Since 1968, the Greenfield Community College Foundation has invested in the dreams of students who work, students who cannot afford tuition, students who cannot travel to other educational institutions—people for whom higher education is otherwise beyond the borders of their personal geographies.
On September 17th, 1962, the new Regional Community College opened in the Federal Street North school building with Director Walter Taylor at the helm and an enrollment of 130 students. It was the culmination of a tumultuous odyssey undertaken by community leaders and educators to secure one of the new “people’s colleges” for Franklin County.
Within two years, Taylor and the Advisory Board were laying the groundwork for a permanent campus with the acquisition of 163 acres in Greenfield Meadows for $30,500. Never mind that building the campus would be an epic battle with the state legislature to secure funding; the land had been won. As a Civil War general was fond of saying, the College had secured “good ground.”
Meantime, GCC students, faculty and staff cheerfully camped out in a colorful succession of utilitarian premises strung across the face of downtown Greenfield. Over the course of 12 years, the growing population in the Federal Street North school building spilled over into the Corsiglia Building on Newell Court, the Threadwell Tap & Die Factory on Arch Street, and other makeshift venues leased to ensure that new programs, such as theater, art and community services, had a home. Behind the scenes of all this growth was the GCC Foundation, adept at acquiring and converting real estate for the burgeoning institution.
By the time the new campus in the Meadows opened in 1974, enrollment had grown to 1,474. GCC continued to grow, returning to its roots with the opening of the GCC Downtown Center at 270 Main Street in 1994. The venture was a high stakes gamble for the GCC Foundation. “We hadn’t had a capital campaign ever,” recalls realtor Robbie Cohn ’71, who was about to become the president of the Foundation. “We didn’t know if we would be capable of raising the money to pay for it and the renovations, and we didn’t have a lease from the state. We did everything backwards. But we all had faith, and we all knew from the past that real estate had been a great way to keep improving the College and the Foundation.”
In 1998 the College grew again with the addition of the new East Building, part of a complete renovation of the now quarter-century-old campus.
When GCC’s second president, Lewis O. Turner, took over from Walter Taylor in 1964, he said, “I don’t think we will ever be able to develop a status and say to ourselves, this is it.” As Turner predicted, growth continues to be an imperative for the College. Future growth is still in the dreaming phase, but it begins with acquiring the right piece of land that will allow the construction of a childcare facility and a performing and fine arts center.
The strength of Greenfield Community College has always come from a community of heroes, mostly unsung. These include dedicated faculty and staff, a committed board of directors, and the generous support of alums and volunteers who have been touched by Greenfield Community College.
Views of GCC’s main campus at One College Drive today.