Surrounded by community, WCC student releases first album

Corey Strong album cover

Corey Strong’s six-song album ‘Believer’ was released in September 2014 and is available through iTunes and Amazon. Corey Strong | Courtesy Photo

By Erin Fedeson
Staff Writer


Teamwork, faith and family define the foundation that Washtenaw Community College student Corey Strong used to launch his first album, “Believer.”

WCC student Corey Strong, 33, of Southfield had played the organ for his church for years when he decided to try singing.

“I fell in love with it,” Strong said.

Strong studied at Hammell Music in Livonia for classical organ and voice before he began his studies at WCC in musical engineering. He wanted to have structure and understand what went on behind the scenes of music.

Sean Copeland, 25, an Eastern Michigan University student, studying electronic media and film studies helped Strong create the album.

The men grew up in Detroit together, and their families knew each other from church.

“He came over to my house in Detroit where I was living at the time with his lyrics,” Copeland said. They composed the lyrics and instrumentals in his living room.

Copeland played a number of roles. His keyboard playing accompanied Strong’s voice. As Strong’s producer, Copeland assisted in marketing and insured Strong’s creative vision was executed.

Strong is serious about his work, Copeland said, but has a great sense of humor, making the work process a lot of fun.

Andrea Meacham, 36, of Madison Heights, another member of Strong’s team, said his personality makes others want to work with him.

“There is a charisma around him,” Meacham explained. “He wants to help people.”

The album, Meacham added, was a way to get his message to the community. Her impression of Strong’s message about God is “Do the right thing with Him, and you have nothing to worry about.”

She joined Strong’s team as the photographer, a side job from her main career as a general adjuster for Farmers Insurance. She also helped him construct his website.

Strong credited his family, church members and team members for supporting his work. His future plans include a few concerts, Easter programs and a Christmas record out in time for Christmas 2015.

Gov. Snyder’s propsed budget recommends increased funding for community colleges

budget graph

Source: Executive Budget Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017, State of Michigan

By Paulette Parker
News Editor

Governor Snyder released his 2016 fiscal year budget recommendation on Feb. 11, which includes positive investments for Michigan’s 28 community colleges, particularly Washtenaw Community College.

The proposed budget includes a 1.4 percent increase of $4.3 million overall in community college operations funding, bringing total operations funding to $311.5 million. For the third consecutive year, it is recommended that WCC receive the highest operations funding percentage rate increase at 1.9 percent.

“It’s a recommendation of how well we perform according to state performance metrics,” said Jason Morgan, director of government relations at WCC. Washtenaw was involved in the creation of these metrics three years ago.

“It’s not the highest dollar increase because there are some colleges that are bigger and have traditionally received more money than we have,” Morgan said. “But this is getting us closer to being with those higher schools.”

“That is very, very impressive. I am so glad to hear this because that shows what our faculty and what everybody is doing at this institution to make this a better institution,” WCC trustee, Diana McKnight-Morton said at February’s board meeting.

With the small operations increase, coupled with proposed increased state support for the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS), community college funding would grow by $29 million over current year funding, an 8 percent increase in total state appropriations.

The proposed budget also includes funding for independent, part-time student grants recommended at $6 million, representing the first time since fiscal year 2009 that the program has been funded.

This financial aid program targets part-time, adult students at community colleges. The governor encourages community colleges to use this funding to re-enroll former students who may have dropped out without earning a degree or other credential.

The governor also proposed doubling the skilled trades training fund from $10 million to $20 million. He recommended $17.8 million in the K-12 budget for career tech programs and early middle college programs focusing on skilled trades.

The expectation is that this funding comes with increased collaboration between K-12, community colleges and universities.

While this is the governor’s recommendation, the legislature will decide on its own budget.

“We are extremely pleased with the governor’s recommendation of WCC and we really hope the legislature will pass that version,” Morgan said.

To WCC English instructor, students are ‘heroes’

Maxine Gibson

WCC English instructor Maxine Gibson believes that ‘teaching is like helping people to have choices.’ Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

By Paulette Parker
News Editor

Pictures and poems wallpaper the gray, metal office door. Across the threshold, inside the small, dim room, picture frames showcase smiling faces. Projects of students past have found refuge in the corners.

