From the Culpeper Star Exponent:
BY DAVID SAM | GERMANNA COMMUNITY COLLEGE PRESIDENT
Published: May 30, 2009
Nearly 300 years ago, Gov. Alexander Spotswood built Fort Germanna on land along the Rapidan River.
It was a bold move that may have seemed premature at the time. But German settlers arrived to carve something out of the wilderness in the hope of making better lives for themselves and their children on what was then the western frontier of the American colonies.
Gov. Spotswood was mocked by some for building a large home — dubbed “Spotswood’s Castle” — in the wilderness in a show of confidence that expansion would follow.
They faced daunting challenges, but the bold foresight of Gov. Spotswood and the colonists was rewarded.
About 100 years ago, other American visionaries founded the first “junior college” at Joliet, Ill., dedicated to opening the doors to higher education to everyone.
After World War II, the Truman Commission suggested turning these junior colleges into “community colleges” and building many more across the nation. This would give opportunities and show gratitude to returning veterans.
During the late 1960s, then-Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. acted with the Assembly to create a system of Virginia community colleges. His vision was to locate a community college within an hour’s drive of every citizen in the commonwealth.
Forty years ago, the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia donated 100 acres of that land for a community college to serve the Fredericksburg-to-Culpeper region.
On June 5, 1969, the College Board unanimously chose the name Germanna Community College to recognize this generous gift and the local history associated with it.
It’s no stretch to say that with that donation, the descendants of those who made history on the Rapidan in 1714 are now helping to shape our future, as community colleges play a key role in helping America find its way in today’s economic wilderness.
Nor is it a stretch to say that these three examples each exemplify our national democratic vision and faith in an educated populace.
To celebrate, Germanna Community College will host a commemoration of the anniversary of the donation of the land and our naming on June 5 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Germanna’s original Locust Grove campus.
Those who’d like to attend may RSVP by calling (540) 423-9060 or e-mailing [email protected]
This is just the first in a series of celebrations that will include one in the fall of 2010 to observe the 40th anniversary of the college opening its doors to 400 students.
Today it serves a total annual headcount of about 13,000 who live in a service area that stretches from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay.
Like those hardy settlers so long ago, Germanna Community College has often faced challenges and has always overcome obstacles.
On Aug. 14, 1969, the State Board of Community Colleges sternly warned the localities it was to serve that unless they agreed to a financing arrangement for site development within 12 days, funds allocated for the institution might go elsewhere.
A few years later, the state considered closing Germanna because of low enrollment. By 1986, then-President Marshall Smith proudly announced that Germanna had become the fastest-growing community college in Virginia.
In 2007-08, Germanna was again the fastest-growing community college in Virginia.
We cannot imagine the hardships faced by those original German settlers. They faced a new land with courage and vision.
The challenges we face today as a nation, state or region seem sometimes overwhelming.
The college also faces tough choices. Raising money to build facilities and hire faculty is a difficult challenge in these times, but if we do not rise to meet it, we will not be able to help those in need of retraining now, nor will we be prepared to help fuel the economic engine of the area in the future.
This ceremony will celebrate the vision and courage of those who came before.
But it will also celebrate our commitment to those who depend on us now and in the future.
Sam is president of Germanna Community College. He resides in Culpeper