A look back with MCTC’s first graduates

Jonathan Wright - [email protected]
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The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Maysville Community and Technical College is a good time to look back on how the college was founded.

Former Kentucky State Rep. Mike Denham was a member of the first graduating class at MCTC, then called Maysville Community College. He recalled attending classes at the college, before proper classrooms had even been built.

Denham remembered how MCTC, then Maysville Community College, came to be though the actions of the state government.

“It was actually founded by an act of the legislature in 1966,” he said. “It’s only one of two schools at the time, that and Hazard Community College, that was founded by an act of legislature.”

In 1966, a bill was passed, Denham said, that founded Maysville Community College and two years later funding was provided for the school. The college began as part of the University of Kentucky system, which would hold true until 1997, when the Kentucky Community and Technical College System was formed.

“Long story short, they set if up for the fall of 1968 to start classes,” Denham said. “Of course, they didn’t have a building, so they used the First Presbyterian Church, the Trinity Methodist Church, the First Christian Church Sunday School rooms to teach classes. There were probably 50 or 60 brave souls that enrolled in the first class in 1968.”

Denham was one of those brave souls who attended classes in the makeshift classrooms. He said many of the students could have very easily forgone the trouble of being on the ground floor for a new community college by simply attending another school; although for some, it may not have been an option.

“The thing a community college provides, it provides an opportunity for those who can’t go to other institutions,” Denham said. “So there were a lot of folks who probably wouldn’t have gotten to go to school otherwise.”

Maysville finally had an official building to hold classes by 1969, on the present day campus which has experienced several expansions along the way.

In its creation, Maysville Community College really embodied the idea of a community college, according to Denham, with much of the community in support of its establishment, and doing what they could in supporting the campus and students.

“There were a few skeptics, and there was some ridicule as always,” Denham said, “but for the most part, it was really a great atmosphere. Everybody in the town was happy about it, everybody went out of their way to accommodate people who went to college and they got a nice group of professors.”

The locations from where students came from were varied, according to Denham, with many coming from Bracken, Lewis, Robertson and Mason counties and even from across the river in Ohio. Denham also said there were several members of that first graduating class, both students and teachers, who would be considered non traditional students.

“There were a lot of Robertson County folks in that first class,” he said, “and among them were four ladies, who were certainly past college age — I think they were in their early 30s, maybe mid 30s. They had raised families, but they had decided to go to college. They came to start at Maysville Community College, and all four of them actually became teachers and started new careers.”

Denham mentioned a humorous story about these four, very bright ladies and how, if you were in class with them you were sure to work hard because they would skew the grading curve.

“We used to kid them all of the time that they ruined the curve for us,” Denham said. “There was a time or two when some of my friends would walk in, they would see them in their class, then they’d just turn around and walk back out.”

Denham noted the relative success several members of his graduating class experienced and attributed much of that success to the quality of the education.

“It was small enough that it was like a one-on-one college education,” he said, “and many of that first class went on to be doctors, lawyers and accountants.”

With many members of MCC’s first graduating class, Denham also wanted to pay homage to those members who have died, having made real contributions to society.

“One in particular is Sam Dryden,” Denham said. “Sam was a good friend of mine, and he became a really good friend with Bill Gates. He did a tremendous job in agrigenetics, and that’s how he and Bill Gates got to know one another. He started all of this stuff about agrigenetics, which they are using on the continent of Africa now to grow more food.”

Dr. Stephen Vacik, current president of MCTC is grateful of the efforts of the founding class and faculty of MCC, who were the school’s pioneers.

“We appreciate the dedication of our founders and students who have paved the way for MCTC to become who we are today,” Vacik said. “Much has changed over the years but our goal, truly our legacy, remains helping create better lives for a better Kentucky. We look forward to honoring those early community leaders, as well as members representing the first student class, at our upcoming 50th anniversary celebration.”

Denham said he hopes all alumni and faculty of the first graduating class at Maysville Community College will attend the campus’s 50th anniversary celebration on Aug. 26, beginning at 5 p.m. with a performance by the MCTC Mountain Boys and the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.

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Jonathan Wright

[email protected]