Visiting the office of English instructor Max Gibson offers a glimpse into what she cherishes. A conversation with Gibson gives a glimpse at her humility. With nervous laughter, she abashedly tells her story, preferring to highlight those she feels have helped her become who she is.

Gibson came to Washtenaw Community College as a part-time instructor in 1980 after teaching English and art to junior high and high school students. She became a full-time instructor in 1990. The oldest of seven siblings, she was thrust into the role of helping them with their homework, she said, which was the beginning of her path to teaching. After taking philosophy class, she arrived at writing’s door.

“I didn’t have really good experiences in high school. I felt like I didn’t know what the purpose was; I finally learned the purpose when I took philosophy and I realized that writing was problem-solving,” Gibson said. “The better you can describe the world, the better you can analyze it.” The ability to problem solve is what she strives to pass on to her students, helping them have more control over their lives.

“Teaching is like helping people to have choices, helping people to be free, helping them to be happy and helping them to problem solve,” she said.

Fun, intelligent, interesting, wise – just a few of the words within reach that Gibson uses to describe her students. The glow in her eyes, light in her voice and the loosening of her posture when she dotes on them tells that they are so much more to her.

“I’m privy to my student’s unfoldings,” Gibson said. “I feel very privileged to hear their stories.” And it’s these varied stories, challenges and experiences that inspire Gibson in her own life.

“It’s like, oh my gosh, you’re my heroes,” she said. “If you can do that, I shouldn’t be complaining about not having time or resources because you’re doing it with so much less.”

WCC screenwriting major, Arianna Gelderloos, 19, of Ann Arbor says that it is Gibson who has inspired her.

“I think that my writing has always been for me, and Max made it so that my writing could be for other people,” Gelderloos said. Gibson helped her gain the ability to share her writing with less fear of judgment, she said. She has also been a friend.

“She’s really good at validating your feelings,” Gelderloos said. “Like if I’m upset about anything she always says what I need to hear.”

In her classroom, she sits atop a table at the front of the class, her black-slack-clad legs dangling, crossed at the ankles. She leans forward, hands in her pockets, relaxed; her curly hair brushes her shoulders. She listens intently as each student speaks, and they return the courtesy. It is a safe zone of self-expression.

“We spend a lot of time talking about how to really listen to each other with an ear to understand rather than judge,” Gibson said.

Maxine Gibson

Brian Ruhlig, 29, of Dexter, receives individual attention from English instructor Gibson before class begins. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

“Max does a really good job of getting people to talk because a lot of times people are too shy to do so,” Gelderloos said. “She has a really open and sweet thing that makes it hard to be nervous around her.”

“I don’t want them to write like me; I want them to find their own voices,” Gibson said. A task she feels cannot be accomplished with judgment.

“She has such a wonderful eye for what is good about us; and she is very good at not paying particularly close attention to what is not great about us,” said WCC English instructor Hava Levitt-Phillips. “She is the kind of teacher that teaches teachers just by being near her.”

With plans to retire in a year, Gibson said that what she will miss most is her students.

“That’s the only part I feel sad about; to leave their energy and their creativity,” she said. She hopes to have instilled in each of them the desire to be lifelong learners.

“I want them to be good human beings, I want them to be respectful and I want them to be open-minded and have a sense of social responsibility,” she said, “that if you’re privileged enough to have a good education, a roof over your head and all these cool things, maybe you need to think about how you’re going to give back and make sure that everyone has an equal chance for success in this world.”

Gibson hesitantly speaks of herself but readily and proudly shares stories of her students’ successes. For her, it is less about her as an instructor and more about the amazing students she encounters.

“She is without ego,” Levitt-Phillips said. “You can’t persuade her that she is as lovely as she is. That is Max. That’s what makes her so tremendous.”

Trustees talk legislation at community college summit in D.C.

By Paulette Parker
News Editor

WCC trustees Dave DeVarti, Christina Fleming, Diana McKnight-Morton and Director of Government Relations Jason Morgan recently attended the 2015 Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.

Over the course of the four-day summit, attendees participated in sessions, met with lawmakers, community college trustees and presidents and had the opportunity to lobby about issues that concern them.

Speakers included the Secretaries of Labor and Education.

