WESTMINSTER - Twenty years ago, Carroll Community College was nothing more than a dream -- an idea bandied about by parent-teacher organizations and business groups that had recognized the need for affordable higher education in the county.
Today, the college -- with its $13.5 million cathedral-like structure on Washington Road -- is a reality.
The building that opened in August was formally dedicated earlier this week with remarks from Gov. William Donald Schaefer and other public officials.
County Commissioner Jeff Griffith called CCC the "college that cooperation built," noting the long-time efforts of Baltimore County and Catonsville Community College officials, state lawmakers, commissioners, government officials, educators and business leaders.
"So many different groups helped," Griffith said.
Members of many of those groups recalled the long road to reality for the 14-year-old college, which opened its doors in 1976 with an enrollment of 600 students. Today, there are more than 2,300 students.
CCC's 1984 master plan called for the new campus to be completed in 1989. But architectural and financial snags bogged down the process, and a year was lost when state government officials waited to process the paper work amid Maryland's savings and loan crisis in 1987.
"It's shocking it ever got done," said Michael Fitzgerald, a CCC Advisory Board member and a former student who took classes in some of the college's former buildings.
"It's a dream come true," said Barbara Charnock, chair of the CCC Advisory Board.
Standing before a podium in the Great Hall, speakers ranging from County Commissioner President John L. Armacost to the governor marveled at the architecture of the three-story brick building, which is crowned by a glass atrium reaching 64 feet above the floor.
"It's one of the finest buildings I've seen in a long time," Schaefer said.
"It's bright, it's different. I like this architecture."
The governor noted the importance of and the state's backing of community colleges, which he called a link between secondary schools and higher education. He also spoke of fiscal management and austere times ahead and noted that he has been inundated with requests for money for various projects across the state.
The governor said he "didn't even get in the building" before he was approached by Griffith about money for future CCC capital improvement projects, which include a multipurpose building, a physical-education facility and a fine- and performing arts center.
Although Schaefer only hinted at a state commitment for future projects, Charnock said the improvements have received support from commissioner candidates and the current board. She said she believes the support is more than just a pipe dream and noted that the commissioners accepted a task force report calling for CCC to eventually become an independent college.
"That shows a commitment from the county to education," Charnock said.
"It means the board accepted the recommendation in philosophy and funding."
That philosophy also seems to be accepted by officials of CCC's parent institution, Catonsville Community College.
Frederick J. Walsh, Catonsville's new president, said, "Parents aren't always happy to see a child grow up and leave home, but we have to deal with it."
Walsh recently recommended that CCC's executive director post, left vacant by the departure of Elizabeth Blake, be upgraded to executive dean to better reflect the college's new maturity.