PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Education is the key. Those are words Governor Steve Beshear has spoken throughout his political career. On Wednesday, he joined University of Pikeville officials to announce an optometry school, that would be the first of its kind in the state.
The University of Pikeville is no stranger to growth, and on Wednesday officials proudly announced the newest addition...the Kentucky College of Optometry.
Governor Steve Beshear was on hand to welcome the first college of optometry in the state and also in this region, becoming only the 22nd school in the country to have a college of optometry.
Gov. Beshear says, "Congratulations on this monumental achievement." He adds, "This not only improves the delivery of healthcare in the region but as the president said, it will bring an array of high paying jobs..so once again my congratulations to you."
With a growing need for optometrists across the country, school officials say they saw a need..a need they felt they can meet.
President James Hurley says, "We will add 11,300 new optometrists by the year 2020 across the country and there is not enough supply at the current pace to keep up with that demand. This is a wonderful opportunity."
The new college will also bring with it a brand new building that officials say will allow many expansions including in the nursing and health science programs.
Hurley says, "It is up to us, the University of Pikeville to meet the comprehensive needs of Central Appalachia. That is our mission, that is our vision and that is what we are trying to do each day."
An exciting day for the university, community members say it is also an exciting time for the entire area.
Dwaine Anderson says, "We are just proud...really proud of this place and we understand it means everything to this community."
Officials say the key to the future of their region is education, it is mindset that students say make them proud of their university
UPike student, Jeffery Justice says, "As a business student I recognize the economic impact it has...the ability to create middle income and above jobs means everything to this region. That is exactly what we need to foster economic growth." He adds, "President Hurley and the Board of Trustees had to really think out of the box for this one, and it is great!"
Students say their president's common saying, "It is a great day to be a bear," has a new meaning after this announcement.
Justice says, "For us to be the 22nd optometry school in the nation...that is a big deal and it is right at home here in Pike County!"
President Hurley says there is a lot of work left as they go through the accreditation process and search for their founding dean. Officials do plan to welcome optometry students to campus in the fall of 2016.
Officials say each class will be made up of 60 students bringing 240 more students to campus once the college is fully enrolled.