“As a new trustee, being able to meet other trustees was very valuable,” DeVarti said.

The Summit focused on legislation that is either in process or legislation that could be improved upon. The agenda was set by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).

Topics of discussion included improving methods of measuring the success rates of community colleges, President Obama’s free community college announcement and making the Pell grant program available year-round.

“That one kind of stood out to me because it involves really giving students’ access quickly when they need it,” Fleming said.

“I learned what bigger issues are out there,” DeVarti said of his takeaway from the Summit, which will better equip him for his role as a trustee and give him new perspective to bring to board meetings.

“My takeaway, I think, was how important it is to keep these issues in front of our lawmakers,” Fleming said. She also stressed the importance of constituents writing to their representatives in Congress about issues that matter to them.

“We really need to make our voices heard; otherwise they’re just going to sit there and do whatever is on their national agenda and not really pay attention to us,” Fleming said.


Contact your representatives

House: Tim Walberg and Debbie Dingell

Senate: Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow

WCC Dental Clinic open


The Washtenaw Community College Dental Clinic began offering treatment to students, faculty and staff on Feb. 3, and will continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning at 8:30 a.m., through April 16.

WCC dental students assist University of Michigan students, under the supervision of community dentists, with the basic dental services offered at the clinic including cleaning and exams, X-Rays, Amalgam (silver) restorations and composite restorations. Those in need of treatments not available at WCC are referred to other dental professionals.

To make an appointment, call 734-973-3332 or stop by the clinic in OE 106.

College plans yearlong celebration for 50th anniversary


Washtenaw has big plans to celebrate this milestone year, which will begin in September and last through September 2016.

“Celebrating the anniversary over two years gives us the opportunity to recognize both the year Washtenaw County voted to establish WCC, 1965, and the year the college first held classes, 1966,” said Janet Hawkins, associate director of public affairs.

Hawkins has been planning the year’s celebrations since 2013, she said.

While formal celebrations won’t kick off until the fall, Hawkins hopes to launch a blog in late May, featuring archive photos, interviews with former employees and students, testimonials and a calendar of events for the year.CELEBRATION-LOGO-SQ-WEB

“I’m really excited about getting reacquainted with some of the retirees, former employees and definitely some former students,” Hawkins said, adding that in the interviews she has done so far, she has been happy to hear how positive interviewees memories are about the college.

“I am excited about welcoming all of these people back to campus to see how we’ve grown and evolved over the years, to hear more of those stories about the campus in the early years and to be the facilitator who is bringing all of this together,” Hawkins said.

There is also some talk of establishing a WCC volunteer corps, Hawkins said, which is really just a way of recognizing the volunteerism already taking place at the college.

The events planned for next year include:


Anniversary Kickoff

Saturday, Sept. 26

Playing off the concept of Free College Day, which the college has done in the past, this event will open up the entire campus for community members to explore. Faculty and staff will teach free, specially designed courses to community members. Hawkins said she hopes to have a class representing each academic area and building on campus.

The event will also incorporate the annual Cars & Bikes On Campus show, where students and community members show off their rides and compete for prizes.


50th Anniversary Gala

Early February 2016

The gala will take the place of the annual Mardi Gras fundraiser for WCC Foundation scholarships. This event will be more formal than Mardi Gras, Hawkins said, and will “celebrate the past and present, with an eye toward the future.”


Free College Day

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A day of free learning for community members, this event offers the chance to get to know WCC from the students’ perspective. Community members are invited to come to campus and learn from WCC instructors about a variety of topics.



Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016

Fifty years after Washtenaw opened its doors for classes, the college will celebrate homecoming, welcoming back WCC alumni, retirees, former employees and the community at large.

Anyone with ideas for how the college can celebrate CELEBRATION-LOGO-SQ-WEBits 50th anniversary can email Janet Hawkins at jhawkins@wccnet.edu.


A history of open doors


statueEvery day, thousands of students pass through the shadow of the “Gateless Gateway” statue, most oblivious to it’s meaning.

The statue represents Washtenaw Community College’s open-door policy, which was central to the college’s original mission of serving the populations that were falling through the cracks in the education system.

This open door policy, a “fierce commitment” from the college’s founders, and the formative environment of the 1960s and ‘70s shaped WCC into the institution it is today.

