If there was any doubt that the once-fledgling Nevada State College would live to see its 10th birthday, those feelings were put to rest Thursday when the college broke ground on its first building.
"In our short history, this is absolutely our most important event," NSC President Fred Maryanski said.
Maryanski was all smiles during Thursday's ceremonial groundbreaking for the college's first permanent building, the 42,500-square-foot liberal arts and sciences building.
Since the college opened its doors to students in 2002, it has battled for funding for the building.
Meanwhile, students and faculty at the college have used rented offices in downtown Henderson and an old vitamin factory near the new building on Nevada State College Drive near U.S. Highway 95.
Student Body President Ryan Crowell said he'll be thrilled to move into the new building when it's completed next summer, especially since the air conditioning in the old vitamin factory had been going out lately.
"Everybody's been toughing it out down there," Crowell said, gesturing toward the old building. NSC will continue to use the vitamin factory when the new building is completed.
Officials heralded the construction of the new two-story building, which will house six classrooms, five laboratories and 43 staff offices.
"This is one of the most important events in what will be written about the history of this city," Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson said. "This is about as big as it gets for us."
Regent Howard Rosenberg appeared in awe after the groundbreaking.
"I don't believe it," he said. "It's done!"
NSC was initially controversial, as regents and lawmakers debated whether a three-tier university system was needed. The state college positions itself as a bridge between the state's four community colleges and two universities.
Rosenberg said the college has stayed true to its role as a state college, focusing on producing graduates in fields that are needed in Nevada.
More than a third of the college's nearly 2,000 students are enrolled in nursing or teaching, and the college graduated 77 nursing students this semester.
The college continues to grow at a breakneck pace, exceeding enrollment expectations, Maryanski said.
Enrollment grew more than 25 percent between fall 2005 and fall 2006. In fall 2002 the school had only 177 students.
The college is also seeking funding in the Legislature for a nursing building, but it wasn't included in Gov. Jim Gibbons' budget and the money looks unlikely.
College supporters won't rest after construction begins.
Maryanski said the college has been working with the city of Henderson to develop the more than 500 acres the college owns into a master-planned campus.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has also approved the college for accreditation candidacy. NSC's curriculum and application process has been controlled by the University of Nevada, Reno, enabling the college to offer classes, and the accreditation candidacy is the first step toward independence from UNR.
The college's first building is significantly trimmed down from the original plan encompassing 100,000 square feet, but it came in $4 million under budget. The building is scheduled to be completed by May 2008.
Andy Kuniyuki, associate dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at NSC, said the building marks an exciting time.
He said he was particularly enthused about a seismometer that will be built 100 feet underneath the building, making it the "best seismometer in Southern Nevada."