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A Journey Through the Years

A Summary of
“The Sixties: The Beginning”

(For a complete description of The Sixties, see A Journey Through the Years: A History of New River Community College.)

Picture of book

  • In 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 as instructor.

  • 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 women.

  • 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.