A unique mission

As the baby boomers came of age in the 1960s, they shattered the traditions of their parents and grandparents. No social norm was safe. Civil rights, women’s liberation and the antiwar movement were all in full swing. Drug culture and the sexual revolution were spreading.

“These were exciting times, depressing times, a time for great creativity and a time of great anxiety,” former WCC President Larry Whitworth wrote in “A Fierce Commitment” (“AFC”), which chronicles the first 10 years of the college.

“It is during this time that the community college and the community college movement were born,” Whitworth wrote.

As citizens of Washtenaw County considered the possibility of a community college, critics argued that Michigan, which already had 10 four-year colleges and universities, and Washtenaw County, which had three, did not need any more higher education institutions.

“We had to carve our own niche. That was a tall order,” WCC’s first president, David Ponitz said in “AFC.”

But Washtenaw was not alone. Across the country, community colleges were springing up, and many shared the same mission – to offer what four-year colleges could not. They found their identities by filling in the educational gaps in their communities, serving populations that may not have the opportunity to attend four-year colleges.

High school graduates who did not have the grades or finances to attend four-year colleges, adults, already in careers, who needed to sharpen their skill sets and those who needed second chances could all find a place at a community college. The new, two-year institutions focused on occupational and vocational programs, preparing students to transfer to four-year colleges, developmental and remedial courses, non-credit and continuing adult education courses and community service.

“It’s a remarkable place to have wedged between these two monsteruniversities, where you can fail a little bit … You can fail; you can explore; you can find, and maybe even get a job,” said Ruth Hatcher, a WCC trustee who began teaching English at the college in 1979.

Open doors

Central to WCC’s mission of serving underserved populations in it’s community, was the college’s policy to accept any student with a desire to learn, regardless of past education, age, gender or race. This open door policy brought an incredibly diverse set of students to campus.

The college enrolled dropouts from universities across the state, Vietnam veterans, single mothers, high school dropouts looking for a second chance, factory workers hoping to learn new skills and students from the federal correctional institution in Milan and the women’s prison in Ypsilanti.

“I remember when I had students in my class who didn’t know how to read,” Hatcher said. “It was an opportunity for me to help them go in the right direction.

“After they started having more rules and regulations, my classes were more like honors classes, and we could go better and further, but I miss those folks that couldn’t read and were motivated to learn. Now they’re put in a reading class, and OK, maybe that’s better, but I’m from that old school, where this was a magical place,” she said. “It was magical for ESL students. After Vietnam, it was magical for soldiers.”

WCC’s open doors were flooded with students, eager to further their educations. When registration opened in September 1966, enrollment was more than double what administrators had predicted. More than 1,200 students took classes the first fall semester, and by winter more than 1,500 had enrolled. Next fall enrollment nearly doubled to 2,394.

Faculty and administrators had to search for extra space to hold classes.Eventually the Ann Arbor Public Library, the YMCA and several churches in the community all hosted WCC students.

“Many of WCC’s new students were the first in their families to go college,” former speech instructor Char Hanson said in “AFC.” “They probably wouldn’t have ventured to Eastern, almost certainly wouldn’t have enrolled in Michigan, but when the school came to them, they knocked on its doors, and WCC changed the course of many lives.”

‘A fierce commitment’

As President Ponitz and the college’s first administrators searched for teachers for the new college, many assumed they would be seeking candidates holding doctorate degrees, because WCC was located among so many educational institutions, but WCC’s founders had something else in mind.

“Our priority was to find people who could really connect with our students,” Ponitz said in “AFC.” “We developed a hiring profile for our faculty members – which is where the phrase ‘A fierce commitment’ came into play. There was a shortage of teachers in those days, but we still focused on finding the best people, people with real world experience as well as good teaching skills, people who cared about students and shared our vision.”

Dennis Bila, a WCC math instructor, who started at the college in 1969, said that the college’s success is due in large part to great leadership in those early years.

“They hired great staff at all levels,” Bila said. “Now that doesn’t just happen. People have to have that as part of their mission, and that starts from the top.”

The philosophy applied to positions in all areas of the college, he said.

“If you look at the grounds, for example, you’ll notice they’re as well kept as any institution around,” Bila said.

