One hundred years ago, what would become one of Garden City's landmark institutions held its first day of classes on the top floor of the city's high school, welcoming the first 23 of ultimately thousands of students to pass through its programs.
This weekend, Garden City Community College celebrates its 100th birthday with a series of community celebrations. But first, it's worth understanding how we got here.
Garden City Community College, established in 1919, proudly celebrates 100 years of education, history and tradition this weekend. The college was originally considered Garden City Junior College and was organized as a legal extension of Garden City High School.
On Sept. 1, 1919, the first classes were held with one vocational and five academic departments at the shared facilities of Garden City High School, Calkins Hall, located in the 100 block of Buffalo Jones Avenue. In these early years, the class of 22 freshmen and one sophomore also shared faculty with the high school.
In 1939, academic and social student organizations began to form and the Broncbuster mascot was adopted to represent a symbol of the community at the time. Over the years, Garden City Junior College moved to various locations. In 1954, the college moved to the then new Garden City High School; in 1958, the college finally moved to its own campus — a pink stucco structure known as LPU, or “Little Pink University.”
Multiple attempts had been made to establish GCJC as a separate entity from the public schools but was not passed by the Kansas Legislature until 1965, along with 21 additional independent colleges. With this action, the first board of trustees was established by county voters, the first president — L.C. Crouch — appointed, and the first accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission granted. After moving back to the vacated Sabine and Calkins Hall in 1963, plans began to arise for the present campus located at 801 Campus Drive, which broke ground in 1967.
The earliest campus at the current location included the Academic Building, Library Building, Administration Building, Science-Math Building, Fine Arts Building and Physical Education Building, all of which are still standing today. Soon expansions occurred of the Collins Vocational Building in 1974, a residential life addition in 1978, Tangeman Fields in 1979, the Penka Building of Practical Arts and Sciences in 1986, and Williams Stadium in 1988.
Students and faculty are actively creating history and continuing a legacy, some as recently within the past two decades. The GCCC men’s basketball team earned their first trip to the national tournament in 59 years in 2009, the newest and still active college logo was created in 2012, the GCCC Meats Team won the world championship at the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association Contest in 2014 and the GCCC football team won the national championship in 2016. Since 2000, there have been several additions to the campus, including various residential life facilities, the Beth Tedrow Student Center (built in 2003), the Student and Community Service Center addition (2005), the fire science training tower (2008), the Erdene Corley Simulation Lab (2009), a state-of-the-art meats lab and mobile training classroom (2013), and GCCC indoor rodeo arena (2013).
Garden City Community College served over 2,000 students throughout the 2017-18 school year, according to the college’s annual report. GCCC President Ryan Ruda, named the college’s seventh president last February, has been at the college 21 years and seen much of its recent changes firsthand. He’s seen facilities, programs and opportunities expand, but also a deeper dedication to engage and serve the community take shape, he said.
“I have seen the college really work in that direction as far as putting the ‘community’ back into the ‘community college,' ” Ruda said. “We made a significant transformation from where we are at to where we began.”