Ground was broken Monday at MidAmerica Industrial Park for Rogers State University’s Pryor campus.
RSU President Dr. Larry Rice called the future campus an addition to the presence of Oklahoma State University’s Technical school and Northeast Technology Center. “A full complement of educational resources here and we are very grateful to Sanders (Mitchell) and OOWA (Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority) trustees for your vision in making that happen.”
Dobie Langenkamp, OOWA chairman, talked about the land that will be home to RSU at the industrial park. He and OOWA board members “dreamed of having the perfect tenant.”
Then, he said, “RSU came along and we realized immediately that we had the perfect marriage. The most beautiful spot on the park and a great institution with a great president, and we could not be more happy about this. This is the best money we have ever spent and it’s great for everyone.”
Langenkamp said he hoped this addition would make MidAmerica the greatest educational park in the nation.
Mitchell, who is retiring as administrator of MidAmerica in mid-May, told of a time about 15 to 20 years ago when he was visiting the state Capitol and meeting with Sen. Stratton Taylor and Rep. Larry Rice about the possibility of one day having a campus at MidAmerica for Rogers State.
Mitchell said MAIP could not do it at that time because it had just spent $15 million or $16 million on a water plant for the park. But one day, when the assets were rebuilt, Mitchell said he would be willing to look at it again.
Mitchell credited the board of trustees of OOWA with making the new campus a reality. Mitchell said the cost of the campus was $8.8 million, along with 72 acres of the industrial park. Mitchell predicted that the campus will eventually grow out to the full acreage.
“I regret that I will be retiring ... because I won’t be able to look out of my office and watch this being built,” he said. “But when the day comes, I will come back and whomever the administrator is I’m going to say, ‘Just a minute, scoot over so I can sit down in that chair one more time and look at that school being built.’ ”
Dr. Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes, chair, University of Oklahoma Board of Regents said, “As resources for Oklahoma higher education have continued to dwindle, the demand for higher education continues to grow.”
Rainbolt-Forbes went on to say that since it started offering four-year degrees in 2000, Rogers State has been the fastest-growing four-year university in Oklahoma, more than doubling the number of credit hours in the past decade.
She said that RSU at MidAmerica will supply an educated work force for all the area companies. Rainbolt-Forbes said when the Oklahoma University Board of Regents meets later this week, one of the Rogers State agenda items will be to name the new campus the Sanders Mitchell Center.
Glen Johnson, chancellor, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and former State Speaker of the House, said that Gov. Mary Fallin’s office had surveyed 5,400 business leaders in the state. The survey found that Oklahoma’s No. 1 strength is the quality of the two-year and four-year programs of higher education.
The second finding was that 87 percent of those surveyed found a link between the quality of education and the state’s economy. Johnson said that in December, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report stating that Oklahoma had the eighth most efficient system of higher education and was eighth most affordable in tuition fees and costs in the country.
Oklahoma ranked 16th in the nation for job growth in the areas of science, engineering, technology and mathematics. Johnson said that 89 percent of Oklahoma graduates get jobs in Oklahoma.
Johnson called the presence of RSU at MidAmerica, “opportunities for students.”
Tessa Gerhart, an RSU student from Pryor, concluded the ceremony before the groundbreaking. She thanked MAIP for the land and RSU students, facility and staff for bringing the new facility to the park. She said it was great to have a campus for those who find it difficult to commute or live on campus.