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Westmoreland County Community College exceeds fund-raising goal for capital campaign

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Westmoreland County Community College officials said on Wednesday they have exceeded their goal of raising $28.5 million toward building an education center in Latrobe, relocating business and industry programs, and renovating labs on its main campus.

President Daniel Obara said nearly $31.2 million has been raised since the capital campaign began on Jan. 1, 2012, from public funds, foundation grants and private donations. All trustees, foundation board members and cabinet-level employees — and many faculty and staff members — contributed, Obara said.

“I was really apprehensive when we announced we were going to undergo this capital campaign and raise $28.5 million,” Obara said. “I'm thinking to myself, ‘I never did this before,' and I really didn't know what the response was going to be to the community college. ... But I have to tell you that being part of this campaign has been the most gratifying aspect of my presidency.”

Obara has announced he will retire in June. The projects funded by this campaign are viewed by many as his legacy to the college he's led since April 2009.

“This campaign is not measured just in financial results, but in the relationships we've established,” said Gene Ciafre, a trustee and fundraising co-chairman. “I think the success of this campaign simply acknowledges that people now understand what we do, and what we do is important.”

Some of the largest donations included a $2 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, a $500,000 grant from the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation for the Latrobe campus and a $300,000 gift from the Hillman Foundation for the Advanced Technology Center at the former Sony plant in East Huntingdon.

College officials said they expect to spend about $10 million on construction and equipment for the 30,000-square-foot Latrobe Center, formerly called the Laurel Education Center, at Depot and Jefferson streets.

About $12.5 million more will go toward renovating 73,500 square feet of the former Sony plant and buying equipment for the Advanced Technology Center. The center will house WCCC's workforce development programs, such as welding, electronics, metallurgy and mechatronics that squeeze into about 18,000 square feet on the main campus near Youngwood.

“For me ... it's all about economic development and about moving forward, and the community college is the engine that makes that happen,” said Charles Anderson, chairman of the county board of commissioners. “Companies come into Westmoreland County and they're looking for people to do the job. The community college makes that happen.”

The capital campaign also will fund $3.2 million in biology lab renovations and $1.8 million in upgrades to the nursing lab, both on the main campus. About $1 million will go toward a scholarship endowment for students.

“We're not done yet. We hope to continue this movement,” said Ciafre. “We have many more scholarships to grant, many more buildings to build, so we have much more work to do.”

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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