In marking its 75 year anniversary Wednesday, Odessa College celebrated its history, and its future breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art health sciences building.
Construction on the $40 million, four-story, 83,000-square-foot Wood Health Sciences Building will take about two years and the ceremony included college and community dignitaries.
The ceremony and remarks were streamed live on Facebook. Lorraine Perryman, who served on OC’s 2012 bond committee, asked for a moment of silence for the mass shooting in Odessa that occurred two years ago, the terror in Afghanistan, the fight against COVID-19, destruction caused by Hurricane Ida and other items.
“We have much to pray for, for our community and for our country and for the world,” Perryman said.
Perryman attended OC and said everyone who grew up in Odessa has been touched by the college in some way. She recognized the Wood family and Brenda Denton, executive director of the Wood Family Foundation, citing their many years of support.
OC opened in September 1946 with 186 students and only five instructors. They met at night at Odessa High School.
“And look at what it has become,” Perryman said. She added that there are now campuses in outlying towns.
It has an enrollment of more than 7,000 students and offers more than 120 associate degrees and certificate programs. It also offers baccalaureate degrees in certain subject areas.
“OC has been a leader in building our workforce and building our community for the last 75 years with the support of the city of Odessa and the citizens of Ector County. I had the pleasure of being a part of OC 2015, which was planning for what the school would look like by 2018. That culminated in, as many of you recall, a bond election in 2012, which we passed with overwhelming odds. That’s when I first met Tanya Wood was during that bond election when she was chief of staff here in Odessa College,” Perryman said.
“… I co-chaired that bond election with Les Littlejohn and it’s wonderful to see all of the construction that was made possible in the transformation of this campus because 69% of Odessans voted for Odessa College in 2012,” she added.
Vice President for Instruction Tramaine Anderson reviewed the history of OC by decades.
Tim Edgmon, president of the Odessa Development Corporation, said one of the most rewarding parts of being on the board is seeing projects come to fruition.
With Wednesday’s event, Edgmon said, Odessans got a chance to see what they’re doing with their tax dollars.
Medical Center Hospital has made a $5 million investment into the building. President and CEO Russell Tippin thanked OC President Gregory Williams for letting the hospital be involved in the project.
“On the first floor of this building will be a Medical Center simulation hospital. We’re not going to recruit nurses there; we’re going to make nurses there. I think we’ve all learned in today’s world how important your healthcare is. … We’re going to create nurses here that will go directly into the workforce and we’re going to provide the best healthcare you can get in West Texas and definitely in Odessa, Texas. We are proud to be your partner,” Tippin said.
Williams said students will learn how to “do the work first hand” when they attend classes at the health sciences building.
He added that everyone is “in this together,” so it’s better if everyone works together and doesn’t worry about who gets the credit.
On a separate note, Williams said OC has already passed its 7,000-student record set last fall, even though enrollment isn’t yet complete and should make 8,000 this year. The goal, for now, is 10,000 students.
Cruz Castillo, president of JSA Architects which designed the building, said the project has already started although it has not come out of the ground yet. The groundbreaking lets the community and the rest of OC know it’s coming.
“… It’s a very exciting time and to be able to join that together with the 75th anniversary celebration, it was a no-brainer to pull this all together …,” Castillo said.
Dr. Rohith Saravanan, regional chief of staff at Odessa Regional Medical Center, said they were pleased to be part of the project.
“From a hospital standpoint, we are so excited to have a venue where our future nurses can be trained. We’re proud to partner with Odessa College to be able to offer this level of education, not just from books but from a building where you actually simulate what it’s like to be in a hospital with patients. We look forward to partnering with them continuously to provide this education and the clinical opportunities at Odessa Regional Medical Center,” Saravanan said.
He noted that one of the hospital’s challenges currently is staffing.
“… We’re looking forward to growing our own because right now we’re having to go outside looking for travelers from outside the area. But the future is us growing our own, so we’re very much looking forward to this,” Saravanan added.
Executive Director of Advancement Jacqui Gore was a driving force behind the fundraising effort for the health sciences building.
“Today was a great day at Odessa College,” Gore said. “It was wonderful to see all of our friends in the community and to honor our partners in the Wood Health Sciences Building. We also have a number of alumni and Odessa College retirees here on campus today, so it’s just been a wonderful day to see everyone and to celebrate the great things Odessa College has accomplished over the last 75 years.”
The groundbreaking was just one part of it. The day featured a breakfast, the groundbreaking, a pep rally to kick off the Drive to Success program, campus tours, recognition of past homecoming queens and more. A concert featuring The Little River Band has been postponed.
“… It’s just been a lot of fun to see all of these past students who have so much pride in attending Odessa College,” Gore said.
There is a second phase to the health sciences building and plans for the future.
“JSA Architects has put together a plan for our downtown presence. Dr. Williams is working with the mayor and the City Council on what those plans would look like and what lot this new plan will be constructed on. I would think in the coming weeks there will be more details as the Odessa City Council has an opportunity to review those proposed plans and work with Dr. Williams and other Odessa College leaders on what those plans look like. Once approved, this downtown presence will happen pretty quickly,” Gore said.
Castillo presented proposed plans for downtown at the last OC Board of Trustees meeting.
“… It will have a good amount of green space so that we can have outdoor activities in that area; space for food trucks to come up for special events; (and) a staging area. Then down the road, a building where we can do more things with the community and with Odessa College students. It will be a very versatile space and we’re still planning (it) with the city council and others on how that space can be utilized; so, more to come.”
Gore said they have started on Phase II for the health sciences building, which will help pay for the furnishings, equipment, technology and any other construction expenses that pop up.
“We’re setting that goal at $10 million and we already have several pending agreements with hopes to close those out in the next few months,” Gore said.
“… Phase two will be implemented as we get closer to opening the building and that gives us a couple of years to finish out that portion of the fundraising, so we’ll continue to talk about it.”