When they started the  pursuit for a degree they were taking classes in an old grocery store.
Now, they were the first students to graduate in the University Center of Southern Oklahoma’s newest building.
Nineteen graduates of the East Central University Nursing Program were honored with a reception on Thursday in UCSO’s Health, Science and Math Building, which welcomed the program as its first class in the recently constructed center. Steve Mills, president of UCSO, told the students about the “academic heritage” of the program in Ardmore, which began in 2007-2008 when a need was realized for a nursing program in Ardmore.
UCSO reached out to ECU to gauge interest in bringing its nursing program to Ardmore, which gave birth to the current program. For the first nine years of the program, students went to classes in what used to be the Humpy-Dumpty Grocery.
In January, the program moved into its new permanent home in the new facility.
“It’s special for us,” Anna Duran, ECU Nursing program coordinator, told the graduates at the reception. “It’s special for you guys because you were the first graduating class in this building. It’s special for the community because they now have not only this wonderful nursing program but this wonderful building.”
Mills told the graduates that before them, 188 nurses went through the program. Of those, 75 have stayed local and worked in the Ardmore area, something Mills said the community and students should be proud to proclaim.
“This program started up from an old grocery store and that’s what they returned,” he said. “I think that’s a heritage to be proud of.”
“You guys have actually paved the way for everyone that comes after you,” Duran told the students, noting the future nurses of the program will follow in their footsteps through the facilities and program.
Duran applauded the students for their hard work and efforts throughout the semester and pointed to their character traits and drive, which she believes will make them great in their field.
“I think all of you will make excellent nurses,” Duran said. “It just takes so many things to be a nurse. You not only have to be intelligent but you also have to have good social skills, leadership skills and you have to be able to look at the whole picture.
“All of those things combined is what makes a nurse.”