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Workers Celebrated in “Topping Ceremony” for Beaver College of Health Sciences Building on June 8

Ronnie Hicks, Vilas, is one of the more than 400 craftworkers celebrated in the June 8 topping ceremony for their efforts building the Beaver College of Health Science facility. Hicks said he was proud to be part of the construction team, especially since his father, Keith Hicks, has worked in the key shop at Appalachian for the past 21 years.

More than 100 craftworkers looked upward, many with visible pride, as the final steel beam was lifted by crane to the top of Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS) facility June 8. The building is slated to open in August of 2018.

The “topping ceremony,” is a centuries old tradition in building. On hand for the ceremony were leadership from Appalachian and health care partner Wake Forest University; representatives from LS3P Associates, the building architects; craftworkers; sub-contractors; and stakeholders from the Appalachian community.

The ceremony and a barbecue lunch were hosted by Rodgers Builders Inc. (RBI), the lead contractor for the project. In introductory remarks, RBI Senior Vice President of Construction Operations Andy Cyr explained, “Legend has it that centuries ago, builders would hoist an evergreen tree to the topmost point of a structure to signal that a celebration was about to begin. Today we mark our celebration by placing a beam into position bearing an evergreen tree along with an American flag.” An Appalachian State University banner also hung from the beam that earlier had been signed by the workers and other attendees.

It has been little more than one year since the groundbreaking and the project is on schedule. “Today’s event celebrates a milestone toward a major achievement for Appalachian and the High Country region,” Appalachian’s Chancellor Sheri N. Everts said. “For generations, Appalachian has worked to increase access to quality health care in Western North Carolina. With great progress in the construction of this facility, we are closer to realizing an exciting new level of health care education and access for the region.”

The property on Deerfield Road is adjacent to the Watauga Medical Center and was donated by Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

More than 200 people gathered to watch as the final beam, carrying an evergreen, the U.S. flag and an Appalachian banner was hoisted to the top of the Beaver College of Health Sciences facility, now under construction.

A dream becomes reality

Senior Vice President of LS3P Associates Ltd. Paul Boney told the audience while the architects get to create the plans the workers are what make it happen.

“We get to draw it, but you all are the ones that have brought this dream to reality,” Boney said. “No one single person makes a deal like this happen. It takes everybody working together as a team.” He asked the craftworkers “to imagine the discoveries, the great things that are going to happen here over the next 100 years because of you.”

Over the course of the past year’s construction, Cyr said:

  • More than 400 craft workers completed on-site safety programs;
  • Around 125 workers were on site each workday;
  • 9,500 cubic yards of concrete was installed;
  • 9,000 (more than 1,500 tons) pieces of structural steel were placed;
  • 239 solar panels were installed, and;
  • 40,000 cubic yards of dirt was displaced.

Dr. Fred Whitt, the founding dean of the college that opened in 2010, has been instrumental in visioning, planning and directing the design of the facility. “When I look at this construction, I know exactly where every person and every office will be. I can see them working and learning inside. This is the most comprehensive building of this type in the state. It will bring 16 programs into one building for the first time, and will foster what we call an inter-professional experience. No other medical college houses that many departments under one roof.”

Nearly 20 percent of Appalachian’s students are taught by Beaver College of Health Sciences faculty. Including nursing, there are six departments and 16 undergraduate and graduate degrees offered in the college, from disciplines including communication sciences and disorders, and nutrition and health care management.

Currently, the departments are located in a number of buildings on campus.