CCC&TI celebrates 50 years

Charter signed in '64; first classes in '65
Apr. 02, 2014 @ 06:33 AM

Today is Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute's birthday. Sort of.

The college's charter was signed on this day in 1964.

But in 1964, there was no campus.

“We consider the birthday the charter," said Dr. Ken Boham, president of the college. "We may not have had any money, but we were formed.”

Dr. Ed Beam, the college's first president, said the college was “nonexistent." There were no buildings, no instructors and absolutely no money.

Classes began in August 1965 in the basement of a branch of the Bank of Granite. There were 23 nursing students and 160 basic adult education students. Over time, classes moved around, from a vacated elementary school in the county to the old District 9 School in Dulatown to whatever places helpful community members allowed them to use. Classrooms were also used at the local high schools like Granite Falls, Hudson and Lenoir. The college's first buildings were opened in 1967.

“There were two buildings constructed initially,” Beam said. “Those buildings are still there, and both are still in use.”

Back then, 78 percent of Caldwell County adults of the age 25 or over did not possess a high school diploma or GED. Now, that has been lowered to less than 25 percent. The college boasts two campuses with buildings that house state-of-the-art technology such as a 3-D printer and a television studio. Since opening, CCC&TI has served more than 236,000 students in its three programs -- adult education, continuing education and community college curriculum.

Boham said, “When you look at the level of effort and the opportunities that have been provided for people, you can’t help but have pride in what’s been offered and what’s been made available through the existence of this institution. It’s a reason to get up and go to work.”

Boham said that community colleges were not always respected. He said that CCC&TI used to be called “Harvard off the Highway” as a taunting joke. He shook his head with wonder at the conditions educators like Beam worked through in order to bring the prestige the community colleges they worked at have today.

“They dealt with ridicule and terrible conditions and terrible locations, and yet they had the drive to do what they did,” Boham said.

Boham credits Beam with the college's biggest strides, but Beam places the success on the shoulders of all who worked with the college.

“It’s been more like a family working together to make something succeed,” Beam said.

Today may be the college's birthday, but the party started early. The college hosted a cookout in March, will have a '60s-themed Spring Fling party this month and will throw a birthday party at the opening of the new building on the Watauga campus on April 17. A new logo was created, and new flags fly in the parking lots. Edward Terry, public information officer for the college, brought together a committee to plan festivities throughout the year in order to celebrate.

“We have a committee of about a dozen people and have been meeting since last September, October. But, it takes much more than that dozen people so there are lots of different people involved,” Terry said.

Boham joked, “It takes a village to build an anniversary party.”

The committee is still planning events now that the birthday month has arrived.

The Caldwell County Board of Education will recognize the birthday April 14 with a reception and recognition. In fact, Boham said that the college has have received resolutions from several of the towns, including Granite Falls and Sawmills, and he is thinking of creating a 50th year commemorative wall of all the resolutions somewhere on campus.

Boham said he looks forward to CCC&TI's 100th birthday, whether he's there or not.

“If I am here on this institution’s next 50th birthday, I’ll be 109. I hope I get an invitation to come out. If I’m around, if I have any faculties left whatsoever, I will be sorely upset if I do not receive an invitation to come and celebrate," Boham said. "Have somebody wheel me in or push the gurney in, whichever, and celebrate."