Thirty years ago, Gina Simar began studying vocational nursing at Lamar Orange. She recalls the program having one room with two hospital beds for students, two hospital beds for the faculty and 15 chairs. Simar today is the director of the Lamar State College-Orange Allied Health program. She told the story of her beginnings as a nurse to a crowd gathered Wednesday for the dedication of a new, 32,000 square foot, two-story Nursing and Classroom Building .

Campus President Dr. Michael Shahan oversaw the construction and said the building features the latest in technology and is 'pleasant esthetically.' The building includes lots of windows. Shahan said only one classroom on the whole campus has a window. The lobby to the $10 million building soars up two stories and features lots of outside light shining in. Shahan commissioned renowned photographer Keith Carter of Beaumont to contribute artwork. Shahan thanked Walter Riedel and Beth Turley of the Stark Foundation for allowing Carter to capture scenes of Shangri La for the photographs. Carter’s wet plate technique with black and white film and his unique eye provide artwork that makes the nursing building resemble an art gallery.

The new building includes an 80-seat theater classroom with a large window view of the Sabine River. In addition, there are two five-bed labs, a 60-seat computer room, numerous rooms for teaching different areas of nursing, plus classrooms. The EMS and pharmacy technology programs will remain in the Allied Health Building. The nursing program draws about 1,000 students each semester, about half of the college’s total enrollment.

The outside of the building at 210 Front Street, is landscaped with newly-installed grass, red rose bushes and other plants. Shahan joked that when he first came to LSC-O more than a decade ago the college didn’t even own a lawnmower. ‘We didn’t have any grass,’ he said. Today the campus sprawls across downtown and is tied together with sidewalks, grass, cypress trees and a variety of blooming flowers.

Shahan also thanked the City of Orange for the new riverwalk across the street from the campus and assisting the college with development. He gave special recognition to Corky Harmon, president of the non-profit LSC-O Foundation. Harmon was one of the community leaders who helped draw the old Lamar Tech to set up a campus at a World War II-era elementary school in Riverside. When that burned 44 years ago, Harmon led a drive to buy the first downtown building for the college campus.

Orange native David Montagne is a regent for the Texas State University System that oversees LSC-O. His late father, Robert Montagne, served on the old Lamar board of regents and supported the Orange campus. ‘I know my father is smiling,’ he said about the new building.

Dr. Brian McCall, TSUS chancellor, credited Shahan for convincing the regents for approving the building, along with bringing the building construction on time and under budget. The building was constructed by Spaw Glass and designed by PBK Architects.

Dozens of nursing students and teachers stood around for the ceremonies outside. Simar told the crowd the teachers were the ones wearing white coats. ‘They are just beaming and ready to get in and start teaching,’ she said.