by jamesc 2/7/2014 1:14:08 PM --
O’NEILL – Ron and Vicki Cork of O’Neill understand the value of a college education and have given of their time and treasure to see that the residents of North Central Nebraska have the same opportunities they had early in their marriage.
“We were some of the first wave of non-traditional students, married with children and with full time jobs,” said Vicki. “Of course it was pre-internet and internet learning. Colleges had not yet realized the number of non-traditional students that would be requiring and demanding flexible class schedules and on-line classes. We – Ron and I – as non-traditional students, strongly support the continued efforts of Northeast Community College to offer opportunities for non-traditional students to begin, continue, and enhance their education.”
The couple sees the significance of an expanded presence of the College that will benefit their hometown and the north central region as a whole. In addition to serving as honorary co-chairpersons, the Corks have contributed $25,000 to the Northeast Community College Extended Campus Capital Campaign.
The new facility will replace the existing, aging building that now houses Northeast operations in the Holt County community.
Vicki Cork said when she and her husband were married, he had just received his bachelor’s degree and she had completed two years of college. “Fast forward several years; we had two children and a third on the way. Ron left the Army following four years of service during the Vietnam conflict. Naturally, we decided to return to the Midwest to be close to family.”
She said it became clear to them that it would take two incomes to keep their family afloat. Ron Cork, who at the time was working in retail six days a week, began working on his master’s degree, taking one or two night classes a semester. Vicki Cork started on her degree by also taking some night classes. “When it became obvious that in order to complete our degrees, I began going to class full-time during the day and cleaned a local bank during the evening hours,” she said. “Ron finally had to quit work and go to class full-time during the day. It was quite a balancing act for us in both time and money. We did, however, manage to finish our degrees.”
Ron Cork received his master’s degree in business while Vicki received degrees in history and nursing. Today, he is president/CEO of Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital in O’Neill. She serves on the O’Neill City Council.
Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital and other regional health care entities have benefited greatly from the health opportunities offered through Northeast Community College. As a hospital CEO, Ron Cork appreciates Northeast’s involvement in the community through its nursing programs that includes clinical training opportunities for students at Avera’s facilities.
“We are fortunate to have access to certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse and associate degree nursing programs, as well as local access to Northeast Allied Health classes that provide continuing education requirements for our health care professionals to maintain their certifications. Many of these students eventually return to the region for employment.” Cork went on to state that approximately 80% of the hospital’s workforce has received training and education from Northeast, including x-ray technicians, medical coding specialists and physical therapy assistants.
Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College, said the Corks’ story is truly inspirational. “I cannot think of a better testimonial than Ron and Vicki’s story. Although they had to find ways to balance their lives with family, work and earning a degree, they were ultimately successful in achieving their dreams. Despite the struggles, they never lost sight of their ultimate goal, wearing a cap and gown and earning college degrees. That focus is paying dividends not only for the Corks and their family, but to the contributions they have made and continue to make to the community of O’Neill and North Central Nebraska.”
The new $2.8 million Northeast Community College Extended Campus, to be located on the east edge of O’Neill on Highway 275, will offer more than what is available at the current location at 409 East Adams Street. The 1938 former elementary school building’s infrastructure is outdated with inadequate plumbing, electrical and heating and ventilation systems and the upper level of the facility is not handicap accessible. Since the building continues to be used for a number of public activities, security of the building and equipment is also a concern.
In addition to more classroom and lab space, the new extended campus will feature a separate facility with large overhead doors that will be designed for industrial and agricultural training classes. A site adjacent to that portion of the facility is available for future expansion.
The capital campaign to finance the new extended campus is in its final phase with over $2.6 million currently raised. Once funds have been secured, construction will take 12-18 months. For more information on the campaign or to make a pledge, visit www.northeast.edu/oneill.