Jim Ritter, former superintendent for the Columbia Public School District, has been elected chairman of the board of directors for Columbia’s new Health Adventure Center.
“Columbia is known for two things: health and education,” Ritter said. “We’re the health center for much of the state, and education has always had a great emphasis. This center is an excellent fit for the community.”
Ritter was elected on Oct. 17. “We brought him on because he makes sure things function and work well,” said Ann Cohen, president of the board of directors. “He brings those strengths to our program.”
“I’ve been in education all my life, and I felt this would be something in which I would have a fairly significant interest in,” Ritter said. “I think there are two very important ingredients to the Health Adventure Center. It’s a very strong tool related to health and education, and it will be good for our community.”
Ritter began his career in education in 1959 as a Hickman High School American history teacher. He was appointed superintendent of the Columbia Public School District in 1998 and retired in June.
Cohen said because of Ritter, the program has taken a new turn. “This will give me the opportunity to focus on developing the exhibits and programs,” she said. “Dr. Ritter is bringing passion for education and the Columbia community.”
Ritter compared the interactive center to similar centers in Kansas City and St. Louis.
“We’ll look for schools to utilize the center as an educational tool,” he said. “It will be set up in such a way that it’s exciting for the children. For instance, they’ll walk through the heart and see how it works.”
Ritter said he would like to see the center draw people from outside the central Missouri area. The current business plan estimates 57,000 visitors annually once the center is developed.
“Our hope is to advertise it in such a way that people who are traveling on I-70 with their families will want to stop,” he said. “It will be good for the downtown area of our city and in economic terms.”
Ritter said that, ultimately, the center hopes to help children and adults have a healthier lifestyle.
Also elected to the board of directors were John Ott of Premier Marketing Group and Elinor Barrett of the Columbia Public Library.
The Health Adventure Center will be located in the Columbia Federal Building at 608 E. Cherry St. Though the organization has not taken over the building yet, it has started schematic designs, Cohen said. The lower level and first floor is to hold exhibits while the second floor office space will be converted into classrooms, which would be used for parenting-education classes.
The center is expected to open in the fall of 2005.