Aacc Money Woes Bring Deja Vu To Anniversary

September 29, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

Those with memories of Anne Arundel Community College's meager beginnings may be experiencing deja vu this year, as AACC kicks off a low-key celebration of its 30th anniversary.

Three decades ago, the college got off to a paltry start. It had little money, few students and shared facilities with Severna Park High School.

Today, AACC has its own 230-acre campus off Ritchie Highway and plenty of students -- up from 270 in 1961 to 13,000 full-time studentsand twice that

number enrolled in continuing education programs -- but is as financially strapped as ever.

The road was rocky at times -- staff and students often have been called upon to deal with the problem of limited resources -- but Professor Leon Sagan said therewere plenty of good times for the tight-knit college family to enjoy.

Sagan joined AACC as a math professor in 1963 -- his first full-time job after landing a master's degree from William and Mary College in Virginia.

The small college faculty often met in the office of the then-president Andrew G. Truxal, who Sagan refers to as his "academic godfather."

Even though the college has grown and few reminders remain of its inauspicious beginnings, Sagan said the large oil painting of Truxal in the campus library makes him reflect on how farhe and the college have come.

"His motto was 'Love knowledge, andlove it very much,' " Sagan said. "It's something we as professors try to instill in our students."

As senior member of the AACC faculty, Sagan still teaches calculus and college-level algebra to students, whom he said have changed somewhat over the years.

"The students today are more informal," Sagan said. "They are more politically aware. The protests (of the 1960s) didn't touch us here."

And what about the teacher?

"What's different about me is that I'm older andwiser," he said. "When I was a teacher back then, I would insist that students wore shoes. It doesn't bother me now if they don't.

"I miss being able to know most of the students and faculty. The collegehas grown to the point that it is a very large business. Many faces we see that we have never met. We now have a sense of community, rather than one of family that we once had."

What the college also hasis money problems. State budget cuts affecting community colleges have left AACC with an operating budget of $29.8 million -- just 0.4 percent more than last year.

That figure represents the smallest budget increase in recent years and has left few people on campus in themood for a party. A 30th year anniversary banner is strung to the side of the library. A logo was created for campus correspondence. And that's about it.

"In the face of very tight economic times, we decided not to do a lot in the way of public participation," said James Atwell, vice president of academic affairs. "We're celebrating in a job well-done and will continue waiting to see what the situation willbe in the state. There's no question there are tight economic times,and it seemed an inopportune time to celebrate."

John L. Wisthoffis well-versed in the dilemma of balancing the realities of a tight budget with the mission to educate. A former president of the county Board of Education, in addition to teaching math at AACC for 27 years, he has witnessed many an economic battle.

"State cuts will change what the college can do for the community," Wisthoff said. "Hopefully, it is temporary. If it continues, students will have fewer opportunities to get into classes and the college won't be able to expand."

The college already is struggling to find a place to put the influx of students who on occasion have had to take classes in conferencerooms. A new classroom building opened last year, but even that has not allowed the college's physical plant to keep up with the growth: Money is included in the college's $11 million 1992 capital budget for a 60,000 square foot allied health and public service building on undeveloped college

property on Ritchie Highway.

Atwell has worked at the college for 23 years, beginning his career as an English department faculty member. He also helped prepare "A Stepping Stone," abook that records the college's first 20 years.

"When I joined the college, it was well-established in transfer students, but during my first 10 years the college developed technical careers such as engineering, allied health, business and computer science," Atwell said. "This college leads with its finger on the pulse of the community. A good

community college weighs the needs of the community and develops programs around it."

Advisory committees in each of the careerareas offered by the college determine what direction they should take. Satellite locations at Annapolis Senior and the Arundel Center North in Glen Burnie help accommodate students without transportation. The college is preparing to tackle West County, where Atwell said anticipated growth will mean new demands.

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