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Odessa College

High hopes, high enrollment

As the Permian Basin continues on an oil-propelled growth spurt, its community college and university grew at a clip faster than usual.

At Odessa College, the two-year college graduated its largest class ever in spring 2013 of 501 students, a good sign to President Greg Williams since the oil and gas industry is liable to pull people away from higher education.

For the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, the milestone of its 40th anniversary launched an interesting second half of 2013 when UTPB was approved to move forward on starting a Division II football program.

This school year also welcomed more students on UTPB’s campus than ever before when they hit the 5,000 mark.


September marked the season 40 years ago when UTPB opened its classrooms for the first time in 1973 to its faculty and 1,011 students. Then, it only accepted upper-level students and took on methods that made it an experiment compared to other UT System schools.

Over the next two decades, UTPB evolved into a four-year university after being granted status in 1991. To former UTPB President Duane Leach (1983-1991), “it changed the whole complexion of the university,” Leach said in September.

Ushering in an exciting next 40 years for UTPB, current college President David Watts welcomed 22 new faculty members, 20 new adjunct professors and 55 new staff members at that start of the 2013-14 school year.

“We’re the youngest university in West Texas but the most successful,” Watts said during his faculty welcome back speech in August.

The year 2013 also said hello to UTPB’s new bachelor in nursing program that moved into a $1 million renovated third floor of the Mesa Building and a bachelor of music degree also got up and running. The college welcomed in more students than ever in its online dual credit program that focuses on educating students in rural communities.

On a national stage, U.S. News and World Report ranked UTPB 46th in the nation and first among Texas public universities for online bachelor degree programs. UTPB is the first school in Texas to offer a $10,000 bachelor’s degree and is recognized as the second least expensive of institutions among Texas public universities, according to a report by College for All Texans.

Now, the most talked about move at UTPB this year is the push to bring a college football team on campus. In 2014, UTPB will work to develop the program as well as fundraise $9.5 million to back the program for five years.

UTPB also celebrated the lives of two of its family members who made a lasting impact: Jack Ladd and Charles Sorber.

Jack DeVere Ladd Sr. was the former director of John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, a longtime attorney and UTPB dean of the School of Business. He died Oct. 15 at the age of 63.

Charles Sorber served as the fourth president of UTPB from 1992-2001; Watts is his predecessor. Sorber, an engineer, is credited for building UTPB up and out. He died Oct. 19 at the age of 74.


Buildings seem to be popping out of the ground all around OC’s campus as the $68.5 million bond project called Vision 2015 was in full swing this year.

In March 2013, OC opened its first facility thanks to the voter-approved bond in the tennis/softball complex and in May the 13,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Culinary Arts building was christened with a tour and tasting put on by OC student chefs.

Ground-breaking on the fire training center and tower occurred in the spring, too. It’s expected to be complete before the start of the spring 2014 semester, along with Wood Math and Science Building.

However, making an appearance more often than ground-breakings or grand opening parties were the announcements of donations to OC in 2013.

The Sewell family of prominent local auto dealers gave its facility at 2425 E. Eighth St., to Odessa College, allowing the school to vastly expand and improve its auto program. A donation of $75,000 in surveying equipment was given by the Dawson Geophysical Company that provides the program equipment it’s never had before. And a $1.5 million grant from the Texas Workforce Commission and $980,000 from Chevron USA Inc. goes to training OC students.

OC also received national acclaim in 2013 as one of eight 2013 Leader Colleges through the federal student completion movement, Achieving the Dream.

The year also ushered in new OC board of trustee members thanks to the May election. Ralph McCain and Walter Smith decided to step down after several terms of service each on the volunteer nine-member board of trustees. Three new members have earned name plates at OC board meetings: Royce Bodiford of Place 3, Neil Grape of Place 6 and Tommy Clark of Place 9. Clark’s seat was vacated by now Mayor David Turner who was elected in November.

Finally, OC added three new employees to its leadership team under Williams: Vice President of Instruction Valerie Jones, Vice President of Student Services Kim McKay and Vice President of Technology Shawn Shreves.

–Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781. ___

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