Higher Education Center fulfills community dream

Dr. Corey Wheeler, Medford Mayor, SOU President, Dr. Mary Cullinan and RCC President, Dr. Peter Angastadt.
Dr. Corey Wheeler, Medford Mayor, SOU President, Dr. Mary Cullinan and RCC President, Dr. Peter Angastadt.

Emcee, Medford/Jackson County Chamber Executive Director Brad Hicks compared it to a barn-raising. "It’s the story of a community coming together," he said of the merging of  two educational entities. He defined the occasion— September 3, at 12 noon-as "A red-letter day, and those letters are ‘S. O. U./ R. C. C.’"    
    
Hicks read a note from Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski who conveyed regrets that he was unable to attend. It highlighted his pride in having backed this unique collaboration.

When a strong breeze sent several pages flying from the outdoor
lectern, Hicks revealed his droll side. "Forty-five minutes of remarks
just blew away. You guys are out of luck; now I’ll have to say them all
in random order."  
   
For his turn at the mic, State Senator
Alan Bates spoke of having invested years of  toil behind the scenes on
the Higher Education Center (HEC) project.  He credited the governor
for standing behind him, and thanked colleagues in Salem for their
support in the endeavor.
   
Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler took
obvious delight in noting the HEC building’s completion on schedule and
under-budget. He labeled the Saturday M. B. A. program "a fulfillment
of dreams that will pay huge dividends to the whole valley."    
   
 Principal
architect John Echlin deemed the structure "a 100-year building that,
at no extra cost, met the highest (platinum) L.E.E.D. rating."  The
acronym refers to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
   
University
system Chancellor George Pernsteiner lauded business, civic leaders, 
200 donors, and a legislative delegation unswerving in its
determination to accomplish this enviable partnership.
   
RCC
President, Dr. Peter Angstadt drew laughs when referring to the outdoor
concrete-pouring work still in progress. "Brad Hicks wants to put his
handprint in the fresh cement," he said, adding in mock seriousness,
"Brad’s will be the only one allowed."   
   
"We were there
when  Rep. Peter Buckley held (State Government) in session until July,
so we could get this project through," Angstadt continued. He also
thanked  faculty, staff, retirees, and thousands of community members
who made this landmark dream a reality for future students. His
gratitude extended to former SOU President Elizabeth Zinser and her
predecessors.
   
Last to speak, S.O.U.’s current President, 
Dr. Mary Cullinan echoed similar acknowledgments. "As we cut the
ribbon, renewing and expanding our promise, this building is going to
come alive. Visit the building; it’s your academic home here."  
   
No
sooner had Angstadt and Cullinan snipped the symbolic ribbon, than
scores of attendees accepted Cullinan’s invitation. Although the "open
house" tours had originally been scheduled for 3 to 7 p. m., dozens of
curious early arrivals milled about, marveling at the magnificent
three-story structure.  
Shady Cove resident, Dr. Joan McBee,
Director for S.O.U., pointed out some energy-saving features in this
"green" structure. She explained how the large window panels usher in
more of the natural illumination that saves electricity. Light sensors
automatically shut off fluorescent lights when the last person exits a
room. Availability of water-saving showers encourage students to ride
bikes to school as a fuel-cutting measure.  
   
"We’ll rent out our 60-100 person multi-purpose room for community use," she said. "Also our presentation hall seats 99."
   
McBee
showed a section containing full-time faculty offices, and space for
professors visiting from other regions to participate in local
seminars. In addition to 29 classrooms, the structure houses computer
and science labs and the prometric  testing center.     People used to
travel to Eugene or Portland to take proctored tests such as  GRE, CPA,
and similar professional exams. Now they’ll enjoy the convenience of
proximity plus gas saving.
     
According to McBee,  parking
questions are being addressed by  Medford’s Urban Renewal Agency. Two
large parking garages sit close to the HEC. "Downtown Medford has lots
nearby where you can park all day for $2," she said. "Some daytime
parking areas are free, but they fill up fast."     

R.C.C.
and S.O.U. now undergo the process of  divesting themselves of
cumbersome leases. "We’re closing buildings D, E, and the Fir Street
Learning center," said a spokesman for RCC. "We own buildings G, and A.
So far, we’re still using building F."

On September 29, 2008,
start date of this year’s fall term, H.E.C. officially launches the
culmination of its decade-long dream.
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent

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