Great Bay Community College celebrates 70th anniversary

11/17/2015 by Karen Dandurant

PORTSMOUTH — Great Bay Community College Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Fischer said the celebration held Thursday, Nov. 5 had three purposes, all good excuses to hold a party.

"We are celebrating our 70th anniversary, as the oldest community college in New Hampshire," said Will Arvelo, president of GBCC. "We are celebrating the grand opening of our new Student Success Center. And for the first time we are celebrating the induction of the first members of our Hall of Fame."

Arvelo began the program by leading those gathered in a hearty rendition of Happy Birthday - to the college. He invited everyone to stay for the first basketball game in the new gymnasium. The newly formed men's team, the GBCC Blue Herons were to play Northern Essex Community College.

Arvelo said the college began in 1945 as a technical college opened to help WWII veterans as they returned home.

"There were 130 students, all veterans," said Arvelo. "Now we offer 50 degree programs and have close partnerships with local businesses to do our best to prepare our students to be the best they can as they enter the workforce. When I read our history and how we started on a shoestring, I am amazed and pleased at where we are today."

Governor Maggie Hassan was on hand for the celebration. She congratulated the college on its success and talked about the importance it brings to the state.

I hear about the importance of education and a highly skilled workforce wherever I go," said Hassan. "We continue to work in New Hampshire to make higher education successful, available and affordable. Great Bay Community College is a representative of that generation to generation commitment to education."

Letters of congratulations were read by Mayor Bob Lister on behalf of the city of Portsmouth, Connor Jennings for U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Matthew Bartlett for U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and Brian Dobson, representing Congressman Frank Guinta.

Dobson had a unique take on his letter, being an alumni of GBCC.

"I love this school and the education I got here," said Dobson. "We read our letter into the Congressional record so the nation will know what great things are happening here."

Pease Tradeport Executive Director David Mullen said the location of GBCC at the Tradeport turned out to be a win for everyone.

"When the college was looking to build we offered them the former Cabletron building," said Mullen. "They got a $10 million grant to do renovations but they needed to own the building. We sold them the building and they still lease the land from the PDA. They have made a great success here and we are thrilled to have them."

The Hall of Fame inductees were divided into three categories, founders, staff and faculty, and corporate partners.

For founders, the inductees were Marey Carey Dondero (posthumously), W. Douglas Scamman (posthumously), the Portsmouth School Department, the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, American Legion - Frank E. Booma Post 6, and Veterans of Foreign Wars - Post 168.

The Toyotas TTEN Technical Education Network was the first honored corporate partner.

For faculty and staff, the inductees were Emerson A. McCourt (posthumously), Dr. Jane Power Kilcoyne (past president of GBCC), Diane King, Mary Willaims, Stanley Plodzik, Jr., and David Veno (In-absentia).

Doug Scamman of Stratham accepted the Hall of Fame honor for his father. He said he grew up with the college's beginnings and politics, which he said explained his passions as well.

"I was a small child and still remember all the meetings and being brought to the college," said Scamman. "My father was quite a guy. He served seven terms in the legislature and played a big role in the success of the community college system."

Tours of the building and the new student center were offered following the celebratory program.

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