Whether it’s a business, a marriage or cultural landmark, celebrating a 50-year anniversary is indeed a golden occasion. This year the glow is illuminating a 100-acre campus in Winchester.
Umpqua Community College got its humble start in the fall of 1964, with classes held at Roseburg High School and the Methodist Education Building in downtown Roseburg. A total of three students graduated in 1965.
Today more than 15,000 students take one or more classes each year, with a full-time equivalency of 3,000 students, according to UCC’s website. There are 17 campus buildings on land about 6 miles north of Roseburg. Chronologically, UCC is the 10th of the state’s 17 community colleges.
Yet UCC is more than a place where teens and adults go to earn associate degrees or enroll in community education courses. Visitors attend art exhibits, plays, concerts and other performances. Riverhawks fans root for basketball and volleyball teams.
In addition, the college has reaped rewards from the talents and patronage of many people over its five decades as an educational institution. Four of the most recent examples were inducted earlier this month into the 2014 Spirit of Umpqua Hall of Fame awards, a ceremony that coincided with UCC’s anniversary celebrations at Jacoby Auditorium. The new hall of famers were Lee Paterson, former Roseburg School District superintendent; UCC art professor Marie Rasmussen; Sherril Wells, UCC dean of career and technical training; and nursing program benefactor Ronnie Bruce. All contributed to the college in various ways, ranging from financial contributions to boosting the college’s profile in arts and healing arts.
Yet UCC has done well for itself, also, by adapting to the times. Its Southern Oregon Wine Institute was established in 2008, the first viticulture and enology program in the state outside the Willamette Valley.
Current UCC President Joe Olson has been making a push to reconnect the college with the community in several ways.
There’s talk of reinstating the college baseball team, which has been defunct since the mid 1980s. The pool, closed for repairs since 2011, will make a splashy reappearance this spring.
In February, the UCC Veterans Center opened its doors. The new center sets aside space on campus for veterans to study in privacy as they re-adjust to civilian life.
Perhaps the most welcome announcement of all to families was the inauguration of a scholars program this fall that will waive tuition for qualified Douglas County high school graduates. It includes a component of community service that further binds the college to the surrounding communities.
Olson has said these and other recent developments came about independently of a 2012 bond failure in which voters smacked down a tax measure for new buildings. Nevertheless, the bond rejection showed that the public was less invested in UCC than administrators would like. It also seemed to demonstrate that UCC is able to learn as well as teach. The more steps the college takes to deliver programs and services of use to the community and the more lives it can improve, the deeper its roots will spread.
Here’s to the next 50 years of educational, vocational and cultural progress at UCC.