WT nursing program receives $3 million gift from High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation

By Chip Chandler 

In the largest gift in its history, High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation will give $3 million to support West Texas A&M University’s nursing program.

The gift also is the fourth-largest single gift in the University’s history.

“This is a significant investment in our student nurses and our faculty — nearly double the size of any gift the foundation has ever given,” said Dr. J. Dirk Nelson, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. “We are humbled by their faith in us and determined to use this gift to serve the Texas Panhandle and beyond.”

WT will recognize the gift, to be paid out over three years, by naming a floor in Harrington Academic Hall WTAMU Amarillo Center at Eighth Avenue and Tyler Street.

Construction and remodeling began in November on what will be known as the Baptist Community Services Nursing Education Floor on the second floor of the Harrington Center.

“This renovation on our second floor will provide us with 25,000 square feet of new labs, classrooms, offices, study areas and more to better educate our outstanding student nurses,” said Dr. Holly Jeffreys, head of the Department of Nursing. “We are incredibly grateful that High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation sees the dedicated work being done by our faculty and staff and is generously contributing to the education of the fine students who will become front-line, essential workers throughout the city, the region and the country.”

Students and faculty will move into the facility over the summer to begin use in Fall 2021. The total project budget is $7 million.

High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation is a part of the Baptist Community Services organizational family. The Foundation supports the senior adult services and community wellness programs of BCS, including Park Central and the Snack Pak 4 Kids weekend food insecurity program.

“Baptist Community Services is excited and honored to partner through its foundation, High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation, with West Texas A&M University and its outstanding nursing program,” said Mike Wartes, chairman of the Baptist Community Services board of trustees. “We feel confident that this partnership will lead to the expansion of this great program and its development of more top-flight nurses for Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle region.”

“This $3 million naming gift from High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation represents the second-largest gift to date since my arrival and the launch of the WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World long-range plan,” said University President Dr. Walter Wendler. “This gift adds to the powerful momentum of our comprehensive capital campaign that is only in its beginning phases.”

In August, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents gave final approval to spend $6.5 million to renovate the Amarillo Center’s second floor. When finished, the move will place 250 undergraduate students and approximately 20 nursing faculty and staff in Amarillo, and it will offer greater opportunities for collaboration between the nursing program and other WT programs including communication disorders, the Panhandle Area Education Center and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

“High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation and Baptist Community Services are blessed to invest in an outstanding facility for WTAMU's growing nursing program. We are confident that this facility will complement the programs of West Texas A&M University under the exceptional leadership and direction of President Dr. Walter V. Wendler,” said Carroll Bedwell, chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees.

“Not only will students receive excellent training at reasonable cost, but they will also be available to contribute to our Amarillo area medical community and the overall well-being of the Panhandle of Texas,” Bedwell said. “This is a great day for WTAMU and the Amarillo/Canyon area and truly one of our greatest community investments.”