Virginia Western Community College – Celebrating 50 Years
Per legislation, effective July 1, 1966, Roanoke Technical Institute (RTI) of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) and the Roanoke Center of the School of General Studies of the University of Virginia merged and became Community College of Roanoke. That summer, under the leadership of President Dr. Travis McKenzie, programs and faculty combined and began fall quarter classes with an enrollment of 1,352 students.
During the first year of operating, the college was renamed Virginia Western Community College. In 1968, the first true class of Virginia Western students graduated.
Growth and Expansion
By 1970, new coursework in nursing, data processing, commercial art and traffic/transportation management were created in addition to existing engineering, business and liberal arts curricula. Student enrollment continued to increase and temporary classrooms were moved to campus. Still new in concept, campus was bustling with activity and students brought in events to form community and shape the school’s identity such as crowning a Miss Virginia Western, dances, and campus art shows outside.
“I have no doubt that VWCC was instrumental in my career success. Your college gave me a solid foundation in Electronics Engineering (I finished my AS degree there in Spring of 1980), and I was able to transfer to Old Dominion University and received my Bachelors degree in the Spring of 1982 without missing a beat, VWCC prepared me very well for the transition to that institution!!”
– Thomas W. “Tom” Richardson, Ph.D.
University of Virginia Staff, Systems and Information Engineering (SIE) Dept.
Increasing Access and Preparing for the Future
Virginia Western Community College continued to expand access of its services and options for its students and the development of the community in terms of physical growth, workforce support, transfer to four-year colleges and the launch of a program further removing financial barriers to obtaining a college education.
Similar to a half-century ago, another call-to-action was asked in the 2010s. Fifty years ago a knowledge gap was identified as the United States raced to compete as a technologically advanced nation. This time it is to close the skills gap. In this decade, Governor Terry McAuliffe identified a gap in high-demand jobs skills and called for a significant increase in workforce credentials to be awarded in Virginia in STEM-H (science, technology, electronics, math and healthcare).
“I was a first generation college attendee and graduate. I barely graduated from high school but VWCC is where I found what I love and I was exposed to wonderful people who taught me and inspired me. Even now, when I interact with my students, I want them to like and love me the way I did Ann, Paula, and Marty.”
– Misty L. Mesimer, RDH, MSCH, CDA
Dental Assisting Program Director, Dental Hygiene Program Local Coordinator
Germanna Community College
August 22 is Virginia Western Community College Day!
“Now, Therefore, I, Sherman P. Lea, Sr. Mayor of the City of Roanoke, Virginia, recognize and commend Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College, along with the College’s many outstanding faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters, and do hereby proclaim August 22, 2016, throughout this great All-American City, as “Virginia Western Community College Day.”
– Sherman P. Lea, Sr.
Mayor, City of Roanoke, Virginia