FORT PIERCE — Dozens of community leaders, donors, and other dignitaries joined President Timothy Moore, college administrators and hundreds of well-wishers as Indian River State College officially cut the ribbon on the 60,000-square-foot Eastman Advanced Workforce Complex, Florida’s newest and most technologically advanced training facility for those seeking a career in Mechatronics, Robotics and Smart Automation, Automotive Technology, Welding and HVAC and Refrigeration.
“This has been a monumental undertaking,” Bill Solomon, Dean of IRSC’s School of Workforce Education, told those who gathered for the highly anticipated opening. “It wasn’t quick, it wasn’t easy. Our former trades building was nearing the end of its life, and the need to grow our regional workforce pipeline was critical.”
Plans progressed slowly but steadily, Solomon said, stalled a bit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then Dr. Timothy Moore took the helm of IRSC as president in September of 2020. “I can attest to you that even COVID is no match for Dr. Timothy Moore,” Solomon quipped. “By December 2020 we broke ground on this spot.”
“This (complex) stands as a testimony to the dedication of the men and women of this school, the dedication of our elected leaders current and past, administrators, board members, foundation members, that we would not quit,” Moore said. Moore also thanked the many donors to the project, including philanthropist and retired engineer, inventor and entrepreneur Richard H. “Dick” Eastman, the man whose name the building will carry long into the future. Eastman and his family donated $2 million for construction on the project.
“Through his generous support,”Moore said of Eastman, “he’s provided the campaign leadership that brought this state-of-the-art complex to life. Without that support, our students are not able to use their skills to change America. When we change our students, 96 percent of them stay in the state of Florida and they change our communities for the better.”
“It is a special day to see it all come to fruition,” Eastman said. “I would like to recognize all those who imagined, nurtured, and developed this project… including the architects, the general contractor, Proctor Construction, the subcontractors and their workers—together, they form a chain of people that goes back for over a decade to bring together what we see today.”
Automotive Service Technology student Sophia Moleiro shared her experiences growing up with a keen curiousity about cars—something that developed as she watched her father buy cars and fix them up to sell. “He really inspired me to work hard,” Moleiro said. “He would find cars online that needed work and he would teach me the ins and outs of these vehicles.” Then one day, when she was just 13, her father laid out all the parts and “he said, ‘I want you to replace the valve cover gaskets on my BMW,’” she recalled. “I was like, what? You want me to do that?” With her father offering guidance, she did it. “That was an experience and a half,” Moleiro said. “Once I did it, and the car started, and there was no oil leaks, it sparked an interest in my mind. ‘You know what?’ I said to myself. ‘I can do this. I can make money off of this. I can do this as a living.’”
“IRSC has developed many opportunities for me here and welcomed me with open arms and I am very proud that that happened,” Moleiro said. “The hands-on opportunities are just phenomenal. You really learn a lot.” Once she completes her A.S. Degree, she may continue at IRSC and study welding, she said.
Brenda Sandoval attended IRSC and studied Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration and today she owns her own company—Air Pro Heating and Cooling, which serves customers in Okeechobee and surrounding communities. “When I first enrolled in the HVAC program, I had no idea how it was going to change my life,” Sandoval said. “Indian River State College became more than just an educational institution for me. It became a place where I gained my confidence and my abilities to be able to pursue a fulfilling career in HVAC.”
Not long after starting her own HVAC business, Sandoval secured a state license for residential building, she said. “This opened up many doors for me and I was able to open up a second business in construction. The professors I have had at IRSC are amazing. Their knowledge and respectful attitude are a foundation for a great learning experience. I know that this building is going to host the same level of quality professors.”
IRSC Foundation Board of Trustees Chair Bill Marine said, “This is a remarkable institution. I don’ think there are any excuses for anybody not to be able to get an education today at Indian River State College. There’s so many opportunities.” Marine went on to thank donors, including Eastman, members of the IRSC Foundation, and local, state, and federal elected officials, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “He’s been so gracious—everything we’ve asked for we’ve received. And I can’t think of anything better than that for an institution.”
Anthony George Jr., Chair of the IRSC District Board of Trustees called up the instructors for the programs presented in the Eastman Complex and asked them to share the numbers of students they serve, along with estimate salaries students can expect after completing their programs successfully. “This college is dedicated to our community and to the students achieving their full potential here,” George said. “The Board of Trustees is united and Dr. Moore … is our Captain Velocity.”
After the ribbon-cutting, guests enjoyed light fare provided by students and instructors in the IRSC Culinary Institute and toured the five learning areas in the Eastman Complex, including a Virtual Reality demonstration in the Advanced Manufacturing Suite, the Smart Automation and Robotics Lab, the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) Lab, the Welding Lab, and the Automotive Mechanical Lab. Students can earn certifications and degrees in these programs and find work with exceptional pay.