Pictured are, from left, SFA regents Bob Garrett of Tyler, Lacey Claver of Joshua, Valerie Ertz of Dallas, James Thompson of Sugar Land, Joe Max Green of Nacogdoches, Lucille DeWitt, SFA President Baker Pattillo, School of Nursing Director Glenda Walker, and regents Richard Boyer of The Colony, Melvin White of Pflugerville and Carlos Amaral of Plano.

A groundbreaking ceremony for Stephen F. Austin State University's new $13 million Richard and Lucille DeWitt School of Nursing was held Monday at the construction site located at 5707 North St. in Nacogdoches.

In 2007, the Texas legislature passed House Bill 1775, authorizing the construction of the new nursing school on a 17-acre property donated to the university by Lucille and the late Richard DeWitt. The site formerly served as a distribution center for the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants owned by the DeWitts. The original structure was demolished late last year.

State Rep. Wayne Christian, who attended the ceremony briefly before departing for a meeting in Austin, said that, as an SFA graduate, it was exciting for him to see so many students participating in the "solution to the state's nursing shortage."

"I hope that all of you will remember this day when you are told that something is impossible," he said. "If it's worth doing, if it's the right thing to do, get behind it with all your heart, because nothing is impossible."

Dr. Baker Pattillo, SFA president, reminded the crowd of the uphill battle the university had faced when seeking funding for the facility during a year when the Texas Legislature was not scheduled to approve tuition revenue bonds for state universities.

"What do you do when you need $13 million for SFA and it's not available in Nacogdoches?" Pattillo asked the crowd. "You go to State Rep. Wayne Christian. I went and told Rep. Christian what we needed, and by the time I got back to Nacogdoches, he had written House Bill 1775 and had it passed through the House of Representatives."

Pattillo explained that Sen. Robert Nichols sponsored similar legislation in the Senate.

The state-of-the-art facility, which will house classrooms, laboratories and faculty offices, is scheduled to be open in time for the spring 2010 semester.