Although there was a slight delay, inclement weather couldn’t stop the celebration at Western Nebraska Community College on Thursday afternoon. The college hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony that featured several speakers and tours through its updated facilities.

The renovation includes the Howard Olsen Student Success Center, the Learning Commons and the Platte Valley Companies Performing Arts Center. The 21-month, $18.5 million project is scheduled to be completed in October and is the first significant project on the Scottsbluff Campus main building since it opened in 1969.

“It really gives me goosebumps to think that 50 years ago, our visionary students and predecessors quite possibly stood in this space to celebrate the opening of their new state-of-the-art facility,” said Allison Judy, WNCC public relations and marketing director.

In 1969, a grass roots effort led by the Student Action Committee helped pass a $1.7 million bond to build the new college campus.

“Thank you for paving the way for all of us,” Judy said, addressing members of the committee who were in the audience.

Jennifer Reisig, executive director of the WNCC Foundation, said many people played a part in the successful fundraising campaign for the project.

“Much like the student action committee did 50 years ago, you all went out into the community with a vision of what WNCC could become,” Reisig said.

Reisig also spoke about three conference rooms that are dedicated to those who helped pave the way for the college’s success, including Dick “Night Train” Lane, Coral Richards and the El Bahr yearbook staff.

“We are honored to dedicate these conference rooms to be used for the future success of our students and our college,” Reisig said.

Steve Olsen, vice president of the WNCC Foundation Board, had the honor of introducing his brother Howard Olsen, the namesake of the new Howard Olsen Student Success Center, but not before poking a little fun at him.

“Howard, your siblings think it is amusing that during your college career, you would have benefited greatly from a student success center,” Steve said. “Now you have one named after you.”

Howard stepped up to the mic and received a standing ovation. He served on the Foundation board for 33 years — 28 of those as president. During that time, he initiated a number of fundraisers including the Monument Marathon. He said the experience has been humbling.

“To think a Student Success Center was named after me,” Howard said. “Wow. I can’t even begin to tell you.”

Lynne Klemke, chair of the WNCC Board of Governors, said the renovations will provide opportunities for students to collaborate and learn in a state-of-the-art environment.

“I think I’m most excited about the Learning Commons,” said sophomore Victoria Schwartz. “This is a place that not only allows for quiet studying, but it also allows for more student-to-student interaction that can happen outside of the classroom.”

Dr. John Harms, interim college president, said the ceremony marked a dream come true for the college.

“We will remember the past, but to be honest, we’re looking forward to the future here,” said Harms.


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Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at