columbia's new high school.
"My mother is the third generation in her family who has a school building in honor of her," Muriel Battle's son, Eliot Battle Jr., said at the ceremony.
Battle's family members came from cities all over the country — including Chicago, Milwaukee and New Orleans — to see the dedication ceremony, Battle's daughter, Muriel Jean Battle Browder, said.
Browder sat in the front row with her father, Eliot Battle; her two sisters, Carolyn Thomas and Donna Battle Pierce*; and her brother Eliot Battle Jr.
"This is such a collective achievement," Eliot Battle Jr. said. "This is not my mother, this is not my father, this is not my sisters. This is us. Her spirit is here, she is here."
Before and after speaking, Muriel Battle's husband, Eliot Battle, received a standing ovation by the audience for almost a minute. He received a plaque from the Columbia Rotary Clubs. He also cut the ribbon with his children and ambassadors from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce .
"Our family has always reached for the top, reached for the best and the school district reached for the top, in this instance, and reached for the best," Eliot Battle said after the ceremony.
Battle High Principal Kim Presko also addressed the stadium that was three-quarters full.
"Twenty-four years ago, Muriel took a chance on me and hired me as a teacher," Presko said. "It's my honor to continue her legacy and be the first principal of the school named for her. It's my honor to stand in her shoulders and continue the work that Muriel and Eliot did so many years ago in our community. She was a pioneer in our community."
Building the school cost $75 million and took 24 months to complete, Presko said. It is about 300,000 square feet and will hold 1,800 to 2,000 students. Summer school will start in the building Monday with 465 students, she said.
Lauren Hager and Lauren Walkins, both 14, will start at Battle High in the fall.
"It's going to be great for all the students to be able to have a new learning experience," Hager said. "I am excited for sports. Everything is going to be brand new."
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