Laker Current Staff Report
Fifty years ago, motorists paid 31 cents a gallon to gas their cars, a stamp cost 5 cents, minimum wage was $1.25 an hour, and a new car could be purchased for $2,650. Times have changed since 1965, when Mid Michigan Community College was just a twinkle in the eye of a few visionaries who thought it was time for residents of Clare and Gladwin counties to have easier access to a college education.
Although classes wouldn’t actually be available until the fall of 1968, it was in 1965 that the Michigan State Board of Education established MMCC as the state’s 25th community college. Approval only came after a Citizens Advisory Council was formed and a feasibility study was conducted and submitted to the Michigan Department of Public Instruction, which approved the concept of the college.
But the voters still had to speak. In September 1965, a special election was held to obtain community authorization for establishment of the college, to elect a governing Board of Trustees, and to approve construction and operating millage of 1.5 mills to be levied against the assessed property valuation in the voting district. Voters approved the proposal 1,947 (59%) to 1,366 (41%).
What followed was a flurry of planning and construction. Construction of the initial $1.5 million instructional facility in Harrison began in May 1968 and additional construction has continued in stages to this day, culminating in 2014 with the consolidation of Mt. Pleasant classes onto a single campus at Summerton and Broadway.
But educating students was always the ultimate goal. That goal became reality in the fall of 1968, when the first university parallel and the non-technical classes began in temporary facilities in the Clare County Building in Harrison. The Practical Nursing Program was started at the Central Michigan Community Hospital in Mt. Pleasant and the vocational and technical courses were conducted at the Area Vocational School in Mt. Pleasant. Temporary facilities for the library and audio-visual materials were obtained from the Harrison Public Library.
In September 1969, the first classes moved to the present Harrison campus location and in November 1969, all of the remaining classes were moved. Meanwhile, classes continued to be held at the Mt. Pleasant locations.
Today, more than 50 years later, MMCC operates both the 560-acre Harrison campus and the 44-acre Mt. Pleasant campus, serving not only students, but also business, industry and the community. Since the college opened its doors to 193 students in the fall of 1968, it has worked to meet the needs of the community and is now serving more than 6,000 students annually on both a full-time and part-time basis.
MMCC has been celebrating its 50 years of success and growth since January. Matt Miller, Vice President of Student and Community Relations at MMCC, said the college has been trying to celebrate its golden anniversary in subtle ways. “We’ve tried to weave it into everything,” he said, starting with adopting a new college logo to planning a special give-away at its annual BBQ on Sept. 20, to hosting an open house and community party at the Mt. Pleasant campus on Aug. 25.
For a complete timeline of MMCC’s planned events and growth, visit the MMCC website at www.midmich.edu/50.
(Information for this article was obtained from “Back in the Day Almanac 1965” and Mid Michigan Community College.)