Because the concept of community colleges was so new, the employees who first came to work for WCC took a big risk.

“These people left solid jobs … when no one knew if it was going to work or not,” Hatcher said. “It was a true act of faith in what education is about.

The “pioneers,” she said, were amazing people who sacrificed a lot for the vision of what WCC could be.

“I know it’s hard to keep a pioneer spirit going,” she added. “I have some of that fairy dust on me from them.”

100 days

When the first employees were hired, they had to put that “fierce commitment” mentality to the test.

In the spring of 1966, the new administration and trustees had a decision to make: They could open the following fall, or wait another year, which voters had given them funds to do.

Ignoring the fact that most community colleges were taking two to four years to establish, the founders pushed forward, opening that fall – in only 100 days.

There was a sense of urgency, Pontiz said, because there was so much need in the community.

To make this possible, the administration developed “the undulating cone.”

“It was a pyramid-style form of management, with the board and president at the apex. It was undulating because decisions traveled up and down and across. It wasn’t a rigid system,” Andy Ford, who was the director of the Technical & Industrial division at the time, said in “AFC.” “We were intellectually and pragmatically movers and doers. We had to be if we were going to get the college up and running in such a short span of time.”

“One of the things that strikes me about the beginning of the school was that it never occurred to us that we couldn’t make it work, even though none of us had ever done this before,” former English instructor Edith Croake said in “AFC.”

With passionate teachers who were led by the “fierce commitment” mentality crowded in the close quarters of the college’s temporary Willow Run campus, this communication system functioned well.

“It was kind of fun,” Bila said. “We were all crowded together so we got to know each other very well.”

And the rest was history

As WCC continued to grow, so did the obstacles that faced it. The ‘60s and ‘70s were a turbulent time, and as students erupted in protest on a regular basis, and rioters burned down Detroit, those who cared about the college felt a strong responsibility to protect it.

“We suffered from our share of traumas,” Ponitz said in “AFC.”

“Several times during the days of the riots, when Detroit was burning, Dave Pollock and I linked arms with folks from the Willow Run area – black and white – and we stood arm-in-arm all night, afraid that the campus would be torched.”

Ponitz described driving home from a meeting one night and seeing smoke in the distance. He thought the college was burning, but it turned out that the Ypsilanti dump was just burning dried Christmas trees.

“It was a symptom of the times that my first thought was that the campus had been torched,” Ponitz said.

Several times, bombs were lobbed into WCC offices, luckily never going off, and countless times, the college received bomb threats. Angry black students, associated with Panther groups in Detroit, would bring shotguns and Molotov cocktails in their cars.

But sometimes, the employees were the ones on the picket lines. In 1979, there was a faculty strike that Hatcher described as “nasty.”

“It was a serious strike – people barricading so that supplies couldn’t get it, so that part timers couldn’t get it. The place was shut down,” Hatcher said. “There were car nudgings … people got hurt.”

“We had people go to jail,” said Bila, who was the faculty union president at the time. “There was some violence on the line.”

The faculty and the administration couldn’t agree on much of anything, Bila said.

“Community colleges were still relatively new, so it was a high school model. The faculties in the college weren’t given much in the way of determination of the curriculum or whatnot,” Bila said. “There was a lot of distrust on both sides.

But the faculty and administration eventually reached a consensus and the

faculty got back to work.

As with every challenge that faced WCC in its formative years, the employees’ “fierce commitment” to the mission of the college and the students and community that it served, carried WCC forward.

Today, the college has grown ten-fold, serving more than 12,000 students every semester. While few of the founders are still around, their legacy lasts in the mission of the college and those who still have the “fairy dust” on them.


Editor’s note:

A sincere thank you goes out to Bob Phillips and Diana Pacella for their help sorting through the WCC archives, and to those dedicated WCC employees who put together “A Fierce Commitment: The First 10 Years of Washtenaw.” The greatest ties to Washtenaw’s past, the archives and the book tell an amazing history that otherwise would be lost with the people who created it.


RELATED ARTICLES: How WCC came to be, College plans yearlong celebration for 50th anniversary

How WCC came to be


June 30, 1962 – County demonstrates need for community college

After Washtenaw County voters rejected a proposal for a technical high school in the late 1950s, the Ann Arbor board of education told the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee that there was a need in Ann Arbor for a community college that could provide vocational training. However, community colleges were a very new concept at the time, and few were sure of exactly what role a one might play.

