Sep 19, 2013 Steve Peck, Publisher

CWC's Health and Science Center ranks among our county's greatest achievements

On Friday, at the peak of the day, Central Wyoming College welcomes the public to the official dedication ceremony of its new Health and Science Center.

The ribbon-cutting, free food, entertainment, and walk-through tours of the premises represent more than simply the grand opening of a new facility.

In fact, it ranks among the great civic milestones in the history of our county.

Anyone who tours the building Friday or visits some other time can get a sense of what the Health and Science Center is as a physical entity. But what the completed facility represents beyond the bricks is what sets it apart in community annals.

First, the Health and Science Center is the product of an unprecedented countywide expression of cooperation and support for Central Wyoming College. It exists because voters countywide said yes to taxing themselves to pay for it.

The key word is "countywide." Before the landmark 2010 election that approved the bond issue for the Health and Science Center, no Central Wyoming College ballot measure had ever succeeded fully outside of the strictures of intra-county rivalry that plagued development of the college from its earliest days.

Things were different this time. Incredible when weighed against the standards of history, the Health and Science Center actually received a larger percentage of voter support in Lander than it did in Riverton. Simply put, that would have been unthinkable in decades past. The success of the Health and Science Center bond issue vote countywide was unprecedented, a landmark breakthrough for the community college which serves us all. That in itself is a precious bit of progress that ought to be continued.

Second, the center is a triumph of cooperation among public education and private enterprise.The endorsement of the local healthcare community, represented by a wide swath of private-care physicians who practice as well at the county's two hospitals, played a huge role in carrying the day. There was a need, it was presented persuasively by credible people, it was grasped by the public, and its solution was endorsed by voters.

The center represents a boldly optimistic point of view. It promises immense return to the community in the form of public education, job training, professional development, and economic advantage to Riverton and Fremont County.

If you attend the ceremonies on Friday, make a point of listening to the descriptions of the professional conferences already being booked for the Health and Science Center. They will bring professionals and their expense accounts to the community for on-site training at this one-of-a-kind installation.

The center immediately establishes CWC, Riverton and Fremont County as a center for scientific education and training in the Rocky Mountain Region. The community's investment will pay off handsomely. Bank on it -- literally.

And the new facility also reinforces Central Wyoming College's premier position as an innovator, leader and builder for Fremont County. Many in the community remember the skepticism that greeted the foundation of the college in 1966, when the campus site was an idle farm field and a sagebrush prairie. Look at how far it has come. College planners have set a sterling example for the rest of us in their unswerving commitment to advancement, to development, to improvement and to planning.

If there were a motto for Central Wyoming College's history in Fremont County, it might be this: "What's next?"

Finally, and most spectacularly, the center is a physical and technological marvel of a type never before seen in Fremont County, very probably unique in Wyoming as well. There simply is nothing else like it.

Most of us do not have the technical knowledge to grasp the full significance of what this facility offers. But all of us can marvel at it as we begin to learn more.

There is a reason that the Central Wyoming College Health and Science Center occupies a huge space in the most prominent area of the campus. There is a reason that its construction and placement have altered the long-familiar skyline of west Riverton.

It is a singular achievement in many more ways than one, an achievement that ranks among the greatest in our community's history, and it deserves a prominent place as it is both celebrated and put to promising, productive use, starting now.

-- Steven R. Peck

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