A Timeline of our History
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The 1960s was a time of explosive growth for a relatively new type of educational institution in the United States: the community college. According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 457 public community colleges opened nationally during that decade, making post-high school education an accessible option for more and more students across the country.
The number of community colleges that opened in the 1960s (Northampton is included in this tally) more than doubled the amount that were in existence during the previous 60 years, the AACC reports. (The first community college, Joliet Junior College, was founded in 1901.)
April 24, 1965
On April 24, 1965, a dozen Northampton County school directors officially dedicated themselves to the "establishment of a community college program which ensures maximum offerings for all those...who would and should receive the benefits of a comprehensive community college program."
Though 12 Northampton County school districts signed articles of agreement to sponsor the College, mergers over the years have reduced the sponsor number to eight.
Early in 1966, members of a site selection committee chose and purchased 165 acres of cornfield surrounding a farmhouse, a barn and some sheds. The Bethlehem Township land would become the location for the nascent Northampton County Area Community College, now known as Northampton Community College (NCC).
The board of trustees held its first meeting in the Pomfret Club in downtown Easton on June 27, 1966. After this date, the board met at the Easton National Bank building.
On February 1, 1967, the board appointed Dr. Richard C. Richardson, a dean at Forest Park Community College in St. Louis, as Northampton's first president.
In May 1967, NCC's opening day was announced, and about 404 students indicated they intended to enroll. On that opening day, October 2, 1967, the first class of full-time and part-time students took their seats, led by 21 professional staff members, six deans, eight office staff members, and 15 instructors.
The first campus could best be described as rudimentary, as it was intended to be temporary. Barracks-like, one-story wooden structures sat on the north side of the campus. Faculty and staff crammed their offices into narrow trailers, which also held radiography and dental hygiene labs. Most of the furniture had only arrived the day before. Science faculty raced to assemble labs just in advance of opening day.
NCC's first course was a non-credit class, given in August 1967 to prepare people to take the Certified Public Accountant examination. Multiple non-credit classes for personal and career development soon followed.
Academic offerings originally comprised eight career programs, five transfer programs and a developmental program for incoming students who needed refresher work or preparation. Majors in 1967-68 included accounting, advertising art, business administration, business data processing, education, electric-electronic technology, engineering, industrial lab technology, law enforcement, liberal arts, liberal arts-science related, library assistant, secretarial and general studies. Four major college divisions included instructional services, student services, business services, and facilities and federal grants.
The board's goal was to achieve a mix of traditional-aged college students and older students. By 1968, about half of Northampton's students were recent high school graduates, and six out of 14 were adults. One out of 14 was a military veteran.
In 1969 Northampton became one of the first community colleges in the country to establish a separately incorporated foundation to marshal private contributions that would provide opportunities for students, and provide a margin of excellence in academic and curricular programs not possible solely with public funding.
NCC's first commencement, with 71 graduates, took place on June 4, 1969, on the grounds of the Moravian Seminary for Girls. An additional 25 students graduated at the end of the summer session. Following that inaugural commencement, the College gained accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges.
The College's 1970 annual report, reflecting a tumultuous time in our nation's history, describes a society "in the center of conflicting pressures and values." The publication reinforces the idea that one of the College's primary objectives is to provide the opportunity for everyone to go to college, regardless of their financial situation.
The Vietnam War posed a unique challenge to colleges across the country including Northampton. The student body is described in its 1970 annual report as "neither militant nor apathetic." Vietnam veterans and non-veterans alike hoisted and lowered the American flag on campus in expression of their varied stances regarding the war. Students, faculty and staff also organized a "day of witness" during the nationwide strike following the invasion of Cambodia.
Student government underwent reorganization and expansion. Voices of the student body were represented in the development of policies that directly affected it, including activities and roles within all standing committees.
In September 1970, the College broke ground to begin construction of a five-building complex on the south side of Green Pond Road. These structures included a three-building cluster for engineering, business and technology and two divisional centers. The cluster would comprise Founders Hall, Richardson Hall (formerly called Keystone Hall) and the Kiva. The divisional centers are the current Commonwealth and Penn halls.
College Center, a new campus hub, was completed in September 1972. It became the home of humanities, sciences and other classrooms organized by academic division. Northampton Hall, now named Kopecek Hall after the college's second president, Robert Kopecek, was also completed in 1972.
As the number of buildings grew during the first several years, so did the student body. By 1973, Northampton Community College had 2,468 students. The College's freshmen wore beanies (orange was the color of choice for Northampton students), as was popular tradition at the time.
Throughout the '70s, new academic programs increased choices of study for students. Some of these, shaped with the input and collaboration of local professionals and businesses, remain among of the College's most successful: dental hygiene, nursing, early childhood and architectural technology. Other notable programs added include automotive technology and one of only two funeral service programs in the state.
A new College-at-Home program expanded accessibility to education by offering correspondence courses to shift workers, the homebound and members of the armed forces. Over the years, College-at-Home developed into online learning via the Internet.
