Recorder/Geoff Bluh Pinnie Sears, GCC Class of 73,of Montague, looks at a photo of her brother Jerry Sears GCC Class of 68, in one of the yearbooks on hand for GCC alumni to view in the room set aside for the Classic period of the colleges 50 years existance. In back is Joseph Steiner, of the colleges first graduating class in 1964, with friend Judy Hoyt , of Shelburne Falls, Steiner is from Saxons River ,VT. Also , Don Oberacker, a retired teacher of botany for 42 years , looks at the newspaper clippings set out for viewing. Purchase photo reprints »
GREENFIELD — After years of uncertainty and wrangling with state officials, a team of local educators brought a community college to the town of Greenfield. It was 1962 when the school’s doors first opened.
Fifty years and approximately 200,000 students later, Greenfield Community College has not strayed from its original mission to provide education to anyone who seeks it, said GCC President Robert Pura at the college’s 50th anniversary celebration Saturday.
“GCC opened its doors on Federal Street, waited for the train to pass on Arch and then settled into the clay and the hills here atop Lake Hitchcock,” Pura said. “Now 50 years later, we sit together ... committed to the very same values that were the founding blocks of GCC: access and excellence.”
It was a theme echoed throughout GCC’s halls Saturday afternoon and evening as alumni and staff from the past 50 years returned to share their memories with old friends and colleagues.
“I was a very poor academic achiever in high school. I was a good kid but didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Brian Gilmore, a 1967 graduate and the college’s director of student activities from 1970-1975.
The college provided him with the confidence he needed going forward, Gilmore said. Today, he is the executive vice president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
For Mary McClintock, a graduate of the college’s outdoor leadership program in 1982, GCC offered the right program at the right time.
“I had started out in college wanting to … do outdoor leadership and environment education but got derailed,” said McClintock, a freelance writer who sometimes does work for the college. “GCC got me back on my track, and got me the training and connections in the community.”
Alumni mingled in the lobby, with some students from the “classic era” (1962-1973) making their way upstairs to a second floor conference room. Upstairs in the library, alumni and staff recounted memories in a recording booth.
Faculty members, past and present, thumbed through 50 years’ worth of newspaper clippings about the college. It recounted GCC’s journey from a series of buildings spread all over town to the construction of a new central campus in 1974.
There was a time, some said, when everyone knew everybody’s name as well as the car they drove.
While that’s no longer the case, they said the makeup of the student body hasn’t changed — there are still traditional students, veterans returning from overseas and adults wanting to finish their education.
“You had to adapt your lessons for all groups, you had to be very flexible,” said Al Rainford, who taught accounting and taxation for 35 years until his retirement in 2005. “(There were) students who had problems creating an understandable sentence, others who could have gone to any Ivy League school and came here because of economic or family reasons.”
During Pura’s keynote address at the GCC Foundation’s annual meeting — held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration — the president spoke of the importance of a liberal education, one that could free students to any opportunities they wanted.
It is something any student should have access to, he said, whether they attend Harvard University or Greenfield Community College.
“The roads between GCC and Harvard, between their purpose and ours, between our dreams for our students and theirs, must never be washed away, no matter how heavy the rain,” he said.
Among the nearly 200 in attendance Saturday night were local legislators Denise Andrews, Paul Mark and Stanley Rosenberg. They presented Pura and the college congratulatory citations from the state House of Representatives and Senate.
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