By STEVE KUHLMANN firstname.lastname@example.org
As the centennial year of Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences nears its end, the college hosted an official grand opening for its new, $120 million education complex Friday. Hundreds gathered in front of the 300,000-square-foot complex alongside U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, State Sen. Charles Schwertner, State Rep. John Raney, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and the A&M System Board of Regents.
The complex boasts "cutting-edge" facilities that include study spaces, teaching laboratories and classrooms. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, said even the entrance was designed to convey the significance of the building.
"We wanted everyone who saw this facility to conclude at a glance that this must be the best veterinary college on the planet," Green said. "This iconic educational building will be a game changer for our college, for Texas A&M University and for the education of the future leaders who will impact veterinary and biomedical professions for the next 100 years."
Stemming from a 2009 report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board -- which was reaffirmed in July -- the education complex was designed to meet the specific needs outlined by the agency to meet the state's growing veterinary medical education needs.
Green said with the new capabilities provided by the facilities, the school will allow flexibility for student learning and provide the infrastructure needed to prepare for the future.
"It will allow students to learn the way they want to learn," Green said. "Fundamentally, we wanted a facility that could accommodate the needs for veterinary medical education as far into the future as we could imagine."
Kenita S. Rogers, executive associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said getting to participate in making the complex a reality "is one of the highlights of my career."
"All of my colleagues around the country are real jealous," Rogers said. "To be a part of the most immersive, most innovative place in the world for veterinary medical education is not only an honor, it's an inspiration... This building does allow us to meet all -- and I do mean all -- of the veterinary medical education needs of the State of Texas. Every single one."
In December 2015, Texas Tech University System announced its intention to develop plans for a veterinary school focused on the care of large animals based out of the Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Amarillo, just 20 miles from West Texas A&M's program in Canyon.
Citing a different interpretation of the coordinating board's ruling, Texas Tech officials said they believe there is room for the potential new school.
Addressing Texas Tech's plans, Sharp emphasized the vet school's expansion was tailored to address the needs set out by the coordinating board through both the new education complex and the school's regional partnerships with A&M System members West Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Tarleton State University.
He also noted the historical importance of the vet school for Texas A&M, as well as noting the school has a long history of excellence in the state.
"With the addition of everything we're talking about, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars doing exactly what the legislature [and] the coordinating board told us to do," Sharp said. "We do get a little bit offended when somebody says they're going to try to duplicate what we have here. You can't duplicate this in your wildest dreams. This is the place -- and it will always be the place -- where veterinary medicine reigns king in the United States of America, and I'm so proud of that."
Cornyn, who called the college and its new education complex a "world-class institution and facility," presented Green with a concurrent resolution by the U.S. Senate celebrating the opening of the new complex.
"Going into its second century, the future of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences has never looked brighter," Cornyn said. "Beyond this beautiful new building, Texas A&M is working with its system schools to make sure that every part of Texas has access to the tremendous veterinary care provided by those coming out of this institution."
Looking forward to 2017, the education complex will host the annual Texas Veterinary Medical Association Conference and Expo in March, where students from around the country will get the opportunity to see the new facilities first-hand.