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Workers celebrated in ‘topping ceremony’ for Beaver College of Health Sciences building

By Elisabeth B. Wall

BOONE, N.C.—More than 100 craftworkers looked upward, many with visible pride, as the final steel beam was lifted by crane to the top of Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS) facility June 8. The building is slated to open in August of 2018.

View larger imageFormer Dean Fred Whitt, founding dean of the Beaver College of Health Sciences, signed the “topping” beam during the June 8 ceremony, as did most of the workers and stakeholders.View larger imageAppalachian State University Chancellor Sheri N. Everts addressed the crowd at the Beaver College of Health Sciences topping ceremony, expressing her gratitude to the workers, former Chancellor Kenneth Peacock for his contributions to the project, the General Assembly and people of North Carolina for approving the bond which funds the building, and Appalachian Regional System, its board and former CEO Richard Sparks for donating the land.View larger imageMore than 200 people gathered to watch as the final beam, carrying an evergreen, the U.S. flag and an Appalachian banner was hoisted to the top of the Beaver College of Health Sciences facility, now under construction.View larger imageRonnie Hicks, Vilas, is one of the more than 400 craftworkers celebrated in the June 8 topping ceremony for their efforts building the Beaver College of Health Science facility. Hicks said he was proud to be part of the construction team, especially since his father, Keith Hicks, has worked in the key shop at Appalachian for the past 21 years.

The “topping ceremony,” is a centuries old tradition in building. On hand for the ceremony were leadership from Appalachian and health care partner Wake Forest University; representatives from LS3P Associates, the building architects; craftworkers; sub-contractors; and stakeholders from the Appalachian community.

The ceremony and a barbecue lunch were hosted by Rodgers Builders Inc. (RBI), the lead contractor for the project. In introductory remarks, RBI Senior Vice President of Construction Operations Andy Cyr explained, “Legend has it that centuries ago, builders would hoist an evergreen tree to the topmost point of a structure to signal that a celebration was about to begin. Today we mark our celebration by placing a beam into position bearing an evergreen tree along with an American flag.” An Appalachian State University banner also hung from the beam that earlier had been signed by the workers and other attendees.

It has been little more than one year since the groundbreaking and the project is on schedule. “Today’s event celebrates a milestone toward a major achievement for Appalachian and the High Country region,” Appalachian’s Chancellor Sheri N. Everts said. “For generations, Appalachian has worked to increase access to quality health care in Western North Carolina. With great progress in the construction of this facility, we are closer to realizing an exciting new level of health care education and access for the region.”

The property on Deerfield Road is adjacent to the Watauga Medical Center and was donated by Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

A dream becomes reality

Senior Vice President of LS3P Associates Ltd. Paul Boney told the audience while the architects get to create the plans the workers are what make it happen.

“We get to draw it, but you all are the ones that have brought this dream to reality,” Boney said. “No one single person makes a deal like this happen. It takes everybody working together as a team.” He asked the craftworkers “to imagine the discoveries, the great things that are going to happen here over the next 100 years because of you.”

Over the course of the past year’s construction, Cyr said:

  • More than 400 craft workers completed on-site safety programs;
  • Around 125 workers were on site each workday;
  • 9,500 cubic yards of concrete was installed;
  • 9,000 (more than 1,500 tons) pieces of structural steel were placed;
  • 239 solar panels were installed, and;
  • 40,000 cubic yards of dirt was displaced.

Dr. Fred Whitt, the founding dean of the college that opened in 2010, has been instrumental in visioning, planning and directing the design of the facility. “When I look at this construction, I know exactly where every person and every office will be. I can see them working and learning inside. This is the most comprehensive building of this type in the state. It will bring 14 of the 16 programs into one building for the first time, and will foster what we call an inter-professional experience. No other medical college houses that many departments under one roof.”

Nearly 20 percent of Appalachian’s students are taught by Beaver College of Health Sciences faculty. Including nursing, there are six departments and 16 undergraduate and graduate degrees offered in the college, from disciplines including communication sciences and disorders, and nutrition and health care management.

Currently, the departments are located in a number of buildings on campus.

About the Beaver College of Health Sciences

Appalachian’s College of Health Sciences opened in 2010 as the result of a strategic university commitment to significantly enhance the health and quality of life for individuals, families and communities in North Carolina and beyond. In 2015, the college was named for an Appalachian alumnus and pioneer in the healthcare industry – Donald C. Beaver ’62 ’64 of Conover. The college offers 10 undergraduate degree programs and six graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Nursing, Social Work, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Nutrition and Health Care Management, Health and Exercise Science, and Recreation Management and Physical Education.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.