Nan Smith-Blair, from left, Don Bobbitt, Peggy Parks, Fran Hagstrom, Donna Epley, Lewis Epley and Tom Smith celebrate at the ribbon-cutting. Photos by Russell Cothren
Donors Join College to Celebrate Opening of High-Tech Facility
Above, Peggy Parks, center in red, celebrates the dedication of the Epley Center for Health Professions with, from left, Nan Smith-Blair, director of the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing; UA President Don Bobbitt; Fran Hagstrom, head of the department of rehabilitation, human resources and communication disorders; Donna and Lewis Epley; and Tom Smith, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions.
FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas students wowed many of the more than 300 people who attended a dedication March 26 of the new Epley Center for Health Professions with demonstrations of the high-tech equipment they are using to learn to become nurses and speech-language pathologists.
View a slideshow from the event
The 45,000-square-foot building on Razorback Road is home to the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing and the University of Arkansas Speech and Hearing Clinic. University of Arkansas administrators, College of Education and Health Professions faculty and staff members, and other guests joined students majoring in nursing and communication disorders at a celebration of the new facility and the donors who made its construction possible.
The dedication ceremony featured remarks by Lewis Epley, who with his wife, Donna, made a lead naming gift toward construction of the new facility; Peggy Parks, whose gift honored her late mother, Amelia Remes Murphy; Chancellor G. David Gearhart; and Dean Tom Smith of the College of Education and Health Professions. Gearhart also recognized Washington Regional Medical Center and Steve and Paula Millstein of Dallas for their support of the building's construction.
The university's Board of Trustees approved a resolution last fall naming the building in honor of the Epleys, who have a long history of supporting the University of Arkansas. The university honored other donors with the naming of the Amelia Remes Murphy, RN, Nursing Learning Environment in honor of Parks' mother; the Washington Regional Medical Center Simulation Laboratories and the Washington Regional Medical Center OB/GYN Simulation Suite; and the Millstein Student Lounge.
Donna Epley, from left, Lewis Epley and Tom Smith
Lewis Epley, who practiced law in Eureka Springs, served on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1999. He currently serves as a board member of the University of Arkansas Foundation and the University Board of Advisors and formerly served on the Arkansas Alumni Association Board. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and an honorary degree recipient. His wife, Donna, was a registered nurse for 30 years.
When he spoke, Lewis Epley emphasized the students.
"This building was constructed for the use of the students today and tomorrow to further their education," Epley said. "I got out my students first lapel pin today, chancellor, because we all need to remember that this is why we're here today, is because of the students. I would just like for all of us to remember that at the University of Arkansas students are first."
Epley said he and his wife have had a long interest in health care, his wife through her 30-year career as a registered nurse and him from his experience as a 17-year-old who contracted polio. For the past 50 years, Epley has served as a volunteer and been involved in health-care issues on the local, regional and state levels.
"There is nothing more reassuring to a patient than an intelligent, well-trained, competent and caring registered nurse and other health-care professionals," he said. "We felt that doubling the size of the nursing program with new facilities for both the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing and the Speech and Hearing Clinic at the University of Arkansas would be a benefit not only to our aging population but also the general population of Arkansas citizens who may need the services of professionals in speech, hearing and registered nurses who are well-trained and have mastered their fields of education and the medical technologies and equipment that becomes more complex each year."
Peggy Parks with the photo of her mother
on the left side of the display.
Parks was a teacher for 30 years. She, together with her late husband, Donald, and other family members, established the Parks Family Endowed Professorship in Science and Technology Education, the Peggy and Donald Parks Endowed Scholarship in Nursing and the Peggy and Donald Parks Endowed Scholarship in Teaching.
Parks told the people gathered for the dedication about her mother, who worked as a registered nurse at St. Edwards Hospital in Fort Smith during World War I and the flu pandemic that followed in 1918.
"The prospect of enlarging and reorganizing the old health center gave Chancellor David Gearhart the opportunity to allow me to leave a legacy in memory of my mother by helping support this new center where more nurses can be trained for service," Parks said. "Mother's attributes of love, responsibility, hard work, and strength in times of trouble or sorrow served as models to her children to raise their children."
Parks described an experience she had in 1989 when she and her husband and son were in San Francisco during the 6.9-magnitude earthquake that killed 63 people. The picture of Parks' mother that now hangs in the Epley Center came into her mind and calmed her fears.
"I think it was God's way of saying to me, Peggy, your mother and I, we're still watching over you," Parks said.
Students assisted with tours following the dedication ceremony, offering demonstrations of the sophisticated mannequins used in the nursing school and the top-of-the-line technology used in the speech and hearing clinic.
Students explain equipment in a lab.
The nursing school mannequins display lifelike responses, giving students practical experience with numerous techniques before they go out into the community for clinical rotations. A faculty member monitors the interaction between students and the mannequin after giving the students an assignment, and videotaped footage allows the students and their instructors to watch the learning session later and discuss areas of improvement.
The students studying communication disorders gain clinical experience working with clients under supervision of faculty members. They evaluate and treat people with conditions that involve hearing loss, central auditory processing, articulation, fluency, voice, language, augmentative and alternative communications and swallowing.
For the first time, the clinic offers an audiology suite with audiometric sound booth and related equipment that allows the program to provide services to people who have undergone cochlear implants to restore hearing. An audiologist maps the implants as well as providing other aural rehabilitation services, including testing hearing aids.