During 1973 and 1974, Northampton expanded its child care services to include a child development center, where young children and future teachers could learn together. The center was named Reibman Hall, after Senator Jeanette Reibman, one of the earliest and most effective advocates for NCC.
In 1977, Dr. Robert J. Kopecek became Northampton Community College's second president upon Richard C. Richardson's retirement. Kopecek would serve the College for 26 years.
In 1978-79, the first computer lab for students opened. That same school year, the College began to offer English as a Second Language courses to NCC students and members of the community.
The 1970s also marked the beginning of several cherished NCC traditions. During this decade, Professor Len Roberts inaugurated Poetry Day, which has included visits and readings by Philip Levine (U.S. Poet Laureate for 2011-2012), Lucille Clifton, Pulitzer Prize winner W.D. Snodgrass, Marge Piercy, and many other renowned poets. The Student Awards Convocation and Faculty/Staff Appreciation Day also began during the 1970s.
During the 1980s, the opportunity to receive an NCC education close to home was extended to Pocono-area residents when a former garment factory in Tannersville was transformed into the Monroe Center, the precursor to today's Monroe Campus.
Some of NCC's signature programs trace their origins to the '80s. One example: a small program in food preparation, begun during this decade, evolved into a full-fledged culinary arts program with an accompanying restaurant.
During the 1980-81 academic year, students and faculty embarked on the College's first field study course, traveling to New Mexico and other Western states.
In August 1986, NCC became the first community college in Pennsylvania to offer students the opportunity to live on campus. The first apartments, underwritten by the Northampton Community College Foundation, offered housing to 12 students on the north side of campus. Within three years, the College had built a residence hall next to the apartments, providing accommodations for many more students.
The Cohen Lecture Series in the Humanities, established in 1986 through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Cohen, extended learning opportunities for students and community members by bringing enlightening speakers to campus.
The New Horizons program, later known as the New Choices/New Options program, became one of the first displaced homemaker programs in Pennsylvania.
For its 20th anniversary, in 1987, the College upgraded its facilities by renovating 14 classrooms, constructing 13 new classrooms, building a new admissions office, and adding an automotive technology wing to Commonwealth Hall.
In 1988, construction on West Plaza, part of College Center, began, with a lounge, radio station and offices for student activities.
The popular Horizons for Youth program has its roots in 1988-89, when it began operating out of the literacy department.
During the 1989-90 academic year, the board approved plans to replace the original buildings on north campus with new ones that formed the Gates Center, named after Elmer Gates, a successful Lehigh Valley businessman.
By 1989-1990, new educational opportunities, greater access and a growing reputation had drawn 21,000 credit and non-credit students to the College.
The "barracks," a series of offices and classrooms located on the north side of Main Campus, were torn down early in the decade. The Gates Conference and Training Center, a complex consisting of County, Alumni, and Technology halls, took its place. (Technology Hall was later renamed Hartzell Hall in memory of Northampton County Executive Eugene R. Hartzell.)
In 1991, a more formal Horizons for Youth program began with summer offerings for school-age children. The next year, a school-year program was added.
In 1992-1993, NCC students traveled to Paris to visit Lycée Jean Lurçat, as part of NCC's first international study program. Over that decade and beyond, international study programs took root in several parts of the world, including Costa Rica, England, Italy, Russia, Denmark, and Turkey.
Hampton Winds, a fine dining restaurant and culinary arts student training ground, opened in 1993.
The College's presence in Monroe County grew in 1993, when the Monroe Center made way for the expanded Monroe Campus in Tannersville.
Construction began and was completed on the Student Enrollment Center and Communications Hall in the mid 90s.
In 1995 the Electrotechnology Applications Center (ETAC) was created through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Power & Light Company (now PPL). ETAC became an important resource for manufacturers looking to reduce energy costs, increase productivity and maintain environmental compliance through the use of infrared, ultra violet, radio frequency, electron beam and other technologies.
During the 1996-1997 school year, a second residence hall opened on Main Campus, with room for 110 additional students, including representation from a growing international population.
In 1999, the College purchased 40 acres of land from the Seiple estate on the southeast side of Green Pond Rd. to allow for future expansion. Part of the land now known as "the East 40" bloomed as a community garden, serving as the setting for history students digging into America's agricultural history and culinary students planting peas and greens for use at Hampton Winds.
Program offerings proliferated during the '90s, among them criminal justice, chemical technology, computer design, fine art, and social work. The use of interactive software improved student success in the fields of math and accounting.
In 2003, Dr. Arthur L. Scott became Northampton Community College's third president, serving in the role for nearly a decade. Scott, a longtime NCC employee, had worked at the College for 27 years prior to taking the reins from retiring president Dr. Robert Kopecek.
In March 2005, the purchase of a former Bethlehem Steel office building on East Third Street on the Southside of Bethlehem expanded access on Bethlehem's Southside. The six-level building was named the Fowler Family Southside Center after philanthropists Marlene (Linny) and Beale Fowler.
