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June 19, 2014
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Umpqua Community College renews push for health building

Umpqua Community College will launch a fundraising campaign, asking the general public to contribute $2 million or so toward a $17 million health, nursing and science center.

The public push for money comes two years after voters soundly rejected a $40 million bond proposal. A larger $25 million health building was the centerpiece of that proposal.

Since then, the college has downsized the proposed building and ruled out putting another tough-sell tax measure to voters.

Instead, the college hopes to raise $8.5 million, mostly from foundations, to match a like amount set aside by state lawmakers.

If everything falls in place, UCC administrators foresee raising $6.5 million from large donors, leaving the college about $2 million short of its goal.

To bridge the gap, college officials will approach individuals over the next several months for contributions. No fundraising events are planned, though the college is letting it be known it’s accepting checks.

“If we get the public to send in $100, $1,000, it would be extremely appreciated,” UCC Trustee Betty Tamm said Wednesday in a meeting with The News-Review editorial board.

The college hopes to break ground on a 36,000-square-foot building on campus by next spring, though it faces a February deadline to raise the money. Otherwise, lawmakers could take the state’s $8.5 million off the table.

“We are down to the wire. It’s going to be an intensive campaign,” Tamm said.

If the college falls just short of its fundraising goal, options include asking lawmakers for more time, trimming back the project or taking out a loan backed by new student fees.

The college has long had ambitions to build a center to teach nurses, dental assistants, emergency medical technicians and other health care workers. The new building would be equipped with updated technology and allow the college to consolidate classes, some of which are now conducted in medial offices around Roseburg.

The building would also have classrooms for biology, chemistry, geology and physics courses.

The college already has secured a $100,000 contribution from Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg. In addition, Douglas County lawyer Danny Lang has pledged to contribute $100,000 for every $1 million raised from other sources.

If UCC’s fundraising is successful, Lang’s contribution will approach the $800,000 he gave toward a $7 million building for the Southern Oregon Wine Institute on UCC’s campus. The building, which opened in 2012, was named the Danny Lang Teaching, Learning & Event Center.

“I just feel education is the way to the American Dream, in addition to the best way to address poverty,” Lang said today. “I like community colleges because they address folks who are not born in resources, born into being able to go to Stanford or Harvard.”

Lang said he also was motivated to support a new health building because it would provide a setting to train mediators to resolve disputes and head off malpractice lawsuits.

He called the current system “way too adversarial.”

“I see a move to more mediation and accommodation,” he said.

Mercy Medical Center President and CEO Kelly Morgan said today that demand for health care workers will be heavy over the next decade. “I think UCC is exactly where they need to be to expand what they’re doing,” he said.

Morgan said UCC’s programs would not compete with a possible health care college in Roseburg, which would grant more advanced degrees than offered at UCC.

“If a medical college were to go forward, it would complement what UCC is doing,” Kelly said.

The Partnership for Economic Development in Douglas County has been spearheading a study on opening a school.

Morgan said the study is still a few months away from being finished.

“We’re getting pretty close to the end,” he said. “We’re staying very positive this thing can move forward.”

The 2012 bond proposal also included funding for an industrial arts building and South County campus.

Since then, UCC has opened a center at South Umpqua High School in Tri City. It has set aside for now the industrial arts building in favor of pursuing the health building. The college has until 2017 to match $8 million state lawmakers have appropriated for an industrial arts building.

Besides a more pressing deadline to obtain funding, the health building is a priority because of an expected demand for health care workers, college officials say.

“I think the job needs are in health care, and we need to keep the technology up to snuff for what our students need,” Tamm said.

Only 29 percent voted “yes” for the bond two years ago. Since then, UCC has tried to strengthen its ties to the community, Olson said.

Specifically, the college has reopened its pool, opened a veterans center, opened the South County satellite and waived tuition for high-performing Douglas County high school graduates, Olson said.

• City Editor Don Jenkins can be reached at 541-957-4201 or

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The News-Review Updated Jun 19, 2014 12:27PM Published Jun 19, 2014 11:38AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.