RCCC celebrating first two decades of Cabarrus facilities

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 20, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
CONCORD — It was “raining buckets” the day Cabarrus County residents headed to the polls to cast their vote for the bond referendum to fund Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s South Campus more than two decades ago.
“There was some anxiety that day because we felt our presence at the polls was going to help us, but fortunately for us the people in support of the college got out and voted that day,” Jeanie Moore, the college’s vice president of advancement and corporate education, said.
Moore said then-president Dr. Dick Brownell was a “valiant” champion for the college’s expansion into Cabarrus County.
“He was determined that we were going to be a pivotal part of Cabarrus County as the first multi-campus institution in the state,” she said.
Moore was part of a team that moved into two former school buildings in the county and began offering classes before the bond referendum even made it on the ballot.
“We really wanted to see if there was enough interest from the community for the center to be successful,” she said. “Those classes filled up quickly so that gave us the data we needed to support the bond.”
While campaigning for the bond, Moore said she got to know the residents and leaders in Cabarrus County.
Moore said the college anticipated it would take about five years to fill the South Campus’ first building to capacity, but that actually happened within two years.
“Cabarrus County has been a very integral part of our growth and a very important partner in our success,” she said.
20th anniversary
The college is hosting a 20th anniversary celebration at the South Campus on Friday.
Members of the advisory board that helped shape project will be on hand to share their memories of the process. And college officials will share their vision of the future.
“Any kind of anniversary is a time to both look to the past and look to the future,” President Dr. Carol Spalding said. “We are marking the 20th anniversary of the South Campus with a celebrating of the people who helped start the campus and updating them on how much the college has invested in the county.”
A celebration for students, prospective students and the community will be held during the college’s Fall Fest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the South Campus. The event will include rides and games.
Spalding said with much of the focus throughout the past year being on the bond and the opening of building 400 in Salisbury, she wants to shift some focus back to Concord.
“We want the people of Cabarrus County to know that our commitment is strong,” she said. “So we are celebrating what we have done and we making commitments for what we are doing in the future.”
The college is currently in the process of creating a master plan for the South Campus.
“We are thinking about building a fourth and fifth building on the 24 acres we have, but we don’t know when that will happen,” Spalding said. “We’ve got some space needs that we are trying to address.”
Spalding said part of dealing with those space needs led the college to move it’s nursing programs to the biotechnology building on the North Carolina Research Campus. Basic law enforcement training classes will be housed on the seventh floor of the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Administration Building next year.
Paula Dibley, the college’s public information officer, said about 10,000 students a year use the South Campus. When the campus opened in 1991, it had about 700 students.
“We’ve been splitting at the seams for a long time,” she said.
Leading the way
Scott Ralls, president of the North Carolina Community College System, said the opening of the South Campus’ building 1000 in 1991 made Rowan-Cabarrus a model for the multi-campus system which has grown to 19 other community colleges.
“Most college students today are nontraditional in the sense that they are more likely to take break after high school, more likely to have families,” he said. “It’s particularly important as a community college for us to be able to reach people where they are, that has always been a philosophy of the system.
“I think the multi-campus model is part of how you make that philosophy a reality.”
Ralls said the people of Cabarrus County should be proud its leaders had the foresight to endorse a multi-campus system.
“We didn’t know we were pioneers, we know that now,” Moore said. “We read the tea leaves right.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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