The Education Committee was hesitant and decided it would be best to involve the community in the discussion. It asked University of Michigan professor Raymond Young to conduct a survey starting on June 30, 1962. The Chelsea Milling Company  provided the $10,000 needed to carry out the Citizen’s Survey of Washtenaw County Community College Possibilities.

In September, the results of the survey and the committee’s recommendations were announced.

They stated that there was a “demonstrated demand by county youth and employers for a post-high school program offering technical and semi-professional occupational training.”

The survey found that finances were the biggest barrier between high school seniors and college.

Fifteen percent of high school seniors surveyed said they were not planning on college, but would reconsider if more money was made available to them. Another 18 percent said they would have continued their education if finances were not a problem.

Three different populations would be served by a community college, the commission said: Recent high school graduates who lacked skills or finances to attend a four-year institution; adults, already in careers who needed to improve their skills or learn new skills; and “late bloomers” who hadn’t pursued their education and needed a second chance.


Jan. 3, 1965 – Voters establish Washtenaw Community College

While heavy snow led to a low voter turnout on Jan. 3, 1965, one-fourth of the 72,000 registered voters in Washtenaw County made it to the polls, and set the wheels in motion for the creation of Washtenaw Community College.

On the ballot, voters were asked to approve the establishment of a community college and to agree to a one-quarter-per million tax levy. The results were a resounding approval, with 11,109 voters in favor and 5,085 opposed.

Voters also chose six of 38 candidates for the college’s first board of trustees. They faced a difficult decision, as the candidates were very highly qualified across the board, with 17 having experience in education.

TRUSTEES-WEB-1On Election Night, officials announced that Samuel Harmon, Evart Ardis, Ralph Wenrich, Edward Adams Jr., Richard Creal and Elvira Vogel had been elected. However, two days later, they announced that there had been errors in the count, and that Kenneth Yourd had actually won the sixth seat, not Vogel.

Surprisingly, Anthony Procassini, who had been chairman of the Education Committee that spearheaded efforts to create the college, lost by just five votes, but he was elected to the board the following year.

The board was highly qualified and diverse.

Harmon, who earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from U-M, owned a company called Sensor Dynamic, and had previously owned Bendix Systems Division.

Ardis was director of the U-M Bureau of Appointments and Occupational Education, and previously worked as the superintendent of Ypsilanti public schools.

Wenrich was chairman of the Department of Vocational Education and Practical Arts at the U-M and previously worked as associate state superintendent of Public Instruction and state director of Vocational Education.

Adams was the president of the National Bank & Trust Company of Ann Arbor and a director and trustee of several state and local institutions.

Creal was a known figure in the Ann Arbor public school scene. A lifelong resident of the city, he had a master’s degree in school administration and supervision from U-M and participated in all phases of the local public schools.

Yourd was the assistant dean to the U-M Medical School and previously worked as a senior attorney for the Columbia Broadcasting System and director of business affairs. He also served as vice president and treasurer of the National Educational Television and Radio Center in Ann Arbor.

In a 1982 interview with WCC history instructor Flavia Reps, Ardis reflected on the board’s diversity.

“The board had a lot of different points of view and that fact became evident as we grappled with all the crucial decisions that had to be made immediately,” Ardis said. “The board was committed to a lot of openness. They felt that it would give the institution credibility if the people felt it was truly their college.”


Aug. 13, 1965 – WCC trustees appoint college’s first president

Although the board of trustees had received applications from all around the country for the college’s first presidency, several trustees felt the ideal candidate had not applied of his own accord, and they set about convincing him.

PONITZ-WEB-1David Ponitz was working as superintendent of schools for Freeport Illinois and president of the town’s new small community college.

The 32-year-old held a bachelor’s and master’s degree from U-M and a doctorate from Harvard University.

When Ponitz called Ardis, an old colleague from U-M, to ask for a recommendation for a person to fill a position in his school district, Ardis redirected the conversation, trying to convince Ponitz to apply for the WCC presidency. Wenrich joined in later, working hard to convince Ponitz to get behind the community college movement.