In 2005, online learning completely replaced NCC's longtime College at Home Program. In the years following, the number of enrolled students and online offerings increased exponentially and an online learning department was created to facilitate the growth.
NCC's Monroe Campus continued to serve more and more students, causing it to outgrow its limited space. The decision to purchase 72 acres in 2005 was a major step toward the realization of a plan for a new full-service campus in Monroe County.
The Spartan Center, with three regulation-size basketball courts, an athletic training room and a fitness center, opened in 2006.
In 2006, NCC joined the Achieving the Dream Initiative, a national project dedicated to helping community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, to stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. Four years later, NCC attained the status of leader college for its work.
Articulation agreements with four-year colleges expanded over the years, ensuring smooth transfer for students continuing their education at a variety of public and private colleges. Also, in 2007, the state's 14 community colleges agreed to a statewide credit transfer arrangement.
The National Science Foundation made multi-year grants to NCC in 2007 and again in 2012. These awards provide financial assistance and mentoring that have been invaluable to many science, math and related-technology majors.
NCC's athletes garnered national attention in 2007 when the Lady Spartans softball team recorded one of the longest winning streaks in the history of college sports, with a tally of 94-0.
In 2008, Northampton Community College earned a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge grant, the largest grant awarded in a highly selective competition. The NEH grant was also given "We the People" designation, placing it among an elite group of projects aimed at strengthening the teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture. In the surrounding years, NCC also earned important grants from the U.S. State Department, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Science Foundation.
On April 22, 2008, NCC dedicated the Tribute Garden, renamed the Susan K. Kubik Tribute Garden in 2012, in honor of retiring vice-president Susan K. Kubik.
During the 2008-2009 academic year, NCC began the transition to the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association), creating opportunities for NCC athletes to compete on a national level.
In 2009, Dr. Vasiliki Anastasakos, professor of political science, was named Pennsylvania Professor of the Year, an honor for faculty members who excel in teaching and who positively influence the lives and careers of students.
On April 19, 2009, NCC dedicated its first solar panels. With the addition of classes in photovoltaic installation, the College became the first college in Pennsylvania to offer such training.
An intercultural exchange program with Diné College, a Navajo college in Arizona, began in 2010. Students from Diné visited campus, and NCC students traveled to Arizona to learn more about Diné's students.
In October 2011, the College broke ground for a new 72-acre campus in Monroe County.
In 2011 the Manufacturing and Trades Center Squared (MATCH2) opened in Hartzell Hall, enabling students and faculty in electrical technology, solar voltaic systems, indoor environmental control, welding and some other technical fields to work more closely together.
Dr. John Leiser, professor of biology, was named the Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in 2011.
In Spring 2012, a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor provided opportunities for veterans, laid-off or underemployed workers and others to receive accelerated training in specialties deemed "high priority" by the state.
Dr. Mark H. Erickson became NCC's fourth president in July 2012, after Arthur Scott retired after nearly a decade as president. Dr. Erickson's inauguration took place a few months later, during October festivities for the College's 45th anniversary.
In 2012, the Spartan Center was named the Arthur L. Scott Spartan Center, in honor of the College's retired president.
The women's basketball team qualified for the NJCAA national tournament in Rochester, Minnesota, in March 2012.
In 2013, NCC was named the Top Workplace in the Lehigh Valley among large employers based on survey conducted by the national research firm Workplace Dynamics for The Morning Call newspaper.
After years of planning, NCC's new Monroe County campus opened for classes in 2014. The campus features state-of-the-art classrooms and labs, a student center and student services buildings, a library, a spacious food court, a gymnasium and fitness center, a child care center and space for community education and workforce development.
In 2014 the College received $10 million from the U.S. Department of Labor (its largest grant so far) for collaborative work with Lehigh Carbon and Luzerne County community colleges. The funds were earmarked to transform workforce training in healthcare, advanced manufacturing and transportation.
In 2015, Northampton was named a "Green Ribbon School," one of only nine colleges and universities in the country honored for its stewardship of the environment and leadership in environmental education.
In 2015, Dr. Javier Ávila, professor of English, was named the Pennsylvania Professor of the Year, becoming the third NCC faculty member to receive this honor.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 27, 2015, marked the expansion of the residence hall. The construction of the new building enabled NCC to accommodate 300 additional residence life students.
In 2015, NCC entered into partnerships with two universities to offer students the chance to earn bachelor's degrees on the Bethlehem Campus: Bloomsburg University for technical management, and East Stroudsburg University for nursing and business management.
On November 10, 2015, NCC unveiled the renovated state-of-the-art Hartzell Technology Hall to train students in the most current techniques of manufacturing.
The College opened a Center for Civic and Community Engagement in 2015 to deepen its commitment to the community, and to encourage students to make a difference in their neighborhoods.
NCC's Women's Volleyball Team earned its third trip to nationals in 2016.
In spring 2016, for the third consecutive year, NCC was named one of the top 10 tech-savvy community colleges in the country by the Center for Digital Education.
During 2015-2016 academic year, 30,436 students were enrolled at NCC in credit and not for credit programs.