August 15, 2001 11:00 pm

The significance of what transpired Monday on the campus of Eastern Oregon University cannot be overstated.

The ground-breaking for EOUs new $33.5 million science center marks a turning point for the university and hopefully, for Union County. In the short term, the new building will bring construction jobs. In the long-term, the center will bring more students and more faculty to the university, which will have added benefits for the community. But most importantly, the multi-disciplinary center for education and research will help put EOU and La Grande

on the map.

For far too long Eastern and La Grande have existed in relative obscurity, content with keeping student and community populations about the same. The best kept secret in Eastern Oregon lived up to its motto. For years Eastern has been trying to shake that image and has had some success by continuing to produce quality graduates and by initiating the states first distance-learning program. But the school and the community have been unable to fully build upon those successes.

The new science center can help change that, despite the naysayers who claim too much emphasis is placed on the universitys role in La Grandes development. The community needs Eastern to succeed.

EOU and La Grande are not simply getting another building to put on the hill. Although the center will be one of the largest building projects in Union Countys history, it wont be just bricks and mortar. The building is designed to provide a foundation for enhanced education opportunities and to encourage more research at the university. It will foster greater collaboration in partnerships that will benefit the region and the state.

Eastern has partnered with Oregon Health and Science University, which will house its nursing program in the building and bring biotech research to the EOU campus. Oregon State Universitys agriculture department will have space in the new building, as will the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish pathology lab and Portland States engineering program. Among the research that will emanate from the new building are projects that focus on rangeland management, agriculture development, salmon recovery and water use sustainability, not to mention a host of enhanced educational opportunities for students.

The building is the result of a combined university-community partnership spearheaded by the drive and foresight of EOU President Phil Creighton. The partnership resulted in the county, the city and our elected officials all working toward a common goal because of the significant role the center could play at EOU and in our communitys future.

The center will represent the states single largest capital investment in the Oregon University System this biennium. Getting the state to recognize the significance of the project was no small task. But when a community is united behind a goal, even what might seem like a pipe dream can be made possible.

The new science center can be a turning point for EOU and the community.