MCC: A dream comes true
At first, the thought of establishing a community college in Montcalm County was just that – a dream. The idea was put forth by a group of community-minded citizens who wanted to bring opportunities for higher education to the area.
In 1963, a feasibility study was initiated by the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District to consider the idea, under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. William Seiter.
During the 1960s, the law allowed a prospective public institution to levy a county tax to provide the finances for the founding and development of a community college. However, it had to be approved by a majority vote of the public.
Upon the completion of the study in 1964, the Montcalm County Community College Publicity Committee was established to promote the idea of the college. Harold Steele, of Greenville, served as the first chairperson of the committee. Representatives were selected from each area of the county to spearhead the publicity and flow of information. Those leaders included: Carrol Watts, Belvidere Township; Dr. Frank Carter and Ron Barnes, Carson City; Mrs. Herluf Jensen, Cedar Lake; Lee Hansen, Trufant; Ed McGrath, Crystal; Garrett Verplanck and Phil Daab, Edmore; Roy Burghart, Greenville; Mrs. Bernice Bennett and Wallace Petersen, Lakeview; Mrs. David Byers and Suzanne Beardless, Sheridan; Donald Peterson, Sidney; Charlotte Miel, Stanton; Lucile Nowlin, Tri County; and Elizabeth Lester, Vestaburg.
The group worked tirelessly to promote the cause to members of various clubs and organizations as well as the public at large.
On March 2, 1965, county voters approved the establishment of a community college and a levy of one mill for operation by a vote of nearly 2-to- 1 (3,840 yes to 2,058 no), thus establishing the college, which has served area learners for 50 years.
Creating Futures: Then, Now, Always…
Since 1965, more than 100,000 learners have passed through Montcalm Community College’s doors.
The first applications for student enrollment were accepted in May 1966 for the fall in the following programs: practical nursing, automotive mechanics, agriculture and power technology, drafting and design technology, office occupations and academics (general studies). Vicki Bartholomew of Lakeview was the first student to enroll.
When classes began in fall 1966, there were 90 students enrolled in the apprenticeship classes, 25 in practical nursing, 22 in office occupations, 15 in drafting and design and 25 in academics, for a total of 177. Due to low enrollment, the agriculture and power technology classes were cancelled.
The college’s enrollment peaked at more than 2,500 students per semester in 2007 and 2008.
Today, MCC offers more than 60 degrees, certificates and job training programs, with average semester enrollments of nearly 2,000 students.
MCC serves learners at a variety of locations
Montcalm Community College’s main campus was established in 1966 on the former E.V. Anderson farm in rural Sidney.
In 1986, the college expanded to Greenville, offering data processing courses in a classroom in a building on Maplewood Street, which is now home to Cherry Street Health Services.
In 1987, with increasing demand for more local access to education, MCC officially opened its learning center on Nelson Street south of West Washington Street (M57).
MCC’s Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC), now the Stanley and Blanche Ash Technology and Learning Center (Ash TLC), opened in 2001 on Yellow Jacket Drive adjacent to Greenville High School, again increasing the college’s capacity to serve area learners and expanding its workforce training programs.
MCC’s Greenville campus grew in 2010 when the college purchased the former 15-acre Montcalm County 4-H Fairgrounds on Hillcrest Street and built the Bill Braman Family Center for Education. The building opened in 2013 and doubled the college’s capacity to serve learners in Greenville.
MCC also offers classes at the Panhandle Area Center in Howard City and at the Ionia Center.
MCC earns support from political leaders
During its 50-year history, MCC has garnered support from many political leaders.
Gov. George Romney led a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 26, 1966, which kicked off construction of the first buildings on MCC’s Sidney campus saying the “speedy progress of the school is a fine example of what citizen involvement can do,” according to a news clip from The Daily News.
In 2001, Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus participated in the grand opening of the Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC), now the Stanley and Blanche Ash Technology and Learning Center (Ash TLC), on MCC’s Greenville campus.
At a time when the state was struggling with high unemployment rates, the closing of Electrolux in Greenville, and other economic difficulties, Governor Jennifer Granholm delivered her only graduation speech of the year during MCC’s Commencement Ceremony on May 7, 2004. With 191 graduates and their guests attending, the college moved its ceremony to the Central Montcalm High School gymnasium, where it has been held since.
The college continued to attract the attention of Michigan’s top leadership when on Oct. 26, 2012, Governor Rick Snyder held a townhall meeting on the college’s Sidney campus as part of his “relentless positive action” campaign to rebuild Michigan.
In April 2013, MCC welcomed State Sen. Judy Emmons and State Rep. Rick Outman for the dedication of the college’s newest building, the Bill Braman Family Center for Education in Greenville.
Recreation, culture and clubs at MCC
Montcalm Community College offers a variety of recreational, cultural and club-related opportunities for its students, staff and the community.
MCC has the only NCAA-sized swimming pool in the county. It is used for credit and noncredit classes and also is open to the public for swimming, rentals and other uses. In addition, the gymnasium, fitness center and climbing wall are available for both public and educational uses.
The Kenneth J. Lehman Nature Trails on the college’s Sidney campus offer more than three miles of scenic trails for hiking, cross country skiing and general use.
The historic Barn Theater brings drama and music productions to life on the college’s Sidney campus. It is widely used by college and community groups.
Montcalm Heritage Village was established on the college’s Sidney campus in 1987. During the past 28 years, it has grown from one historic schoolhouse to include 28 buildings, which boast hundreds of artifacts from local areas depicting life in Michigan at the turn of the 20th Century. It brings history to life during Heritage Festival, hosted annually the first weekend in August.
For nearly 50 years, the college has also brought a variety of cultural events to the area, international speakers, musical performers and art exhibits. More recently, MCC has sponsored two programs that promote literacy, One Book One County Montcalm and MCC Reads.
In addition, more than 25 student clubs offer activities ranging from music and gaming to ghost hunting and electronics, as well as the college’s honor society and other professional affiliations.
The MCC Foundation supports the college
The MCC Foundation was established in 1981 to financially assist MCC in its work to support and enhance the communities it serves.
Founding directors included Stanley Ash, who was elected president and served in that role until 2001; Vice President Ellen Baker; Stanley Chase; Kenneth Lehman; Homer Miel; Secretary and then-MCC President Dr. Herbert Stoutenburg; and Orville Trebian.
The Foundation has achieved steady fund growth since its establishment. A value of $3,621 was reported in the first treasurer’s report in 1982. In 1992, the Foundation achieved $414,252 in value, growing to $2.2 million in 2002, $8.6 million in 2012 and nearly $14 million today.
Through the years, the Foundation has supported scholarships, grants to support educational projects and a variety of philanthropic projects. It also has helped make possible the exhibit of Crystal the Mastodon, renovation of the MCC Foundation Farmhouse, renovation of the Barn Theater, several new buildings on the college’s Sidney and Greenville campuses, Early College, community celebrations and other special events.
During its 34-year history, 51 directors have served on the MCCF Board of Directors.
Current directors include President Thomas Kohn, Vice President Donald Burns, Treasurer Richard Ellafrits, Secretary Robert Ferrentino, Rich Adgate, Jane Anderson Beach, William Cook, Michelle Gibson, William Ham, Wayne Korson, Ransom Leppink, Dallas Lincoln, Cathy Mall, Robert Marston, Richard Pease, Karalyn Simon and Todd Taylor.