With blue skies and clouds above and the sun beating down, Tyler Junior College and its supporters celebrated the future Robert M. Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center.
The facility is named after the late Tyler resident who founded TCA Cable, which eventually became Suddenlink.
The building, which is slated to open in spring 2015, will form the new western edge of the campus.
On Monday, the ceremonial groundbreaking for the facility as well as the naming of some key donors took place.
“We’re building a 100-year building here, and we’re very excited about it,” TJC President Dr. Mike Metke said as to a small group gathered at the construction site. “We’re grateful to the Tyler community for all you’ve done to make this possible.”
Although TJC voters approved the issuing of $25 million in bonds to fund part of the project, the college is relying upon $12.5 million in private donations and $12.5 million in student user fees to round out the funds.
Metke said it was the nine TJC board members who were among the first to generously donate their money to be involved in this project.
Metke recognized other donors and longtime college supporters Dr. Pat Thomas, former TJC board chairman and board member for more than 30 years, and Harold Beaird, a former TJC board member and chairman.
Jim Perkins, president and chairman of the board of Citizens 1st Bank, was one of the early donors who helped lead the way for others, Metke said.
But it was one person and an organization that were key to moving this project along. Metke said he was discouraged at one point and went to talk to Dr. Paul Powell, a former longtime pastor at Green Acres Baptist Church and a well-known statewide Christian leader.
Metke said Powell’s leadership helped to make the naming of the building possible.
Powell is treasurer of the Robert M. Rogers Foundation and a good friend of the late Robert M. Rogers.
Powell said Metke was at a low point. Although the two had never met, they talked about the project.
Powell, who was at one time the dean of George W. Truett Theological Seminary and also president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annuity Board, said he built 27 buildings throughout his work and never encountered a good time, when the economy and interest rates were good. He said you just move forward with it and that’s what he told Metke.
At the time, Powell asked the foundation to give $1 million to the TJC project to help get it started, but as the campaign struggled a bit, he asked what it would cost to name the facility. They told him $5 million.
He went back to the foundation and along with the rest of the board, they decided to make the contribution.
Powell described the late Rogers as a personal friend and outstanding Tyler resident. Rogers actually accepted Christ as his Savior at a revival led by Powell many years before the latter moved to Tyler.
“I’m excited to be able to be here to name it after a good man and my good friend and a good citizen of Tyler,” Powell said.
The center will more than triple the classroom and lab space of the college’s existing health care programs, according to a TJC news release.
The four-story 135,000-square-foot facility will allow the college to add programs and expand many of its 11 existing nursing and health sciences programs.
The college will open the building with three new programs: Physical therapist assistant, certified occupational therapist assistant and wellness and personal fitness specialist. It also will have a dental assistant program.
With the new programming, the college is expected to produce 50 percent more graduates in health care fields, going from 600 in 2013 to 900 by the 2017, according to the news release.
Perkins said this center is going to benefit the medical programs affected, the people who need medical services and the students who will increase their income and earning potential.
“This is one of the highlights in TJC history and I think it reflects again and again what a great community we have,” he said.
SmithGroup JJR is the lead architect on the project and has partnered with four local firms: Eubanks Harris Roberts Craig Architects, Fitzpatrick Architects, Brannon Corp. and David C. Scarbrough Landscape Architecture.
HGR+Turner Joint Venture is the construction manager-at-risk for the center.