Community College Celebrates 35 Years

Hcc's Growth Mirrors Population Boom


As one of 10 full-time faculty hired when Howard Community College was brand-new, history professor Vladimir Marinich recalled that he played an important role in the lead-up to opening day.

"I distinctly remember Windex-ing the windows," he said.

The image of faculty and staff mopping halls, arranging desks and cleaning chalkboards the weekend before classes began was one of several memories Marinich shared along with two other professors who have been with the college since the beginning.

The presentation Thursday was part of the college's celebration of its 35th anniversary. It was held in the Galleria - a spacious, two-story student center - next to a wall that was the outside of the campus' only building when the college opened Oct 12, 1970.

Today, HCC has several interconnected buildings that were added in the 1970s, an Instructional Lab Building, which opened in 2003, and construction sites on which the school is erecting a visual and performing arts building and a student services building.

A children's learning center and an athletic facility are also on campus. A building that houses continuing education is nearby. And the college has a learning center in Laurel, runs a business training center in Columbia and owns the Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge.

According to the college's annual report, just over 600 students attended classes in HCC's first year, studying in nine credit programs. Today, nearly 7,000 students are seeking degrees in more than 100 programs.

The growth mirrors a population boom in Howard County.

About 10 years before the college opened, the county was a small, insulated community, said Joetta Cramm, a local historian who also spoke at the history presentation.

Between 1860 and 1940, the county population grew by 1,000 people, she said. Most people married fellow residents and stayed in the area.

Between 1950 and 1960, the population rose 56 percent, Cramm said. In the next decade, the population jumped 72 percent, "and it hasn't stopped since."

That growth has changed every aspect of the county, she said, from the expansion of formerly empty, two-lane roads into highways to the proliferation of shopping centers, parks and recreational facilities where there were none.

During the 1960s, 90 percent of Howard County high school graduates who attended a community college went to Catonsville Community College, Marinich said. They paid in-county tuition rates while the county and state covered the difference.

In the middle of that decade, the county Board of Education and the county commissioners were considering having community college classes in the evenings at county high schools.

They decided to build a college instead, and the Rouse Co. sold the county 120 acres for a little more than $300,000. (Not $5 as urban legend claims, but still a generous price.)

Until the new building was finished, President Alred J. Smith Jr. and his staff worked out of offices in the former Harriett Tubman School, which was being used at the time by the Board of Education.

On Thursday, Bruce Reid, who was hired as an electronics professor and now teaches mathematics, showed photographs of the first college building surrounded mostly by fields.

There was a small physical education building on campus, which was incorporated into the current athletic building as a locker room. And there was a decrepit barn and silo that some people wanted to renovate into a student center until it was blown down one night by a high wind.

The professors remembered the opening years as a creative time, saying they strived from the beginning to make the curriculum interesting and accessible.

"In my first lab, the students got to unpack every piece of equipment," Reid said.

Dan Friedman, a chemistry professor, played two tapes he made in 1970 as study guides. One had staff members singing "PV equals NRT," which in chemistry is known as the perfect gas law. The other featured a student pretending to be cryogenically frozen in an audio skit about freezing points.

Friedman held up a fall schedule from 1970, noting it was three stapled pages. This year's fall schedule was about 140 pages, he said.

The presenters joked about the distinctive 1970s hairstyles and fashion in the photographs. They pointed out some signs of the times, including the ashtrays in the college hallways and the vending machines that offered the only food in the cafeteria.

They agreed that 3 1/2 decades later, the people at the college made them want to stay.

"For me, the whole thing is being with students," Friedman said.

Marinich added, "I really consider teaching to be the noblest of professions."

After the presentation, Student Government Association President Daniel Pretz of Ellicott City said he is enjoying being a student during the anniversary celebration.

Between the history lessons and the new construction, "I get to see where we come from and where we're going wrapped up in one year," he said. "It's really exciting."

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