On April 2, 1963, Crowder College was founded.
On Tuesday, 50 years to the day, the college hosted an anniversary, with alumni, past and present college staff, the board of trustees, past presidents, current president Dr. Alan Marble and the community in the crowd. More than 700 people attended the 11:30 a.m. event, held inside the Bob Sneller Gymnasium.
"Fifty years deserves a little celebration," said Marble at the beginning of the ceremony. "As a community college, we are proud, in equal parts: community and college, because of this community that gave the college life. And we hope that we can return the favor, enriching the life of the community."
State Rep. Bill Reiboldt presented a couple of awards, then board chairman Andy Wood read a letter from U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.
"On April 2, 1963, the voters of Newton and McDonald counties approved the creation of a community college district," Blunt's letter said. "The vision of Robert Anderson, James Tatum and others eventually resulted in Crowder College, a school that has become a leader across the board from academics and athletics to alternative energy development to technical education. Crowder College has much to celebrate on its anniversary. Congratulations again on this milestone and may the next 50 years be even better."
Tatum has been part of college's history as a member of the board of trustees for all of its 50 years. He was president of the board for 45 of those years. Tatum was also the guest speaker telling the crowd about how the college came about.
"This is a love story, I have to tell you that right out," said Tatum. "The history of this institution is fresh in my mind.
The history of this school is vivid, because it is so exciting, really exciting. It is a love story, and that is exactly what it is about. We are talking about the living past. People want to put the past aside, but the past does indeed live."
Tatum emphasized how the college came to be – a concept from Bob Anderson, former superintendent of the Neosho R-5 School District.
"He felt we needed one, we wanted one," said Tatum. "It was his idea. He knew that the law didn't permit a single school district to have a junior college as we called them then, unless they were able to do it on their own. And there were some established in Missouri. He had the idea and the idea was that we could do this, we could come together. He brought the superintendents in Newton and McDonald counties together to talk to them, visit with them about the future. We wanted to have a school where people come and everybody is personally touched."
Tatum mentioned the growth of the college since the first class' enrollment of 363 in 1964.
Page 2 of 2 - "The college grew, it grew gradually like most places in spurts come up to a certain level, level off and that was a blessing because we had to cope with the growth there," he said. "And it was important to have it that way."
Today, that number is up to nearly 5,600 students.
"Good things have happened at Crowder and I am so very grateful for it," Tatum said in his closing remarks.
The future of the college
Marble was asked to speak about the college's future.
"The last four or five or six years have been remarked by a very rapid enrollment growth," he noted. "We don't know if that will continue or not, we are up to nearly 5,600 students offering classes in 10 different locations in the service area. To accommodate that growth, we have had to construct and equip several new buildings on this campus and we are building in McDonald County. And that has only been possible through the generosity of people like you. People in this community who have stepped up and helped us every phase, from the Farber Building, to the MARET Center, Davidson Hall, all made possible through the generous donations from community members."
He also mentioned about the need to renovate.
"On this campus, we need to renovate Newton and McDonald halls, those are the original buildings that we inherited 50 years ago," he said. "We need new classroom building on this campus. Over the years, Crowder College has developed a true spirit of service, it is a spirit that empowers great teaching, and great learning and the faculty and staff here are second to none and they are completely dedicated to the success of our students.
Marble's final comments included a connection.
"I really believe that the future success of both the college and the community are bound together," he said. "So to get this party started, and simply conclude, I think the perfect (way) to pay tribute to the first 50 years is to join together as a community and launch the next 50 years."
Balloons fell upon the crowd and each of those in attendance could then take tours of the campus, look at various photos and poster boards of information of what the college offers.