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AWARE dedicates Lawrence P. Noonan Center for Excellence school in Anaconda

Larry Noonan, the former chief executive officer of AWARE Inc., right, stands with his wife Jacki Noonan, chief officer for care and community services, after the Friday afternoon renaming ceremony of the organization's Center for Excellence in Anaconda. The center, a school for children with mental health, developmental, and learning disabilities at 200 S. Polk St. in Anaconda, was renamed the Lawrence P. Noonan Center for Excellence Friday in honor of the ex-CEO, who announced his retirement in February after serving with the organization for 30 years.

Former AWARE Inc. chief executive officer Larry Noonan has left his mark at the Center for Excellence in Anaconda in more ways than one, and now the building will bear his name.

On Friday, more than 30 people gathered at the school for children with mental health, developmental, and learning disabilities for a ceremony to rededicate and rename the building in honor of the former CEO. The AWARE-operated facility is now known as the Lawrence P. Noonan Center for Excellence.

Noonan announced his retirement in February after serving as the AWARE’s head for over 30 years.

Noonan joined the organization in 1988. At the time, the organization, which serves people with special needs, had just a handful of staff members. Today, it boasts over 800 employees and has facilities and offices throughout the state — including in Butte, Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, and Missoula — and serves around 5,000 individuals.

Jack Haffey, AWARE board president, remarked on the longevity of Noonan’s career.

“That by itself is something to celebrate,” said Haffey. “In many ways, this school is a fitting symbol of the mission and vision that Larry had. He always had the belief that the best place to serve people is in their communities, as close to their homes as possible.”

Haffey added that Noonan strove to instill the philosophy that programs for people with special needs should be catered to the individual instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach.

Interim CEO Richard Saravalli also addressed attendees Friday.

Saravalli called Noonan a mentor and a friend.

“It’s a great honor to recognize Larry’s accomplishments,” said Saravalli. “On behalf of all people with disabilities, Larry has made one of the largest impacts in our state.”

AWARE ceremony honors long-time former CEO Larry Noonan

Two-year-old Emma Higgins, the granddaughter of former AWARE Inc. chief executive officer Larry Noonan, plays by a statue as others gather for a renaming ceremony to re-dedicate AWARE's Center for Excellence in honor of the former long-time CEO.

Noonan said the establishment of the Center for Excellence was one of the highlights of his career. The $3.3-million, 8,248-square-foot school was completed in 2014.

“It’s an important building,” Noonan said, stressing the significance of early education for people with mental health and developmental disabilities. “It takes kids as young as possible and gets them going. A lot of times, people that are developmentally disabled don’t get that kind of chance.”

Noonan said he was honored to have the building named after him but added, “lots of people helped develop this (school). I just happened to be the CEO.”

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for The Montana Standard.

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