By Jesse Wood
A who’s who of local and regional politicians, business leaders and government officials, including UNC President Margaret Spellings, attended Monday’s site dedication of App State’s future home for the Beaver College of Health Sciences.
The invitation-only event was also a celebration of the voter-approved $2 billion Connect NC Public Improvement Bond because it will fund the $70-million, 203,000-square-foot facility to be located at the corner of Deerfield and State Farm roads.
“Thanks to the bond, the home of the Beaver College of Health Sciences is now a reality. No one is smiling more than Fred right now,” App State Chancellor Sheri Everts said to laughter from the several dozen attendees.
Everts was referring to Frederick K. Whitt, the founding dean of the Beaver College of Health Sciences. With Beaver College currently spread throughout seven buildings across campus, the construction of this facility would free up more than 100,000 square feet of space elsewhere on campus.
Everts said the project is “shovel ready” and will begin in July. LS3P is the architect, and Rodgers is the construction manager at risk.
The building site is located adjacent to the Watauga Medical Center, and Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) donated the 10-acre site to the university for this specific facility.
ARHS President Richard Sparks worked hand in hand with former App State Chancellor Ken Peacock, who received a roaring applause during the event, to see this project come to fruition.
In his remarks, Sparks noted the full-circle moment of this site dedication considering the beginnings of Watauga Hospital, which is now the Watauga Medical Center.
“This began over 80 years ago when the partnership produced the first official hospital in Boone on land given for that purpose on the campus. It continues today in reverse with the Healthcare System now providing land for the construction of the health sciences education and training facilities,” Sparks said.
“The healthcare professionals of tomorrow see it right here and their colleagues will begin their journey here. It is from this place that they will touch thousands and thousands of lives many years ahead. Thank you for sharing this historic moment in time with us.”
The college is named after Donald C. Beaver of Conover. Beaver is a graduate of App State and worked at Watauga Hospital – before it was named Watauga Medical Center. He is currently president and CEO of Universal Health Care.
Only six years old, the Beaver College of Health Sciences is already the second largest college at Appalachian State University, having already doubled in size. Currently, the college serves 3,300 students and employs 160 faculty and staff.
According to info provided by the university, Beaver College has 10 undergraduate and five graduate degree programs in the areas of exercise science, nursing, communication sciences and disorders, nutrition, health care management, social work, athletic training, recreation management, health and physical education and health promotion. Most recently, Beaver College was also approved to begin a Master of Science in Nursing degree and an online Master of Health Administration degree program.
As the keynote speaker, Spellings talked about how Beaver College and the new facility will enable App State to form key partnerships in the healthcare field (such as the one with Wake Forest School of Medicine for a physician assistant degree program in Boone) that will further the education of its students and improve healthcare in the region.
“What’s important really isn’t the facility itself but what it will mean to this area and to the community,” Spellings said. “This new building will be a catalyst for change to enhance health and economic development by revitalizing and expanding the proposed medical health district and will be home to academic departments and disciplines that are currently scattered all over the campus, which will facilitate more collaboration, enrich the learning environment and create new opportunities for scholarship and discovery.”