“The Sixties: The Beginning”
a complete description of The Sixties, see A Journey Through the
Years: A History of New River Community College.)
January 1958 members of Radford City school board and city council
met to discuss possibility of an area vocational school. Funds
were appropriated by Pulaski County, Montgomery County, and
Radford City to support the new school.
By May 1959 the old Belle Heth Elementary School in Radford
was selected to house the New River Vocational-Technical School.
Vo-Tech opened its doors on Monday, September 15, 1959, under
the leadership of J. D. Hopkins. The school was staffed also
by Robert Carmack and Art Rupard. They would be joined by Roger
Adkins in November.
During spring of 1960, forty-three diplomas were awarded to
the first class.
By the 1960-61 academic term, the original curriculum (drafting,
electronics, and machine shop) had been expanded to include
industrial electricity, instrumentation, practical nursing,
and supervisory personnel training.
Gordon Jonas was hired to teach electricity.
Practical nursing classes began in August 1960 with Doris Semones
In August 1961 Vo-Tech was expanded with the addition of two
classrooms and a science lab.
Vo-Tech continued to expand its services to the industrial community.
A dozen managers from Jefferson Mills of Pulaski studied practical
math, and seventeen employees of Inland Motor enrolled in an
electrical testing course.
In the spring of 1962, the nursing program gained accreditation,
and Vo- Tech students won eleven awards at the State
Industrial Education Competition.
The first open house for Vo-Tech was held in April 1963.
In 1963 Vo-Tech and the Virginia Economic Commission formed
a partnership to offer secretarial training to unemployed
Funds were allocated from the state for the expansion of the
state’s vocational programs, but the Governor reduced
the amount. A question arose about whether the vocational schools
should expand or whether the state should look at a different
venue for delivering instruction.
Newly elected governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr., launched his education
initiatives, which included the establishment of a state-wide
community college system.
On July 1, 1966, New River Vocational-Technical School came
under the official jurisdiction of the newly formed Virginia
Community College System (VCCS). Dana B. Hamel was appointed
chancellor of the VCCS. The state was divided into twenty-two
regions according to a plan of building a community college
in each region.
The issue of where to build a community college in the New River
Valley drew much attention and debate. In fall 1968 the State
Board chose Dublin as the site.
In July 1969, J. D. Hopkins announced his resignation as director
of the New River Vocational-Technical School. Douglas D. Warren
was named interim director and would continue in this capacity
until the school relocated in Dublin as part of the statewide
community college system.
The first meeting of the local board for the Radford-Dublin
area community college was held on August 26, 1969. Board members
included Alvie P. Allen and Leslie C. Pugh from Floyd County;
G. R. Hall from Giles County; Stanley T. Godbey and Shannon
Harlow from Montgomery County; Robert J. Ingram, Claud
K. Kirkland, and Dan J. Rooker from Pulaski County; and Jesse
L. Baker and C. Clarke Cunningham, Jr., from Radford City.
On October 6, 1969, the local board voted to recommend to the
State Board for Community Colleges the name of New River Community
College for the community college in Region Ten.
New River Community College enrolled 424 full-time and part-time
students during its first year. As occupational-technical programs
continued to be offered, preparations began for the addition
of college-transfer curricula when the college moved
into its new facilities in fall of 1970.
Several of the early faculty and staff of Vo-Tech would remain
to lead the school through its transition into a community college
during the late sixties. These included Roger Adkins, Mike Byrd,
Bob Cecil, Bill Claussen, Joe Cochran, Ben Collins,
Harry Covey, Jackie Creggar, Betty Dickerson, Sibyle Ferrell,
Billy Friend, Robert Gibson, Sennett Gore, Doris Guill, Katherine
Hillman, Betty Hines, Gordon Jonas, Al Kinzer, Bonnie Leathers,
Curtis Lester, Owen McKinnie, Charlie Noonkester, Sara Olsen,
Anne Paskowski, Arthur Rupard, Doris Semones, Graham Simmerman,
Gerald Smith, and Douglas Warren.