Photo by GINGER PERRY/ The Winchester Star
William A. Hazel Jr., M.D., Virginia secretary of Health and Human Resources, speaks Thursday at Shenandoah University’s Health and Life Sciences Building Foundation Celebration.

Shenandoah University officials say that the Health & Life Sciences Building being built on campus is not simply a great feat of bricks and mortar.

“ … [I]t’s a vehicle that helps drive our institution to new heights,” said Andrew Ferrari, chairman of the SU Board of Trustees.

On Thursday afternoon, SU faculty, staff, students and guests gathered on the university’s main campus in Winchester to celebrate the laying of the foundation for the school’s new $25 million facility.

The three-story 71,000-square-foot building will house the university’s athletic training, biology, chemistry, nursing, respiratory care and pre-health programs. The project should be completed in August 2014 and is expected to open for the fall 2014 semester.

Inside the facility will be standard and active-learning classrooms; teaching labs; a 2,000-square-foot, 16-table cadaver lab; a nursing skills lab and simulation suite; a large meeting space; “cutting-edge” classroom technologies; and faculty offices, study spaces, lounges and community areas.

Both graduates and undergraduates will use the building.

Thursday’s event was held adjacent to the construction site, near Mary M. Henkel Hall.

“What we are trying to do here is a lot bigger than a building,” said William A. Hazel Jr., Virginia’s secretary of Health and Human Resources, who insisted that the 8.2 million people in the state would need good health care employees in the future.

“They will need you,” Hazel said to the students in attendance. “You will have a job as long as you are caring and ethical and you stay up on your learning.”

Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons speaks Thursday at the school’s Health and Life Sciences Building celebration.
Photo by GINGER PERRY/ The Winchester Star

President Tracy Fitzsimmons said the story on Thursday was not about a building, but about the students who go on and dream about making the world a better place and “actually do it.”

“It’s about the students who will stand at our bedsides,” she said.

Fitzsimmons said the building is the largest and most expensive one SU has built.

Mary Farland Shockey, chairwoman of the academic affairs committee, said the new building will alleviate currently crowded classrooms and students having to stay up all night to work in limited lab space.

“This is a new space to teach, and it also has the best facility and equipment for students and faculty,” she said.

Other speakers included Kathryn Ganske, dean of the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing, and Calvin Allen, associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college of arts and sciences.

Liz Grover (left), a senior and first-year physical therapy student at Shenandoah University, and Tori Finney, a sophomore nursing student, sign the steel foundation I-beam that will be placed in the school’s Health and Life Sciences Building.
Photo by GINGER PERRY/ The Winchester Star

To cap off Thursday’s event, Fitzsimmons, members of the Board of Trustees, donors, alumni, current employees and students, local dignitaries and project supporters all signed their names on one of the steel I-beams that will be part of the building’s framework.

Once the building is completed, the locations of certain programs will be shuffled.

Nursing and respiratory care will move to the new building from their current facilities at the university’s Health Professions Building on the Winchester Medical Center campus, while other university graduate programs in occupational therapy, physician assistant studies and physical therapy will take their place at WMC.

The university will pay for the project by transitioning current lease payments to debt payments, with additional funding from the capital fund and private fundraising dollars.

The general contractor for the project is Howard Shockey & Sons of Winchester.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at

By REBECCA LAYNE The Winchester Star