Murray State College and its Foundation will receive $5 million from the Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation (SOMF) for the construction of the Southern Oklahoma Nursing Education Center (SONEC).     

In February, the Murray State College Foundation submitted a grant application to SOMF, a private foundation based in Ardmore, Oklahoma. In August, Murray State College President Dr. Tim Faltyn presented details of the SONEC project directly to the SOMF Board of Directors.

“The Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation is pleased to support the expansion of health-related education in Ardmore,” said Mary Kate Wilson, SOMF President. “This project falls directly in line with our mission to support health related projects and services. We look forward to joining with other donors to make this project a reality and ultimately increase the number of nursing graduates.”

The Murray State College Nursing Program, producing its first graduates in 1973, has expanded to include nursing cohorts in Ardmore, Duncan, Durant and Tishomingo. The Ardmore campus also serves as the training location for AirEvac flight nurses. The SONEC will be the hub for nursing education for all of southern Oklahoma.

“We are humbled and honored by the gift from the Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation,” said Jordyn Frazier, Assistant Vice President for External Affairs and Executive Director of the Murray State College Foundation. “They believe in our mission and objective to produce more nursing graduates and better the health outcomes of our region.”

The $5 million grant is added to the $1 million provided by the Lynn Colbert Trust and the $1 million committed by Murray State College. The total project cost is $25.5 million. The SONEC will be a state-of-the-art facility for nursing education in Oklahoma. This space will be much needed, as we expect the number of graduates to increase to at least 200 by 2025.

“The SONEC will not only be the premier site for healthcare education in southern Oklahoma,” noted Malaika Horton, MSN, RN, Dean of the School of Nursing, “but it will represent a remarkable new home for a program that I’ve been a part of since the earliest days of my career.”

It’s no secret that the country is experiencing a nursing shortage, and the very real impact of the shortage is felt every day in southern Oklahoma and the local hospital system. According to a survey done just last year by the federal government, the shortage is expected to continue until 2035.

“Unfortunately, there is no quick fix,” said Katie Finder, Chief Nursing Officer, Mercy Hospital Ardmore. “We have a talented, compassionate group of nurses, techs and nursing leaders at Mercy who are committed to service this great community, but they are often stretched thin. We are always adapting to meet the needs and challenges of our industry while providing the very best for our patients.”

Murray State College has a strong partnership with SouthernTech via the Career Mobility (LPN to RN) program. In the spring of 2023, a partnership was established with the University of Oklahoma to allow qualified Murray State graduates to automatically enter their bachelor’s degree program.

“We’re in this to transform the region and improve the quality of life for our neighbors,” said Faltyn. “We are pulling together proven education institutions as partners so that we can provide clear pathways for students who wish to excel in healthcare fields of study. SOMF is a champion for Carter County, and we could not do this without them. We take their belief in us seriously and will deliver on the promise to make SONEC a reality.”