That's not necessarily the first impression most people get when they arrive on campus, however. Visitors, first-time students and their families aren't going to encounter any buildings or structures dating to earlier than 1968. In fact, what they will encounter is an institution that has kept pace with the times, and grown extensively in response to — and in anticipation of — changing and evolving needs across Finney County and throughout southwest Kansas.
The legacy that GCCC's founders created, of course, involves far more than just buildings, classrooms and laboratories. The college was established by a county-wide vote, passing with a 2-1 margin, on April 1, 1919. Our first classes began just five months later on Sept. 1, 1919.
Then called Garden City Junior College, the school opened with one vocational and five academic departments, and operated as part of the Garden City public school system.
Objectives yesterday and today
The earliest chief administrator was Dr. Charles Vinsonhaler, and the first dean was Ernest F. Monroe, who defined the mission of the institution as follows:
"Assisting the family and home in preparing the individual efficiently for his place as a social force in his community, nation and worldwide cooperative life, and as a social factor in ... family, economics, recreational life, health, welfare, church, state and school."
The present college mission, defined by the GCCC Board of Trustees in adopting policy governance in 1995, reads as follows:
"GCCC exists to produce positive contributors to the economic and social well being of society."
The two main objectives listed in 1919 included:
* Developing a right attitude and social cooperation, through motivation and socialization
* Fruitful knowledge and applied skill, through instruction and training.
The five main objectives defined by the college governing board today include:
* Essential skills
* Academic advancement
* Work preparation
* Personal enrichment
* Workforce development
Progress and parallels
There are a lot of parallels between GCCC's purpose during the era the institution was born and the objectives the college strives to carry out today.
When a recent immigrant begins to learn English through our Adult Learning Center, then advances to earning his or her GED and becoming an American citizen, that is a perfect illustration of developing essential skills.
When a southwest Kansas high school graduate experiences his or her first taste of college life on our campus, and then transfers to a state university after earning an associate degree, that is clearly an example of academic advancement.
When a determined professional lands a promotion because he or she learned important new skills in a GCCC Business and Community Education course, that represents work preparation. The same thing happens when a dedicated individual relies on the college to become a certified welder, a life-saving paramedic, a practical or registered nurse, or a credentialed team member in one of many other fields.
In addition, when a first-time performer steps out on stage in the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Building to sing or play a solo, recite a soliloquy or deliver the opening lines of a theatrical production, the musician, actor and audience alike are sharing in true personal enrichment.
These kinds of accomplishments are the real result of what the college's founders and the people of Finney County set in motion back in 1919, and it is a process that continues on this campus today and every day.
A final note
Finally, a short personal note. After more than 24 years with Garden City Community College, this is my last newspaper column. I recently accepted the position of executive director of the Finney County Historical Society, and I am saying farewell to the faculty, staff, students and campus that have been my main focus for nearly a quarter of a century.
I'm gratified and excited to take a new fork in the road and follow in the footsteps of Mary Regan, who is retiring after 25 years of leadership for the historical society and our local museum. I am also truly honored to take on what I see as the preservation of our heritage here in southwest Kansas.
I wish continued success and all the best to the corps of my friends and colleagues who make our community college what it is — the first and finest in the state. For more than nine decades, GCCC has been an institution that changes lives, and I will always be proud to say that my own life has been among them.