Oct. 23—After waiting about a year due to COVID, the University of Texas Permian Basin finally had the ribbon cutting and grand opening for the D. Kirk Edwards Family Human Performance Center Friday.
The event, held in the midst of Homecoming festivities, was attended by about 200 people.
Before the ceremony, UTPB President Sandra Woodley told the media that the building has been in service for about a year, but Friday was the day they were able to celebrate.
Woodley said it's a beautiful 63,717-square-foot state-of-the-art facility dedicated to athletics and academics. She noted that all the community leaders were in attendance who dedicated time, money and energy to the facility.
"We couldn't be more thrilled," Woodley said.
She noted that the building contains kinesiology, athletic programs and research. It also offers labs and research opportunities for faculty and students.
Woodley said Edwards is a pillar of the community and a leader in many ways.
"He contributed time, money and energy to get our football program started and he also invested in this facility. So we're really thrilled to honor Kirk Edwards and his family today for their investment in this facility," Woodley said.
Chief of Staff Tatum Hubbard was the emcee. The National Anthem was sung by music education major Mayra Gutierrez; UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken offered congratulations; student athletes Marquez Byrd and Lauren Stallworth spoke; as did Director of Athletics Todd Dooley; Tim Edgmon, chairman of the Odessa Development Corporation; and Edwards himself.
Woodley said during the ceremony that they were celebrating what the building signifies for UTPB and what it can help them accomplish for the region.
"... This wonderful facility it houses the next generation of health care professionals, social workers, community health leaders, scientists, thought leaders. It also is home to our student athletes," Woodley said.
Woodley said the students are the reason for the facility, but she also wanted to thank Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, former speaker of the Texas House, Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, for their leadership and advocacy.
"We're also thankful for the support that we have received from the UT System," Woodley said.
Woodley also thanked retired Athletic Director Scott Farmer and President/CEO of Odessa Regional Medical Center Stacey Brown and many other philanthropists.
Woodley also expressed thanks to Gail Dodson for letting them name the athletic training room after the late Doc Dodson, a legendary Midland High School athletic trainer.
Woodley praised the 92 percent pass rate for its nursing programs overseen by Donna Beuk, dean of the College of Health sciences and Human Performance.
Milliken said Edwards has been a stalwart at the UT System and a huge support of UTPB and his alma mater UT Austin. He's also been a member of the Chancellor's Council Executive Committee, "which is a select group of Texans who, because of their generosity, and their commitment, spend time advising me and supporting the entire UT System. He's also served on the University Lands Advisory board, which is just an incredibly important position to help treasure, preserve, nurture that great asset that the University of Texas System has, the 1 million-plus acres in the Permian Basin. And so he has contributed in so many ways. This newest addition, which will add so much, I think, to the health and the welfare and the fitness of this campus community and the larger community," Milliken said.
He added that he's looking forward to hearing more about the research and teaching that will happen at the center as well.
Beuk said the building is not only gorgeous, but it's highly functional for educating and training future human performance and healthcare professionals.
"Most likely you have heard on the news reports on across America about the nursing shortage; the alarming fact that America will need at least 200,000 new nurses per year to meet the increased demand. However, the outlook is actually even more critical than that as there are shortages of human performance and health care workers as a whole. It's not just nurses. Especially in vulnerable rural and urban areas, overall demand is projected to grow 16% by 2030, creating approximately 2.6 million new jobs that need to be filled," Beuk said.
"There are several reasons that these areas have a higher demand than any other occupational group. It's primarily due to an aging population and those who serve in these capacities are retiring themselves. Additionally, the impact of the pandemic, 30% of employees and these occupations have decided to leave their professions so what are we going to do about this. UT Permian Basin is prepared to dramatically increase the number of its graduates and human performance and health sciences programs to help meet the local and regional needs," she said.
In 2020, the decision was made to dissolve the College of Nursing and create the College of Health Sciences and Human Performance.
"We're growing student enrollment in our existing programs of athletic training kinesiology, nursing and social work. But more importantly, we are strategically adding programs and educational and service lines that will help to meet the priority needs of our region," Beuk said.
Byrd, a football player with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and a master's in business administration who is also going for another bachelor's degree, said when he first came to Odessa the center was just a pile of dirt.
They lifted weights in the gym above the basketball court and now they have this amazing facility, Byrd said. The building also offers quiet spaces to study and decompress.
Stallworth, who plays basketball, is a double major in mechanical engineering and management.
Her major means she doesn't take classes at the center, but she spends a lot of her time there.
"When I was being recruited here, like Byrd said, there was nothing here, but a picture in the gym of what it could be. ... Just to see that vision come to life was a blessing in itself. The weight room has given my team, along with other teams that are larger, such as football and swimming and diving, the space to get their work done along with providing us with the most state of the art equipment. We have the newest dumbbells, the newest like anything you can think of. So that in itself has really prolonged or has helped us grow," Stallworth said.
The first two years she was at UTPB, Stallworth said she stayed healthy, but this last year she is bouncing back from injuries so she has used the underwater treadmill and cold tubs.
"A lot of people do not have that, I've talked to my other friends that are student athletes, have not had that, so it's just been amazing," she added.
Edwards thanked former President David Watts who finally gave in and started a football team.
He said the facility started off at $2 million and was supposed to be a place, kind of like at Permian High School, where the football team lifted weights, changed clothes and things like that.
But thanks to local lawmakers who got tuition revenue bonds, the building morphed into what it is today. The Odessa Development Corporation and Grow Odessa also contributed, along with many others.
"... I just want to say, again, how much athletics changed my life. And I think it can change a person's life for the better. We've seen what football has done in Lubbock. We've seen what it's done in Waco for Baylor and things like that. And again, my vision for this town and this college is long after oil is gone ... This campus, this university, our nursing schools, kinesiology, it will be why kids come to Odessa. It will transform why people live here, because this campus, again, A&M is full, Texas is full. These kids have to go somewhere. Why not come to UT Permian Basin and help grow this community. ... I'm tremendously proud of what we've accomplished with this building, and I look forward to all of y'all seeing it that haven't been able to step inside because it is a phenomenal facility," Edwards said.