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College Archives

1966 - Groundbreaking Ceremony

The following is a transcript of the January 12, 1966 press release that details the Groundbreaking Ceremony for Rockingham Community College:


FOR RELEASE - Wednesday, January 12, 1966

12:00 Noon

Rockingham Community College
Wentworth, North Carolina

Amid activity of laying water lines and storm sewers, moving in equipment and materials, and staking out buildings, the Ground Breaking Ceremonies for Rockingham Community College were held Wednesday, January 12, 1966, at 11:00 A.M. Chairman of the Trustees of the College, Welsford Bishopric, presided over the occasion. W. Cantey Johnson, a member of the Trustees from Madison-Mayodan, offered the Invocation, after which Chairman Bishopric recognized College President, Gerald James.

Dr. James stated, "The citizens of Rockingham County made a basic decision: We want a college and are willing to pay our share of the cost for such an institution. From this point, the heavy burden of planning the institution, both the broad and long-range aspects, as well as the minute details, has been delegated by the citizens to twelve men. I have never seen nor worked with a more dedicated group than the twelve Trustees of Rockingham Community college: Welsford Bishopric, Charles W. Campbell, Julius J. Gwyn, W. Cantey Johnson, C. Hunter Moricle, D. Floyd Osborne, Radford  G. Powell, Steve J. Smith, William C. Stokes, Earl W. Vaughn, Wesley D. Webster, and H.W. Whitcomb. I would be derelict if I did not also include the name of Tom Cashion, who served for two years during which many important and basic decisions were made."

Chairman Bishopric regarded the occasion as monumental. He stated, "To only a few comes the privilege of serving their community in the significant way that has been the opportunity of this Board of Trustees. The hours devoted to this embryonic institution have been many, it's true - but over the past two years we have had the satisfaction of seeing an idea develop to a point where actual construction can begin on these buildings that for the past seven or eight years have been the dream of many Rockingham County Citizens.

"In the late 50s there was enacted a state law that permitted the establishment of junior colleges in our state. Action was taken by several larger areas, and in our county there arose a feeling that we had the need and could offer the necessary support for such an institution. To carry out this objective, a steering committee was formed to promote and develop the idea within the county and also to obtain approval of the state educational offices.

"Surveys were made to ascertain student and community interest, county fiscal responsibility - various possible sites investigated. Liaison work was kept up at the state level. In short, our prospects looked good. In the midst of our work, long-range educational plans began to question whether or not the stereotype junior college and its straight liberal arts program would adequately fill the need of the citizens of our state.

"Under our State Board of Education, there were operating a number of Industrial Education Centers throughout the State - one, the first, in Rockingham County. The question was posed: Why have two sets of state educational institutions at less than senior college level serving essentially the same group and in the same area?

"Other phases of higher education in North Carolina showed need of study and in 1961, the Governor appointed the Carlyle Commission to study the whole area of education beyond the high school. During this time of investigation, the steering committee continued to promote the idea and also, much constructive work was done on site location for the eventual college.

"The Carlyle Commission made its report to the 1963 Legislature and, among other points, approval was given to a system of Community Colleges, Technical Institutes, and Industrial Education Centers under the State Board of Education.

"Now we knew the ground rules - we had been collecting information in volumes for the time when we would have the chance to prove our case. In July 1963, the steering committee appeared before the State Board of Education and won for Rockingham County approval of its College.

"With renewed interest, the steering committee began to promote in earnest. The effectiveness of their work and the interest of so many of our citizens reflected in the outcome of the November 19th bond issue and tax support election - better than a 4 to 1 victory.

"Two years and four days ago, we met as Trustees, organizing ourselves into a functioning body. To err is human, and we have been human in instances. A newly organized body cannot move as rapidly as an individual, but I am proud of the results of our efforts. All have worked and sacrificed; we have been blessed with support from those other groups and individuals whose approval and assistance we have needed."

Following the statement by Chairman Bishopric, he indicated, "Any successful County institution must have the blessing and understanding of those men who govern. We have had this backing at all times, even when it was necessary that they act on faith. I hope we have not failed them; they never failed us. With us today is Wesley Webster, Chairman of the Rockingham County commissioners."

Mr. Webster, after introducing them members of the Board of County Commissioners, in his usual clear, concise, and to the point manner stated, "This College is going to be the best thing that ever happened to Rockingham County."

Mr. Bishopric continued, "One reason that our County was successful in winning approval of our new college is the recognition of the fact that our secondary schools are doing good work. We have in our county four school units and four fine Superintendents - in the County, Allan Lewis; in Reidsville, Clem Libscomb; in Madison-Mayodan, Mayo Bundy; and in Leaksville Township, John Hough. John, since you led me into this work, I would like to call upon you to represent our public schools."