“I wasn’t sure that made sense,” Ponitz said years later. “I worried that some people would want to replicate the University of Michigan’s programs, and I felt that any new college would have to be really different in order to meet the needs of people whose needs weren’t being met by the University of Michigan or Eastern Michigan University.”

Ponitz traveled to Ann Arbor to talk to the board, though he was still reluctant.

“It was an exciting idea, but daunting,” he said. “At that point, the college possessed not a pencil or piece of paper.”

And Ponitz wasn’t the only one with hesitations. Although some board members were sure he was the man for the job, Harmon had doubts.

“I was the lone holdout for a while,” Harmon said. “It was clear that he was very, very competitive, but not clear if he would have a passion for the population I was most concerned with.”

Harmon was concerned that Ponitz was very conservative in relation to the place and time where the college was being created.

So Harmon drove to Illinois to meet with Ponitz.

“Both of us persuaded each other that we had the same vision of what this college should and could become,” Harmon said. “I became Dave’s greatest supporter, while he became one of my greatest friends.”

On Aug. 13, 1965, the board announced that Ponitz would be WCC’s first president. Soon after Ponitz spoke to a reporter from The Ann Arbor News.

“I am here because this appears to be one of the finest challenges in education,” he said.


Summer 1966 – WCC finds temporary location at Willow Run Village

In May 1966, Ponitz and the trustees decided that classes would begin that fall, giving them only 100 days to create the college, when most community colleges were taking two to four years from establishment to opening.

This meant that WCC would need to search for both a temporary location and a permanent location, as well as faculty, administrators, staff and students.WILLOW-RUN-WEB-3

Dave Pollock, one of the college’s first administrators, was tasked with finding a temporary site, a difficult job at a time when real estate was tough and vacant spaces that were big enough were extremely rare.

When Pollock visited Willow Run Village – the community built for bomber plant workers during World War II – he thought the place was entirely unsuitable.

“I walked around the school, saw the broken windows and overgrown site, then go into the car and said, ‘There is no way this place is appropriate,’” Pollock said. “I would later have to eat those words.”

Ponitz did not approve of the site either, but there was nothing else they had seen that would work, he said. Willow Run offered two things that the other sites didn’t, Ponitz said: The college could be self-contained there and the location was close to two low-income neighborhoods that would be served well by the college.

“The shortcoming of the location was that it wasn’t central; it was almost on the Wayne County line,” Pollock said. “On the other hand, it was in the heart of a depressed community and those kids who had been throwing rocks at vacant buildings might be the kids who would benefit most from a community college.”

State officials inspected and approved the location for one year, although the college would remain there for three.

Buildings in the village were fixed up and adapted to suit the colleges needs. Foster School, which was built to educate the children of bomber plant employees during WWII, became the new College Hall, where most of the general studies and occupational studies classes would be held.

A former firehouse, which had been transformed into a meat market in the years since, would house the administrator’s offices. Employees joked that this was where one could find the “meatheads” on campus.

A ten-minute walk from College Hall, an old bowling alley became counseling and faculty offices and a library.

Later, as the college grew, several corrugated steel Quonset huts and other temporary structures were used for offices, classrooms, a bookstore and a daycare center.


Sept. 15, 1966 – Washtenaw Community College opens student registration

Voters had given WCC enough money to spend a year planning before opening the college, but the trustees and President Ponitz decided to use those funds to buy equipment to start occupational programs.REGISTRATION-WEB-1

They pulled together all of the pieces for the college in just 100 days, and were prepared to launch 72 classes in the first semester. Fifty full-time faculty were hired from all across the country, and 1,207 students enrolled for classes that fall.




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Source: A Fierce Commitment: The First 10 Years of Washtenaw Community College


RELATED ARTICLES: A history of open doors


Ready to give?

Staff Writer

Pumping through the veins of the human body are approximately 10 pints of blood. Dr. John Rinke, director of support services at Washtenaw Community College, lost eight pints in the early spring of 1981.

