Since Southwestern Community College opened its doors on Dec. 1, 1964, six men have served as president. Recently, four of the six presidents and several trustee members got together to talk about the college and its history. The group of presidents included Norman K. Myers (1981-1991); Barry W. Russell (1991-1996); Cecil L. Groves (1997-2010); and current president Don Tomas, who took the reins in 2011. Richard W. Collings, who served as president from 2010 to 2011, was unable to attend. SCC’s first president, Edward E. Bryson, who served from 1964 to 1980, died in 2002.
SCC Trustee member Conrad Burrell, who organized the event, said, “When I realized that all these men were going to be in town at the same time, I thought the opportunity to gather was too good to pass up.”
Today, Southwestern Community College looks a lot different than it did in 1964. The college began as the Jackson County Industrial Education Center and officially opened with 60 students enrolled in full-time classes.
Since that time, the college has evolved from an industrial education center to a technical institute, to a technical college and in 1968 to its current status as a fullyaccredited community college.
During its history, Southwestern has awarded more than 10,000 degrees, diplomas and certificates and has offered more than 5,000 different classes.
Dr. Tomas put things into a community perspective when he said, “If you think about it, Southwestern is all about putting people to work in our community. Chances are that the person who cuts your hair, the nurse who takes care of you in the doctor’s office or hospital, and the person who repairs your car are all graduates of the college.”
Tomas said of the gathering, “This evening provided a unique look into the vision and energy that has made Southwestern the award-winning institution it is today. I am honored to be a part of the tradition.”
Today, the college offers more than 90 curriculum programs in Arts and Sciences, Career Technologies, College Transfer and Health Sciences, with 20 of the programs also offered online.
The facilities have kept up with the demand. Since the beginning of the college in 1964 with one building, constructed with the help of students, the SCC Sylva campus now includes nine buildings. The newest building, the Conrad G. Burrell Building, housing classrooms, faculty offices, the college bookstore, a conference center and administrative offices, is already in use and will be dedicated on Sept. 14, 2012.
Additionally, the college has facilities in its two other service-area counties of Macon and Swain. They include the Macon Campus, the Public Safety Training Complex and Business and Industry Training Center, and in Swain County, the SCC Cherokee Center on the Qualla Boundary, and the Swain County Center at Almond, which houses Fine and Heritage Arts and Outdoor Leadership. The college also employs admissions specialists at the North Carolina Division of Employment Security JobLink centers in Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, and partners with the Oconoluftee and Lyndon Baines Johnson Job Corps facilities.
Indeed, the college has grown in both size and enrollment since 1964. Today, the college enrolls more than 2,500 curriculum students and more than 3,000 students in its continuing education programs per semester.
The economic contribution of Southwestern Community College to the region is substantial; the college has graduated more than 10,000 students since 1964, most of whom have remained in the area and are employed locally. The college also serves as a major employer in the area, with currently 200 fulltime faculty and staff and more than 250 part-time employees.
For more information about Southwestern Community College visit the website at www.southwesterncc.edu or call Admissions at 828-336-4352.