Downtown Evansville was teeming with young adults in white coats Thursday morning. They gathered in the ballroom of the Old National Events Plaza for the dedication ceremony for the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences.
"I take great pride and feel deep gratitude in presenting these symbolic keys to the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences," said Sarah Schuler, president of Evansville-based architecture firm VPS, as she handed keys to the presidents of Indiana University, the University of Evansville, and the University of Southern Indiana.
These keys open the doors, theoretically at least, to the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences.
The center an academic partnership between the three universities. It will house the Evansville campus of the IU Medical School along with some medical programs from UE and USI.
The three presidents weren’t the only one who received keys to open the sleek building downtown.
"I thought for fifteen million dollars I’d get a real key," Bill Stone said. He and his wife Mary are Evansville natives and lead donors for the center.
Their daughter Justine joined them on stage, but he told her the Evansville she sees now is not the one he remembers as a kid.
Pat Shoulders also spoke of his childhood in Evansville. He now works as an attorney and helped bring the new medical campus to the city.
"You have to be sixty years of age or older to remember doing your Christmas shopping in downtown Evansville. Your doctor, your dentist, optometrist had officers very near this spot," he said. "Downtown Evansville is where you took your junior prom date."
That prom date was in the audience, but the Evansville of their junior year disappeared. "By the mid-1960’s, in the words of Bob McLean, the music died."
He described the growth of suburbs and the further reaches of the city: USI on the west side, homes and schools on the north, medical facilities on the east.
Evansville mayor Lloyd Winnecke said the city’s experienced some pretty low lows in the years since, but he had some choice words for the center’s impact.
“Words like enduring, generation, and I would even say, once in a lifetime, all come to mind," he said. "With the opening of the beautiful facility that will train the medical professions our region will demand over the next fifty years, Evansville stands at a peak. I will tell you it looks pretty amazing."
Dr. Steven Becker will help train those students. He’s a professor, associate dean, and director at the IU medical school.
"Physicians from my generation will classically know when I say our motto was ‘see one, teach one, do one," he said, adding that such an approach is not enough anymore. He said simulation technology at the school has transformed how the students, who were standing in their white coats at the back of the room, will learn.
“This group of students...will get to see one, they’ll get to practice, they’ll get to practice, they’ll get to practice some more, and then they’ll finally do one,” he said.
He said the school, in partnership with local hospitals, will add 70 to 80 medical residencies in the area within the next five years.
"I can honestly say that I have never worked with a greater group of individuals represented by the hundreds of people in this room and our community," he said as he thanked the crowd with a shaky voice.
The audience applauded and gave him a standing ovation.
A few minutes later, as the Shepard Brass played, those hundreds of people in the room, students, administrators, professors, donors, and community members filed out of the ballroom at the convention center.
Together they walked one block down the street to the new medical campus and cut the ribbon.