Today is a special day – 50 years ago, on October 3, 1966, Lorain County Community College opened its doors to our permanent campus. Many of you may not be aware that the history of community colleges dates back to 1947 when the Truman Commission had a vision of accessible and affordable post-secondary education. The League of Women Voters, along with local business and community leaders, spearheaded the movement to create our own community college. But it wasn’t until the residents of Lorain County voted to establish a tax levy, which continues to provide critical funding to this day, that Lorain County Community College became a reality. Lorain County Community College was granted a charter to serve Lorain County’s higher education needs on July 15, 1963.
Many people may not know that LCCC’s roots lie deep within the city of Lorain. Lorain City Schools gifted the Lorain School of Technology along with the Brownell Building, where classes were held for the College’s first two years. Who knew that this would be the start of a partnership between the College and Lorain City Schools that would last the next 50-plus years? In fact, the teachers from the School of Technology became LCCC’s first teachers.
The College had 1,006 students register for classes during the first year of operation, and the leadership at the time recognized that a larger, more permanent campus would soon be necessary. A committee studied 17 different locations during the winter of 1963-64, and the Abbe Road location prevailed as the most desired location that would be accessible to all in Lorain County.
Three families provided a total of 249 acres of farmland to the College, creating the opportunity for a permanent campus with room to grow according to the community’s needs. And grow we have! In 1966, the first three buildings opened their doors, staking Lorain County Community College’s place as Ohio’s first community college with a permanent campus. We have gone from a first graduating class of 33 students to more than 12,500 students enrolled this semester.
Our connection to the community runs deep – our roots lie within the heart of those who recognized the important role education can play in a region’s economic vitality. Since 2000, we have helped increase educational attainment in Lorain County by 21 percent for associate degrees, 29 percent in bachelor’s degrees and 49 percent in master’s degrees – far outpacing other counties in our region. The community had a vision 50 years ago, and the College has delivered.
But what makes Lorain County Community College so special is the people. Our students are motivated to work hard and improve their lives. Our faculty and staff are dedicated to going above and beyond to remove barriers to success. Lorain County is a special community – and its college has created a family who cares deeply about our future.
In some instances, the personal connections to Lorain County have persisted through generations. In fact, one of the families who provided part of the land for our campus is that of our very own Dean of Allied Health and Nursing, Dr. Hope Moon. The ripple effect of the hard work championed by those early leaders is also carried on throughout the community by our alumni. I recently learned that a strong leader and long-time champion and partner of the College was part of one of our first graduating classes. Mr. Paul Rigda retired (2015) Superintendent of the Elyria City Schools is a proud graduate of the class of 1968.
Paul graduated from Lorain High School and immediately enrolled at LCCC in 1966 – as one of the first students on our permanent campus. Paul continued his education, ultimately completing his bachelor’s in education from Kent State University and master’s degree in learning disabilities and behavior disorders, also from Kent State before embarking on a 43-year career in education. What is truly remarkable about Paul’s story is that he was the first in his family to not only graduate from college, but from high school! Paul told me, “I got a great education – those two years were wonderful. Little did I know back in 1968 that this would be the beginning of a career that led me all the way to being Superintendent.”
LCCC helped Paul achieve his academic success, and we are so grateful that he later was instrumental in helping to launch Lorain County Early College High School, a collaboration between Lorain County Community College, Elyria City Schools and Lorain City Schools. This program provides a pathway for high school students who are first in their family to go to college to earn their associate degree simultaneously with their high school diploma. Talk about paying it forward. Paul is truly an inspiration and his story demonstrates how much positive impact access to quality education can have not only on one’s success, but also on an entire community.
As we celebrate this 50-year milestone, I hope that the generational connections to Lorain County Community College continue to grow. Those who were first in their families to attend college are now able to pass down the gift of knowledge to their own children. There are countless more stories like Paul and Hope that I enjoy sharing through this blog as a reminder of the importance of our work. This College truly was a gift from the people of Lorain County to future generations, and together we can continue our impact as we address the needs of our county.