AVTEC names dormitory after former senator
Heidi Zemach | For The LOG
AVTEC President Fred Esposito presents former state Senator John Torgerson with a plaque, naming the dormitory that he helped fund after him.
AVTEC, Alaska’s Institute of Technology and the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development honored former Alaska State Senator John Torgerson Oct. 16 for his past support of the institute’s funding, and for his continuing commitment to career and technology education in Alaska.
The dormitory at Fourth and Madison will be named “Torgerson Hall” after him. As state senator, Torgerson helped secure a $4.2 million appropriation for the dorm (which has 48 beds) in FY2000. The senator also was instrumental in securing $3.3 million for the construction of two apartment buildings at the same general location, to provide additional student family housing. After those buildings went in, AVTEC decided to remodel part of the Third Avenue dormitory to create on-campus childcare — which also was an important step in the evolution of AVTEC, said AVTEC President Fred Esposito.
“It’s an honor for me to recognize your commitment to training and workforce development in Alaska,” states Dianne Blumer, Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner, in a letter Esposito presented to his former colleague.
Torgerson, who lived in Seward from 1960-1975, and attended elementary school where the AVTEC Culinary Academy now stands, was surprised and proud at being honored in such a way.
He was visiting Seward to tour the Marine Science Center with Esposito, to discuss how it could be moved even further along to anticipate Alaska’s future shipping needs. The former senator is no longer on the AVTEC board of directors, but he is currently executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, so Seward is within its jurisdiction. Torgerson was interested in learning about the marine center’s unique new ice-navigation simulation program, and also was looking forward to this Friday’s opening in Kenai of a new Construction Academy. It’s inside a new two-story building where 100 high school graduates each year can get started in entry level classes in plumbing, heating, welding, electrical and construction. The cost to attend is free, and the academy also offers shorter introductory vocational classes to students in high school. Last year the program trained 72 students, 61 graduated, and 58 found jobs in those areas. Esposito would like to see a closer connection established between AVTEC and the construction academy. Attending AVTEC would be a great next step for those students, he said.
Meanwhile plans for an entirely new 120-bed dormitory, to replace the existing dormitory on Third are proceeding apace. The building is undergoing its 35 percent design phase, with a final completion date for construction scheduled for January 2014. Last state legislative session, AVTEC received a $16 million allocation of state funding for that project.
Some 200 students are taking classes at AVTEC classes in Seward. Twelve local students also enrolled for the fall semester, according to Esposito.