Garden City Community College’s first president, and the man who paved the way in the late 1960s for the college’s current campus to be built, has died.
L.C. Crouch, 92, died Monday in Topeka, where he had lived since 1971, when he left his position as GCCC president to work for the Kansas Department of Education.
Crouch’s death prompted both those who worked for him and those who succeeded him to reflect on his contributions to the college, not the least of which was his role in having the existing campus built.
“His primary accomplishment was to get the campus built. He basically was put in charge of the campaign to get voters to approve construction of the campus and then getting it built,” said Steve Quakenbush, former director of public relations at GCCC and now executive director of the Finney County Museum.
GCCC’s current president, Dr. Herbert Swender, credits Crouch for much of the college’s successes over the years. Crouch was president of GCCC from 1965 to 1971.
“The leadership and vision he provided really paved the way for community college education in Kansas, and most especially the Garden City area,” Swender said.
Garden City Junior College had been around since 1919, but it wasn’t until 1965 that it became a community college, therefore necessitating a president and a board of trustees.
“In the earlier decades, community colleges were actually governed by local school boards, but in 1965, the Kansas Legislature passed the Community College Act, which made them independent institutions,” Quakenbush said. “That’s when they formed the first board of trustees. The trustees then hired Crouch as the first president of the college.”
During Crouch’s time at president, he encouraged Beth Tedrow, who was a part-time math teacher at what then was referred to as the Garden City Junior College, to obtain credentials that would allow her to work more directly with students.
“I would say he started me on my path,” Tedrow said.
She said that after the bond issue passed, Crouch and some of the trustees visited community college campuses in Michigan, Colorado and Texas to find ideas for the new campus.
Quakenbush said dorms and a student center were built first, in 1968. The administration building, academic building, science and math building, the library and fine arts building followed in that order.
Tedrow said that Crouch was also a very student-centered president.
“Wherever students were involved, he was there. He was really a student-oriented person,” she said. “The year our debate team was in the finals for the national championship, Crouch caught a plane to go be with them.”
Tedrow said he also was involved with the local Chamber of Commerce and was well-known around the state.
“He was very well-known and respected in state education. That’s why he was taken away from us,” she said, referencing Crouch’s later positions with the Kansas Department of Education.
In 1971, Crouch began serving as the director of community colleges for the KSDE. He later served as KSDE’s assistant commissioner of education for 11 years, retiring in 1982.
Crouch married his wife, Betty, in 1946. Prior to serving as GCCC’s first president, Crouch was a teacher and football coach at Belle Plaine. He later served as superintendent in the Rose Hill, Conway Springs, Augusta and Anthony school districts.
Crouch also served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.
Tedrow said he put off cancer treatments in 1994 to attend the college’s 75th anniversary.
Quakenbush said that Crouch was happy with the way the college continued to grow after his departure as president.
“Mr. Crouch came from Wichita to attend the celebration, and the president at the time was Dr. Tangeman, and Mr. Crouch was very complimentary and very gracious about how the college had grown and expanded. He seemed very pleased that the campus he started had become what it had over the years,” Quakenbush said.
Since Crouch, the community college has had five presidents. Crouch’s successor was Dr. Raymond D. Wamsley, who served from 1971 to 1976; Dr. Thomas F. Saffell, who served from 1976 to 1988; Dr. James H. Tangeman, who served from 1988 to 2000; Dr. Carol E. Ballantyne, who served from 2000 to 2010; and Swender, who has been serving since 2011.
Memorial services for Crouch are being held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Town and Country Church, 4925 SW 29th St., in Topeka.
A full obituary is on Page A2.