November 27, 2021

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Governor visits for official Health Sciences Building opening

Ribbon cutting held for the renovated facility, the newest part of the Health Science Campus in Johnson City

New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul received her COVID-19 booster shot from Melissa Brennan, FNP, of the Broome County Health Department, at the conclusion of a press conference held to officially open the Health Sciences Building on the Binghamton University Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City, N.Y. New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul received her COVID-19 booster shot from Melissa Brennan, FNP, of the Broome County Health Department, at the conclusion of a press conference held to officially open the Health Sciences Building on the Binghamton University Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City, N.Y.
New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul received her COVID-19 booster shot from Melissa Brennan, FNP, of the Broome County Health Department, at the conclusion of a press conference held to officially open the Health Sciences Building on the Binghamton University Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City, N.Y. Image Credit: Casey Staff.

The Health Sciences Building in Johnson City, N.Y., that was renovated to house the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences was a popular place Monday as Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger was joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul and other dignitaries to make the building’s opening official.

Stenger recognized local and state legislators, members of the Dr. Clifford G. & Florence B. Decker Foundation and the Binghamton University Council, senior leadership from UHS and Lourdes hospitals, and University leadership — all “critical partners” in transforming the former Endicott Johnson shoe factory into a cutting-edge teaching facility.

“We are especially happy to have with us the people who will be the heart and soul of this new facility — faculty and students from the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences,” Stenger said.

Renovating this building took a lot of creativity and lot of hard work, Stenger added, as he thanked University administrators and Physical Facilities staff. “And we were really fortunate to have a partner like Johnson City on this,” he said. “When I first left New York state and was gone about 26 years, I came back and said, ‘What happened? Where did everybody go and where are all the jobs?’

“I knew that if I had the right support behind me, we could make a difference,” Stenger said, as he recounted the history of finding funding for development of the Health Sciences Campus, which also includes the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The late Sen. Thomas Libous told Stenger years ago that if the campus was in Johnson City, it would happen. “And it did happen,” Stenger said.

All told, the state provided $133 million in funding for the campus, including through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and the Southern Tier Regional Economic Council (REDC).

“We owe a major thanks to the governor,” Stenger said. “She chaired all of the REDCs and the funding that came to us was so important for us to turn things around.”

“Who our leaders are really makes a difference, and you have been the kind of visionary this area has been crying out for,” Hochul said of Stenger. “People could not have imagined that we would be in this position as a world-class university.”

I’ve been here so many times, Hochul said of Broome County. “Don’t tell any other counties,” she joked. “Mothers can’t play favorites with their children.

“But this place is extraordinary; it’s a place where people want to be educated and hopefully stay,” Hochul said. “For that to happen, you need a beautiful building and you have done that. Transformation changes a community. Many people in this room have a legacy in this building and it’s a part of the fabric of this community.”

Hochul spoke of lessons learned from the pandemic as well, remembering how so many people were inspired to become first responders following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “This pandemic taught us that we had to be prepared with people with a first-rate education and we need more of these people,” she said. “My underlying question when speaking to healthcare workers is, ‘Will the pandemic have the same impact as did 9/11, inspiring the next generation to help?’

“The pandemic has taken a toll on the human psyche and it was the healthcare workers who did it with such courage. I continue thanking them,” she said. “They couldn’t dial in or do their work remotely. I hope those in this noble profession will inspire others to join them, and this is the place you can come. The timing was perfect and you have this incredible place where the smartest and best minds are working together.”

The larger framework that the Health Sciences Campus is addressing is the critical need to educate those who are changing careers or finding that their jobs have been eliminated, Hochul said. ”We have the opportunity to address the health of people in need and to continue leading the fight against this pandemic.”

Hochul said she watches the COVID positivity numbers “like a hawk” and that Broome County needs to up its vaccination rate. “I need this area to step up for me,” she said. “We can’t declare victory over this pandemic until we have more people vaccinated. We’re not there yet.

“This is a high priority for me,” she added, “and to demonstrate my interest, I will get my booster shot in front of everyone here — after the ribbon cutting!”