East Central College celebrated its history while looking toward its future during a special event Sunday at the Union campus.
The event was scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first day of classes. It capped off a more than yearlong celebration of the founding of the college.
Activities were spread across the campus Sunday afternoon.
A car display was set up in the Buescher Hall parking lot. Many vintage cars were on hand to remind visitors what things were like when ECC opened 50 years ago.
Across the campus, first responders were set up in another parking lot. Visitors could tour an AirEvac helicopter, meet a Franklin County Sheriff’s Department K-9 officer, and explore a fire truck and police vehicles.
Games and children’s activities were in another area. The Donald Shook Student Center quad featured musical performances from the ECC jazz bands and choirs.
There also were food trucks and a live animal petting zoo.
Buildings were open to tour and featured a variety of activities.
The main event was a ceremony in the campus theater where current and past leaders of the school gathered to mark the 50th anniversary.
Current President Dr. Jon Bauer opened the ceremony.
“For 50 years East Central has grown and prospered,” he said. “Today we are celebrating the vision of the past and we look forward to the next 50 years.”
Bauer talked about the history of the college and thanked everyone who made it possible. He praised the steering committees that encouraged voters to support the creation of ECC.
Bauer also thanked members, past and present, of the ECC Board of Trustees, as well as past presidents, for their contributions to the school.
Three past presidents were on hand for the ceremony — Dr. Donald D. Shook, 1968-1986; Dr. Charles Novak, 1987-1990; and Dr. Karen Herzog, 1999-2005. Bauer was named president in 2012.
Also recognized at the ceremony was original board of trustees member Bob Hansen and current board president Ann Hartley.
Hartley said she was thrilled to be celebrating the college’s 50th anniversary and was enjoying seeing all of the college supporters at the event. Hartley said she, and the others, take pride in being on the board.
“The fact that East Central College has been here for 50 years and that 26 individuals have served as trustees speaks volumes about their dedication and commitment,” she said. “All have served with honor and distinction because they believed a local community college would positively change the lives of so many people. Thousands, as it turns out.”
Shook, the college’s first president, also spoke. He said he was thankful to be able to attend.
“It’s a real pleasure for me to see so many faces that I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said. “This college was very important to me.”
Shook said the college is what it is, thanks in large part to the “excellent” work of facility and staff. He said from the beginning the staff was a strong point. He also said he enjoyed every minute of his time at ECC.
Bauer closed the ceremony with some remarks of his own.
“The impact of this college is immeasurable,” he said.
Bauer noted many area nurses completed their training at ECC. Many teachers started their education at the college. Paramedics, machinists, chefs and others throughout the area received their education at the school.
Bauer said ECC’s faculty and staff are a big part of the success of so many students. He said students going to ECC leave prepared for the future because they are well-trained.
Bauer then shifted his comments on the future and talked about how the college is implementing its new strategic plan.
“We are committed to creating clear pathways to students,” he said.
Bauer concluded the program by locking a time capsule — a large wooden box that was specially built and stuffed with mementos. The box is intended to be opened in 50 years at the 100th anniversary celebration.
The box will be on display at the college.
The ceremony ended with the singing of “Happy Birthday.” Bauer said Hansen suggested the group sing the song, so he led the crowd in a rendition to cap off the event.