OREM -- Those big checks are fun, but they won't go a long way in helping UVU President Matthew Holland build a new science building.
They sure do look nice in his office, though, and Holland is hoping that when other potential donors see the donations from Timpanogos Regional Hospital, Mountain View Hospital and the Central Utah Clinic, they'll want to donate to what Holland says is not only his top building priority, but the top building priority in higher education for the state.
"It's just not adequate for the size of school that we've become," Holland said of the current science building on Thursday.
The Pope Science building was built decades ago, when Utah Valley State College had about 8,000 students. It has four dedicated labs. It met the needs of the small community college that acted as a doorway into Brigham Young University or the University of Utah.
Today, Utah Valley University has 28,000 students and grows by about 3,000 students a year. Nursing, pre-dental and pre-med students populate the campus. They all need science classes. Most of the students majoring in other subjects need at least a basic science class or two with a lab. The university is getting to the point where students may have to delay graduation a semester or two because they are not able to take all the science classes they need. They're not there yet, Holland said, except for a few students, but if the university doesn't get more lab space and classrooms, it will happen increasingly often.
No one at the state level is arguing. Val Hale, UVU's vice president for advancement, said this building is ranked second on the state building board's priority list and first in higher education needs.
"It is obviously our No. 1 priority going into the Legislature to try and get that building funded," he said.
The problem they have, along with every other organization that needs money, is there are many important priorities this year and not enough capital to go around.
"I think that message is resonating with a lot of legislators," Holland said. "The big question becomes, is there money enough to do it?"
The answer right now is probably not. University administrators aren't expecting the state to hand them a check this legislative session to build a new building, no matter how dire the need. What they are hoping is that legislators will decide to bond for buildings throughout the state, and a new science building will be a part of that.
Enter the medical community. The MountainStar Hospitals donated $10,000, and the Central Utah Clinic Foundation donated $5,000. At today's prices, that's enough for a couple of microscopes, a petrie dish, a dead frog or two and some beakers.
But it jump starts a community fundraising effort that Holland hopes will show the legislators that many stakeholders are behind this project. Keith Tintle, the chief executive officer for Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem, and Kevin Johnson, CEO for Mountain View Hospital in Payson, said they invested because many health care professionals who go to school at UVU train at their hospitals, and they want to ensure the students continue to get the best education.
Dr. Greg Craner, the medical director at Central Utah Clinic, considered this an investment for 10 to 20 years in the future. Getting doctors who are not from Utah Valley to come here is difficult, he said, so they want to make sure students who grew up in Utah County and want to remain here to practice have the option and as much encouragement as they can provide. Between 60 and 70 percent of UVU students who focus on pre-med get into medical school, which makes a statement about the school's program.
"This is an important investment for our medical community," he said.
As chairman of the citizen's advisory committee for the College of Science and Health, he's also invested in another way -- Craner will be spearheading much of the community fundraising effort for the university.
Oh, and the administrators made sure to hand over the real checks before they left too.
• Heidi Toth can be reached at (801) 344-2556 or email@example.com.