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Oak Hall opens its doors

The $9.9 million addition to the Whidbey campus nestles among the oak trees at the corner of Pioneer Way and Regatta Ave., overlooking Oak Harbor. Mick Donahue, SVC Whidbey Campus vice president said “Oak Hall” was a name that tied in well with the community.  -
The $9.9 million addition to the Whidbey campus nestles among the oak trees at the corner of Pioneer Way and Regatta Ave., overlooking Oak Harbor. Mick Donahue, SVC Whidbey Campus vice president said “Oak Hall” was a name that tied in well with the community.
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Mick Donahue, Skagit Valley College Whidbey Island Campus vice president, thanked the taxpayers of Washington state Friday for making the newest addition to the campus, Oak Hall, a reality. It was a big thank you, at 36,000 square feet and $9.9 million.

Community colleges and universities are not allowed to conduct local levies, so all funding for capital projects comes from the state legislature.

Guests ranging from the new college president to the Oak Hall janitorial supervisor gathered in the spacious new hall Friday afternoon to officially christen the building, which has been nearly eight years in the making.

“This will increase our ability to offer more associate degree opportunities and, with partnerships, create greater opportunities for bachelor’s degrees as well,” Gary Tollefson, new SVC president, said.

In addition to Skagit Valley College classrooms, the hall will also house Western Washington University Extended Programs.

“This is a very special partnership with Whidbey Island Campus,” Susanne James, WWU director of the extension credit program, said. “We’re delighted to have a permanent home here.”

Freshman state representative Barbara Bailey was in attendance, albeit a little bleary-eyed from the legislature’s marathon budget meetings.

“This is a great addition to the island,” she said. “The new facility is quite a tribute to the Whidbey campus. The community has needed it for quite some time.”

In addition to Bailey and Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen, Donahue thanked Rep. Barry Sehlin for his influence in securing funding for the project, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station commanding officer Capt. Stephen Black for arranging parking on base property during construction, and the patrons of Oak Harbor library, next door to Oak Hall.

“I know what a tough time it was during construction,” Donahue said.

The three-level building houses a health and fitness lab, locker rooms, meeting room and computer lab on the first floor and office space for SVC faculty, WWU Extended Programs, a teaching center for faculty and staff, a computer lab, general classrooms and a small conference room on the second level. Classrooms and a large conference room top the third level. All the south facing rooms have spectacular views over the harbor.

A plaza which spans the area between Oak Hall, Hayes Hall, Old Main and Sprague Hall ties the campus together, and signifies a collaborative effort between the federal government, the military, the city of Oak Harbor, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and Skagit Valley College.

The building was designed by Henry Klein Partnership of Mt. Vernon and built by Bayley Construction.

Thousands of decisions went into the creation of Oak Hall, but none was more grueling then the selection of fabric for the furniture. Donahue praised his administrative assistant Sherry Walker and interior designer Cheri Penttila for their cooperative attitude during the process.

“We never had a conflict that I know of,” he quipped.

Donahue told a tale of what seemed like hundreds of fabric samples offered by Penttila for each room. Donahue’s favorite was always a Hawaiian print, but he was repeatedly vetoed by the two designing women.

“This went on for weeks,” Donahue told the assembled open house guests.

Finally, when it came time to select the fabric for the lounge area furniture, Donahue was allowed to choose a Hawaiian print for two upholstered chairs. Still, he’s taking a cautiously optimistic approach.

“I’ll be wearing Hawaiian shirts every day until those chairs show up,” he said.

Oak Hall will be open for some classes summer quarter, with a full schedule in the fall.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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