This newspaper’s readers undoubtedly could provide examples of how persistence pays off even with road blocks that have to be overcome.
East Central College is an example.
Early proponents of a college to serve this area never gave up even though it took nearly a decade of effort to realize the accomplishment. There were setbacks but the interest never waned in the minds of the proponents, most of whom in the beginning of the effort were young men in their 20s and 30s.
The Washington and Union Jaycees gave the effort a youthful push even though the idea of a college for this area was hatched to the discussion point by the Washington Lions Club members. For some reason that early idea never went beyond the discussion stage at a Lions Club meeting.
But some nonmembers of the Lions Club took up the cause, realizing what great benefits could come from a college. Several of the early proponents visited with officials of junior colleges in Flat River and Moberly to gain information. In those days, junior colleges were financed by school districts since there was no authority from the state to form separate taxing districts for junior colleges.
About the same time that the Washington proponents were organizing a steering committee to promote the college idea, a movement began in the state to obtain legislation for college districts to be formed with voter approval. A bill was introduced in the General Assembly that would permit the creation of college districts with voter approval. Several of the local boosters of the college idea were involved with a small group from St. Louis, chiefly women, who backed the bill and spoke for passage of it at hearings before lawmakers. The bill passed with no organized opposition in the Legislature.
With that hurdle cleared, the movement gained momentum in this area. The steering committee, because members were mainly “young Turks,” decided a chairman with experience and stature in the community should head the committee. George Buescher, who had been a member of the Washington Board of Education, was the choice. He was a successful businessman with limited education but who had vision when it came to education, perhaps because he never had many opportunities in the way of education growing up. Buescher agreed to head the committee. He was a member of the Lions Club.
School districts responded by agreeing to be part of a college district. That was somewhat brave on the part of some school board members since there was a degree of worry that a college district might take some support away from their taxing needs. Members of the committee told the story of the benefits of a college to school boards, civic clubs, PTA groups and to anybody who allowed them to speak at their meetings. Support was gained.
But then there was disappointment. The State Department of Education, which had to approve the election to form the district, ruled that the proposed college district didn’t have enough assessed valuation in its opinion to support a college district. Proponents licked their wounds. But the idea didn’t die and the Washington proponents kept the idea burning. After a year or two, the Union Jaycees offered to join in the effort. Buescher was co-chairman with Neil Maune of the Union Jaycees of the second steering committee.
The steering committee was increased in numbers, more talks were given, there were many editorials supporting the plan and finally 13 school districts agreed to be in the proposed college district. The University of Missouri Extension Office joined in the effort and performed the administrative work. Another application was filed with the state. The state gave its blessing. Voters approved creation of the district by a vote of 5,565 for and 2,025 against. That was in April 1968. The college opened its doors in rented quarters in Union in 1969 and the rest is history.
It is interesting to note that East Central College is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the same year that Franklin County is observing its 200th birthday.
Persistence paid off and if there ever was a “never give up” example, the East Central College effort shines like the brightest star in the galaxy.