In the early 80s, Rinke was a very busy man. He was balancing being a full-time student, teaching, a new house, and a newborn baby. Although it was an exciting time, it was also stressful. Due to poor diet and stress, Rinke was rushed to the emergency room after tearing the lining of his stomach. If not for gracious blood donors, Rinke may not be serving WCC today. Because of that day, Rinke has donated over three gallons of blood since 1982. “I had to give back,” Rinke said. “It saved my life.”

According to the American Red Cross website, 38 percent of people in the United States are eligible to donate. Yet, only 10 percent actually do. WCC holds two blood drives per semester, organized by coordinator of student activities, Rachel Barsch. “It seems like such a small thing, but one pint can actually save up to three lives and that’s amazing” Barsch said. “Why don’t more people do it?”

Between the years of 2006 and 2014, the highest number of pints collected in a single drive was 124. WCC currently has over 1300 students. If every eligible person attempted to donate blood, multiply that by three. That’s how many lives could be saved in exchange for about an hour of someone’s time.

The next WCC blood drive will be held on Tuesday Mar. 3 in the Health and Fitness center. Participants will receive snacks and shirt after donation. Appointments can be made through the American Red Cross website.

WCC Blood Drive

When: Tues. Mar. 3
Where: WCC’s Health and Fitness Center
Time: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
To make an appt.:

www.redcrossblood.org and use sponsor code: WCC13
Walk-ins also accepted
Questions: Contact Rachel Barsch at rbarsch@wccnet.edu

Are you eligible to donate?

Some who attempt to donate blood are turned away for various reasons. In order to be eligible to donate, you must:

  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Be in good general health and feel well
  • Be at least 17 years old or have parental consent

Even if you meet all three of those requirements, you cannot donate blood if you:

  • Have low iron or vitamin levels
  • Are currently or have recently been sick
  • Have gotten a tattoo or piercing in the last 12 months from a non-regulated entity (See redcrossblood.org for more information)
  • Have been outside of the U.S. or Canada in the last three years (further questions will be addressed)
  • You have had major surgery within the last six months or pregnancy within the last six weeks

5 tips before you donate blood

  1. Maintain a healthy iron level

    Eating iron-rich foods, such as spinach, raisins, red meats, beans, fish, poultry and iron-fortified cereals can keep you at a healthy level.

  2. Hydrate

    Drink an extra 16 ounces of water or other nonalcoholic fluids.

  3. Sleep

    It’s crucial to get a good night’s sleep before donating. Your body needs to be well rested.

  4. Eat healthy

    It’s important to eat a healthy meal before the donation, and to avoid fatty foods.

  5. Identify yourself

    Make sure to bring two forms of identification to donate blood. A driver’s license, passport, donor card and student I.D. are all acceptable.

5 tips after you donate blood

  1. Continue to hydrate

    Drink an extra 32 ounces of liquids and avoid alcohol for 24 hours.

  2. Rest

    Avoid any heavy lifting and vigorous exercise for the rest of the day. Lie down if you experience dizziness or lightheadedness.

  3. Clean up

    Remove the wrap bandage (if you have one) within the next hour. Wash the area with soap and water to avoid skin irritation.

  4. Stay protected

    Keep a Band-Aid on for the next several hours.

  5. Contact the Red Cross with concerns

    Call the American Red Cross at 1-866-236-3276 to report health information that you forgot to share, or if there are any problems and you need medical care after giving blood.

Source: The American Red Cross http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements.

College re-examines faculty evaluations


The faculty evaluation committee began meeting with the administration in January to re-examine how the college evaluates faculty.

Last winter semester, The Washtenaw Voice obtained access to the student opinion questionnaires (SOQs) that are filled out by students and used to evaluate instructors.

The faculty union’s contract states that these evaluations must be kept confidential, but Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act defines them as public documents. The union filed a grievance in response to the SOQs’ release.

The meetings with the administration could result in “anything from the retention of the current SOQ system to an entirely new evaluation system that could include some proportion of student evaluations, dean observations, peer observations, faculty portfolios, self-evaluations and/or other duties outside of the classroom such as curriculum and assessment work,” the evaluation committee said in a letter to union members, which asked them to fill out a survey to guide the committee.

English instructor and faculty union president Maryam Barrie, biology instructor David Wooten, communications instructor Bonnie Tew and automotive instructor Mike Duff sit on the evaluation committee.


RELATED LINKS: Board of Trustees