Kenai Peninsula College Kenai River Campus picked one of the only sunny days in August to have their historic ribbon cutting and dedication of two new facilities; the $15 and a quarter million dollar Career and Technical Education Center and the nearly $18 million dollar Residence Hall, which has been in the works and dreams of community leaders for nearly 50 years. Hundreds of local residents and officials turned out for the event, KPC director Gary Turner introduced Chancellor Tom Case and Regent Gloria O’Niel who extolled the hard work put forth to make these visions a reality and a commitment to perpetuate that vision into the future. Turner acknowledged the ancient history of the site where the new student housing is now located and paid tribute to the Dena’ina people who lived in harmony and sustainability there for thousands of years. “The commitment we see from our students, from faculty and staff is second to none and will we maintain that sustainability that is a signature of this land in the future? You bet-yeah! We’ll be sustainable 50 years from now, 100 years from now and I hope that we will continue to celebrate in this way at that time and that these facilities will still be standing. Colleges and Universities build for a strong future, many build buildings for ten years or to last fifteen or twenty years but we build them to last 50 to 100 if possible,” said Turner in an interview with the Dispatch.
As a special feature of the ribbon cutting ceremony Turner invited guest to sign two planks that were donated from the original Kenai Cannery built in 1912 when the cannery workers would sign the support beams as a testimony of the work they had put forth there. “We were fortunate enough that the Kenaitze Indian tribe purchased many of those beams when the old cannery was torn down and donated several of the timbers to KPC so we could carry on that tradition by having the supporters of KPC here today sign them and then they will be placed above the elevator on the first floor and second floor in perpetuity,” he explained.
There was a note of sadness amidst the celebratory atmosphere at the event and that was rung from most everyone who knew the first director of KPC Clayton Brockel who passed away just weeks before seeing the fulfillment of his dream and vision for KPC, “The word to describe today is ‘humble’ and thankful for the team we have. I tear up because Clayton Brockel died a couple of days ago and I wish he could have been here. I guess indeed he was and will be for all those who come here to KPC,” said Turner.