A dream of Mary Baldwin College became reality Thursday as the institution broke ground on the future site of the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences off Goose Creek Road.

The 52,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in two years. The college’s doctor of physical therapy and doctor of occupational therapy programs will start in 2014. A master of physician assistant studies program will begin in 2015.

But, for now, grading work is taking place on the 30-acre site.

Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox told a crowd at the groundbreaking that the newest transformation did not come easily for the 171-year-old private women’s college.

“We analyzed and anticipated, conceptualized and reconceptualized,” she said. “We questioned and suffered pause on more than one occasion.”

Fox said the decision to pursue the new graduate programs was cemented by a $15 million gift from lead donor Bertie Murphy Deming Smith and by a partnership with the Augusta County Board of Supervisors and Augusta County Economic Development Director Dennis Burnett.

The president said the visions of Mary Baldwin and Augusta County have joined as the college “becomes an anchor in the economic development of Augusta County and as we become a cornerstone of this developing medical corridor.”

Augusta Supervisor Jeff Moore said the county would benefit from the 55 professional jobs the new program will provide, as well as the 160 construction jobs needed to build the new campus.

And Moore said the green light to improve Interstate 64’s Exit 91 interchange and the Route 636 corridor would augment the Mary Baldwin project.

Moore also noted that vibrancy of the economic sector Mary Baldwin’s new facility targets.

“The health care sector is one of the largest job opportunities in the region,” he said.

Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, said both jobs for the professional staff and careers for the graduates would be created in the three programs.

And 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, said the synergy of the Mary Baldwin campus being so close to Augusta Health “will boost the engagement of the students.”

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