With a $100,000 infusion from Texas Mutual Insurance Co., Odessa College plans to ramp up its driver education programs to help make the Permian Basin a safer place to live.
The funds also will be used for workplace safety courses for employers, workers and the general public.
The check was presented to OC President Gregory Williams and Associate Dean of Continuing Education Louis Gonzales Thursday in the Zant Community Room in the Saulsbury Campus Center on campus. Faculty, students, OC officials and community leaders were on hand.
Bob Barnes, board member and immediate past chair of Texas Mutual’s board ofd directors, and Eric Bourquin, vice president of safety services at Texas Mutual presented the oversized check.
Gonzales said the funds would be used for general and driver safety.
“… We know that driver safety is really needed and so we’re going to look at how can we help not only citizens (and) community members, but can we customize training for certain industries, too,” Gonzales said. “We really want to look at commercial driving. …”
He added that they also want to ensure that people get home to their families safely every night.
The funds also could be used for driving simulators.
Right now, Barnes said, the Permian Basin has a fatality rate five and a half times above the state average. So you’re five and a half times more likely to know someone in accident, he said.
“Texas Mutual wants to do something about that. We’ve got people all over the state trying to make a difference. We work with TxDOT; we’ll work with the DPS — anyone who wants to work with us,” Barnes said.
He said Texas Mutual can work with its policy holders, but sometimes they get a little uneasy about the insurance company coming in. But they will work with Odessa College.
“We’ll give you this money today. We know you’ll probably get the opportunity to get that money again, hopefully for many years to come,” Barnes said. “We are really grateful to have OC as our newest partner.”
A native Odessan, Barnes lived here for decades and was in the restaurant and real estate business. He now lives in Fort Worth.
He said he moved there because he had opportunities there and needed to be a little closer to them.
Barnes said he is a Permian High School graduate and went to OC.
“I’ve followed it over the years; helped it where I could,” Barnes said.
“But I’m just proud of what OC’s done,” he added.
Continuing Education may be reached at 432-335-6575.