South Plains College held a ground-breaking ceremony for the Wilburn and Helen Wheeler Science Center on Feb. 29 in the parking lot west of the Student Center on the Levelland campus.
The ground-breaking event included a welcome and introductions by Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of South Plains College, and Mike Box, chairperson of the SPC Board of Regents, who also gave remarks.
The $13.5 million project will be completed in two phases. The first phase includes the construction of 22,789 square feet of new instructional space and updating 21,307 square feet of the current Science Building.
Phase One will feature the construction of the nutrition lab, lecture rooms, faculty offices and support areas, along with the renovation of chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology labs.
Central to the project’s design concept is the construction of a 12,700-square-foot study and collaboration center that will be the focal point for the building’s instructional activities. This portion of the building will be named the Helen DeVitt Jones Student Learning Center.
Phase Two will focus on updating the remaining 29,379 square feet of the original building. This includes zoology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology lecture rooms and prep areas. Also included in the renovation is a 2,262-square-foot botany lab and lecture room, as well as a new 3,607-square-foot greenhouse.
The Wilburn and Helen Wheeler Science Center is being made possible through the generous support of three partners: the William R. and Sandra L. Wheeler Charitable Foundation, the Helen Jones Foundation, Inc., and the Montgomery Family Foundation. Representatives from these foundations were in attendance and were recognized by the college during the ceremony.
“South Plains College is in a unique situation to have such incredible donors that are committed to changing the landscape of the college,” said Dr. Robin Satterwhite. “Without their support, this project would be impossible. I am overwhelmed by their willingness to invest in the College with the vision of changing so many students’ lives and adding to the legacy of excellent instruction at SPC.”
William Wheeler gave his remarks during the ceremony and paid tribute to his parents, who were active members in the Levelland community.
“When it became obvious to me that I was going to be successful financially, I thought about what I should do with the fortune bestowed on me,” he said. “The first thing that came to mind was to build a tribute to my father and mother at South Plains College.”
His father, Willburn Wheeler, was an educator at SPC, teaching students to play musical instruments as well as an instructor of mathematics. Wheeler’s mother worked in the Library on the Levelland campus as the librarian assistant. Wheeler wanted to find a way to honor their devotion to SPC students and dedication to teaching and serving in the community.
According to David Etheredge, chairperson of the Biology Department and professor of biology at SPC, Phase One of the expansion and renovation will include four anatomy and physiology labs which are laboratory/lecture combos that will be renovated within the existing building. A new microbiology lab will match the existing lab. Chemistry will receive two renovated labs and two renovated lecture rooms. Etheredge said the expansion also will address future growth.
“We stand here today at our groundbreaking ceremony and dream for so many people,” Etheredge said. “So many people have contributed to this effort, into this dream. It is going to make a huge impact on people’s lives and the aspirations of faculty, staff, and of course, the students.”
Etheredge added that the reconstruction of the Science Building is something the community should be incredibly proud of.