SJC officials, donors speak about importance of facility
FARMINGTON — Community members filled the recently completed School of Energy building at San Juan College, touring the facility as part of its grand opening Tuesday afternoon.
College staff members, representatives from companies who donated to the $15.8 million project and area residents participated in a number of ceremonies to celebrate the facility.
College President Toni Pendergrass said during a speech the 65,000-square-foot building is the result of a strong collaboration between the college, the community, industry partners and state legislators.
"It will offer an expanded array of educational opportunities for our students here in the state of New Mexico and nationwide," Pendergrass said. She said the event was held to celebrate the immense support that made the project come to fruition.
The BP Center for Energy Education was primarily funded by donations from the energy industry. About $8.4 million of the $15.8 million came from private donations.
The afternoon started with a dedication of a cornerstone donated by the Freemasons of the Grand Lodge of New Mexico, followed by a flag-raising ceremony held in the veterans memorial donated by the Dugan Family Foundation.
The Farmington Chamber of Commerce Redcoats held a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by members of Gov. Susana Martinez's Cabinet, who spoke on her behalf since she was unable to attend the ceremony.
F. David Martin, New Mexico's secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, said Martinez was given a private tour of the facility Tuesday morning.
"She had a very nice tour. She was extremely impressed with the facility," Martin said.
Barbara Damron, New Mexico Higher Education Department secretary, followed Martin and spoke about the governor's vision for higher education to help prepare students for the work force.
Following her speech, Damron said in an interview that the San Juan College School of Energy was a great example of industry and the college faculty working to align the curriculum.
"The industry is saying these students are ready to hit the ground, ready to work," Damron said. "That's one of the unique things the School of Energy is doing."
Refreshments were served as attendees toured the classrooms, the Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology and the two-story labs set up for classes, including natural gas compression and industrial process operations.
Pendergrass singled out Randy Pacheco, dean of the School of Energy, and Gayle Dean, San Juan College Foundation executive director, for their efforts to raise the $15.8 million in funds needed to build the state-of-the-art energy education facility.
Dean introduced representatives from the 14 donors who contributed to the funding of the facility.
The BP America Production Company provided $5 million, with another $5 million in funds coming from state appropriations and $2 million from San Juan College.
The remained of the donations came from 11 companies or organizations, including the Arizona Public Service Foundation, ConocoPhillips, DJ Simmons Inc./Twin Stars Ltd., the Encana Corp., the Merrion Oil and Gas Foundation, the Public Service Company of New Mexico, Dugan Production and the Dugan Family Foundation, the Williams Foundation, the Westmeath Foundation, WPX Energy Inc. and XTO Energy Inc.
Pacheco shared a story when someone asked him why such a facility would be built in Farmington and not a larger city like Houston, Texas.
"I was stumped. I really didn't have an answer," Pacheco said.
He said the facility was built in Farmington because the college has the support of industry, the state of New Mexico and the support of the community.
"This building is a direct result of that support," Pacheco said.