Superintendent John Hough, speaking on behalf of the Superintendents of schools in the County and the four Boards of Education stated, "In my opinion, this is one of the most important milestones that Rockingham County has experienced during the last twenty years. It is equally as important to business and industry as it is to the rank and file of the people because as the quality of our human resources are upgraded, business and industry will also be enhanced." Mr. Hough continued, "This is a very joyous climax to a long cherished dream. It was pleasant for public school leaders to join in promoting this wonderful institution. We will now see our human resources more fully developed. Rockingham County has had some memorable events and produced great personalities. Perhaps we will look back at this historic groundbreaking event as the greatest single achievement of our time for Rockingham County. Indeed, it shall be if adequate support is given to the College and its leaders, if adults and young people take advantage of the educational opportunities provided. To the Trustees, Dr. James, and the College staff, you can count on our full support."

Mr. Bishopric continued, "In a county such as ours with no concentration of population, it is not difficult to understand that there would be obstacles to agreement on the site of a new multimillion dollar plant. William Stokes, Chairman of the Trustee Site Committee, led us by the pitfalls and after the general vicinity was selected, spent many, many hours of his time working out the details of property transfer before our present location was complete."

Mr. Stokes, Chairman of the Site Committee of the Trustees, stated, "When the citizens of the County voted regarding the establishment of the College, they did so with an understanding that it would be erected in this vicinity. The Trustees selected this specific site because it is near the geographical center of the County, is in an excellent neighborhood, is protected on two sides by County and State land, good water is available, and because it is easily accessible from all parts of the County by good roads. In short, we believe it to be an excellent location for Rockingham Community College."

Mr. Bishopric then recognized Mr. H.W. Whitcomb, Chairman of the Building Committee of the Trustees. "We had our state approval, we had our money, we had our site, and an architect. It would be nearly two years before we would begin our buildings - facility planning and curriculum planning must precede the actual building plans. During this period of planning we have been very fortunate to have had the leadership of Harold Whitcomb."

Mr. Whitcomb stated, "In spite of many delays, some disappointments, and considerable frustration, today is really a thrilling experience for all of us who have participated in the planning and development of the Rockingham Community College.

"The Trustees of the College and those of us on the Building Committee are particularly fortunate, however, in a number of circumstances which have made our task easier and fruitful.

"First of all, the selection of the Trustees by the various political bodies involved was excellent. I have worked on and with many Boards of various kinds, both in and out of business, and I can truthfully say that I have never worked with a more able, unselfish, dedicated group than this. Innumerable meetings, long hours, personal sacrifice have meant nothing when the interests of the College were concerned. We have worked together harmoniously with full cooperation and understanding of what this College will mean for our County and its citizens.

"Second, we were most fortunate in our choice of Dr. Gerald James as our President. I believe he will win a lasting place in the history of our County as the able, imaginative, Christian first President of this College.

"Third, the selection of Leslie Boney and his associates as architects for the College was a ten strike. When completed I am sure the citizens of our County will agree that our campus is not only attractive and beautiful but also practical, well designed, and planned for its purpose.

"And last, our County Commissioners have been most cooperative and helpful in every possible way in backing the Trustees in our responsibilities. They have proven that they understand and believe in the great potential of this institution for the progress and future of Rockingham County.

"We are advised that the contractors to whom the four major contracts have been awarded are experienced and capable. We now pass the ball to them and with good weather for the next few months (and let's pray for an "open" winter) the College should open its doors to its first student body this coming fall.

"I believed in the necessity of this College when its possibility was first discussed. I will confess, however, that I had no idea of its great potential and usefulness at that time. The more I have learned about its programs, its curricula, its organization, its faculty, its flexibility, its great opportunity for all our citizens, of all ages, of all races, who want to learn, who yearn for a better life for themselves and their children - the more I realize that this is really a red letter day for Rockingham County."

Following the statement by Mr. Whitcomb, Chairman Bishopric again recognized College President Gerald James. Mr. Bishopric stated, "From the very beginning it has been everyone's desire that this be a good school, a recognized school, and accredited school. We knew that this would not be automatic, but would require the selection of quality personnel all the way from top to bottom. One of our earliest tasks was the selection of the man who would head our college. We have done well. I would now like for Dr. James to present his staff that will lead us to these goals that we seek."

Dr. James said, "Within the policies established by the Trustees of Rockingham Community College, the college faculty and staff are working to develop what we aspire to be the best Community College in North Carolina and the Southeast. On the administrative staff are: Dr. Frederick H. Boyle, Dean of Instruction; Mr. A.C. Wilson, Director of Vocational and Technical Programs; Mr. Dewey A. Adams, Director of Adult and Community Services Programs; Mr. Elmer A. Wrenn, Business Manager; and Mr. Gerald W. Bray, Director of Student Affairs. We are proud of this nucleus of leadership in whom we have confidence to develop an outstanding institution."

Mr. Bishopric at this point turned a spade of soil, symbolizing the breaking of ground for the erection of the four initial buildings on the College campus, and passed the spade to each of the preceding speakers who, in turn, participated in the Ground Breaking Ceremony.

Trustee Radford Powell, in a manner fitting to the occasion, pronounced the benediction.